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Denver's offense clicks just enough

Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas hauls in a pass in front of Vikings strong safety Robert Blanton in the first half. Denver remains unbeaten.

Associated Press

Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas hauls in a pass in front of Vikings strong safety Robert Blanton in the first half. Denver remains unbeaten.

DENVER — Bursting through the line for jaw-dropping plays is quickly becoming the Broncos' calling card.

Only this time, the offense joined the party that had been "pass rushers only" until Sunday.

Ronnie Hillman raced around the left sideline on a stretch play for a 72-yard touchdown run, and the league's top-ranked defense collected seven more sacks in a 23-20 victory over the Vikings.

"We had three bad weeks of running the ball and (Sunday) we got it started," Hillman said after his third career 100-yard game. "This week it was just me and C.J. (Anderson) got tired of everyone trying to tell us that we can't run the ball."

The unbeaten Broncos revved up their ground game behind Hillman and it came in handy on a day the Vikings picked off Peyton Manning twice and turned the takeaways into 10 points.

Denver came in averaging just 57 yards rushing. With Manning in the pistol formation behind a patchwork offensive line and two tight ends lined up on the left, Hillman went left, gathered in Manning's pitch, hit the crease and was gone down the sideline.

It was the longest touchdown run by a Broncos running back in 15 years.

"I knew nobody was going to catch him," Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "I was happy. It's good for the offense, gives guys confidence we can hit those long runs."

Hillman had 103 yards on 11 carries.

Denver's top-ranked defense limited Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to 81 yards on 16 carries — when Peterson was the MVP in 2012, his lowest output was 86 yards against the Texans and Wade Phillips, now Denver's defensive coordinator.

Peterson's highlight was a 48-yard touchdown run on fourth and inches to pull Minnesota to 20-17 with 10 minutes left. Cornerback Aqib Talib was right there in the middle but had already turned his hips and by the time he turned back, Peterson was by him.

The line "spread like the Red Sea," Peterson marveled. "It just opened up."

Free safety Harrison Smith's interception two plays later set up Blair Walsh's tying field goal from 33 yards with 5:11 left.

Manning drove the Broncos 55 yards in nine plays, and Brandon McManus' 39-yard field goal with 1:51 left broke the tie.

Then, Denver's defense closed it out. Peterson missed a block on safety T.J. Ward and linebacker Von Miller smothered the loose football after the blitzing safety's sack-strip of Teddy Bridgewater at midfield with 29 seconds left.

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Denver's offense clicks just enough 10/04/15 [Last modified: Sunday, October 4, 2015 10:17pm]
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