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The rejuvenated Broncos running game, which produced a season-high 189 yards in last week’s win over Miami, will face arguably their most difficult test Sunday against New Orleans.
The Saints, who have won seven consecutive games and are an NFC-best 8-2, are allowing only 74.3 yards rushing per game and 3.4 yards per carry, both second-best in the NFL.
In the last three games, the Saints have allowed eight rushing yards at Tampa Bay and 49 and 52 in home wins over San Francisco and Atlanta, respectively.
“Those guys up front just play really, really hard,” Broncos quarterback Drew Lock said after practice Wednesday. “It’s different when you have guys who are extremely talented and can get away with talent, but when you have a team that has guys who are extremely talented and bust their butt — and you can see how hard they’re working on film — that’s what this Saints defense is.
“You go down the lineup, you can name every single one of their players and they all play like it’s their first year in the league. Flying around. Hitting. Making the big plays.”
The Saints haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this year (Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs is tops at 88 yards in Week 2) and have allowed only two teams to reach 100 yards (Raiders 116, Los Angeles Chargers 111).
Fourteen Saints have at least one tackle for lost yardage in the run game. Linebacker Demario Davis and defensive end Cameron Jordan lead with 35 and 31 run-game tackles, respectively.
“Generally speaking, you’re trying to play the game on their side of the line of scrimmage and you need to have gap discipline and players need to understand their fits and then the obvious would be, you have to tackle well,” Saints coach Sean Payton said in a conference call with Denver media. “We’ve gone against a multitude of offenses and yet, those same things have to be in place for you to defend the run and defend it well.”
Glasgow, Callahan sit. Four Broncos did not practice Wednesday — right guard Graham Glasgow (calf), safety Trey Marshall (shin), right tackle Demar Dotson (hand/groin/rest) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot). Limited participants were cornerback Duke Dawson (chest), receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle/Achilles), nose tackle Sylvester Williams (elbow) and inside linebackers Josey Jewell (ankle) and Joe Jones (calf).
Lock (ribs) and tight end Noah Fant (ribs) were listed as full-go. Defensive end Shelby Harris, out the last three games because of contact tracing (Atlanta) and a positive COVID-19 test (Las Vegas and Miami), remains on the reserve list.
“He’s getting better and improving, but not enough yet to get off the list,” coach Vic Fangio said.
Fangio on Hall of Fame. Fangio was asked about Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists Peyton Manning and John Lynch and also used the forum to promote two of his former linebackers — Sam Mills (New Orleans) and Patrick Willis (San Francisco).
On Manning: “I figured out Peyton was going to be pretty special when he was about 14 or 15 years old and came to the Saints’ facility (where Fangio was an assistant) to throw passes in the offseason.”
On Mills: “Sam Mills deserves to be in there. Everybody thinks I’m biased and I probably am, but I will tell you for a fact that there have been guys in this league who have been around Sam and other players that are in the Hall of Fame and they will tell you Sam was better as an inside linebacker than some of those in the Hall of Fame.”
On Willis: “He was a tremendous inside linebacker for (eight years) in San Francisco. Fastest inside linebacker I’ve ever coached. He was a great player, too.”
Fangio said Lynch “will eventually get in, I’m sure.”
More praise for Manning. Also delivering high marks to Manning was Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre during his weekly co-hosting appearance on The Sirius XM Blitz with Bruce Murray.
“If you protected (Manning) — and he had great protection for the most part (in) his career — he would just slice and dice you apart,” Favre said. “Obviously, I was never a defensive coordinator, but I got to be thinking about (going against Manning) was a chess match that you knew you were not going to win. …
“One of my greater games was against the Colts in Indianapolis and man, I couldn’t miss. And I was about two touchdowns shy of winning that game. It was like, ‘I can’t do anymore and he’s unbelievably just completing every pass.”
Favre’s recall is on-point. In September 2004, Favre was 30-of-44 passing for 360 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 123.3 rating … and Green Bay lost 45-31 to Indianapolis. Manning was 28-of-40 for 343 yards, five touchdowns (including two scores to Denver resident/radio host Brandon Stokley) no interceptions and a 140.9 rating.
Footnotes. Fangio said defensive coordinator Ed Donatell (COVID-19) remains away from the team. “Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later that he can start coming in here (to work), even if it’s in a part-time basis,” Fangio said. … The Broncos waived running back LeVante Bellamy and activated inside linebacker Mark Barron from injured reserve. Barron sustained a hamstring injury in training camp and hasn’t played this year. Right tackle Jake Rodgers, waived on Tuesday, was claimed by Baltimore.