The Buffalo Bills have been talking most of the season about the need to establish the running game.
This week they absolutely, positively need to run well if they want to have any hope of upsetting the Denver Broncos.
Denver ranks fourth in the NFL in sacking the quarterback and features one of the best pass-rushing defensive lines in the game.
The Broncos also rank fifth in passing yards allowed, third in third-down defense and ninth in interceptions.
If there is any chink in the Bronco defense, it's against the run. Denver ranks 25th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in yards allowed per rush.
"You take the pass-rush ability of their defense combined with the fact they have John Elway and an explosive offense, and our defense is going to need some rest," said quarterback Todd Collins. "It sure would help them (the defense) a lot if we could possess the ball."
"They're giving up 5 1/2 yards per rush on the ground," said Thurman Thomas. "We have to try to do what the Raiders did; be aggressive and take it to 'em."
Oakland handed the Broncos their first loss last Sunday, 28-25, behind the 227 rushing yards of Napoleon Kaufman.
"They gave up a lot of rushing yards to the Raiders, but if you take two runs out of there -- only two -- the Raiders got less than 100 yards rushing," said Bills offensive coordinator Dan Henning. "And on the two they broke, there were some missed tackles."
Kaufman had runs of 83 and 57 yards.
Still, the Broncos have yielded more than the league average of 112 yards per game in four of their seven contests.
"We're going to have to run the ball to give our defense a chance to do what they really haven't had a chance to do all season -- let everything go and put Denver in a passing situation," Thomas said.
The longer NFL rushing leader Terrell Davis is on the sidelines, the better for the Bills.
The Bills rank 14th in the league in rushing yards and have not consistently run well.
Henning is encouraged by recent offensive performances against Detroit and Indianapolis.
"The first four or five weeks we were in the top 10 in offensive statistics," he said. "Now we're dipping down to 14 or 15, but we're playing a better brand of offensive football. . . . In order to win games you have to run the ball."
The move of Jerry Ostroski to right tackle in place of Corey Louchiey is at least partly aimed at getting a more physical running game going.
"Jerry is a stouter individual," Henning said. "He maybe doesn't have quite as good feet, but he's stout and what he lacks in foot quickness he makes up for in the fact that he has tremendously long arms. He's an unusual body type. If you straightened his legs, he'd be 6-6." (The 6-4 Ostroski is bowlegged.)
Of course, the Broncos are well aware the Bills want to run.
It will be interesting to see if they bring a safety up to form an eight-man front. That could force Collins to throw on first downs to keep the Denver defense honest.
The Bills probably will stick to their two-tight-end formation on first and second down, since that's the better power-running option.
However, the Broncos have to be thinking about the fact the Bills used their three-receiver set extensively against the Colts. One reason was they wanted to get the ball to Eric Moulds.
Moulds responded with his best game of the year, five catches for 75 yards.
"We have some solid tight ends, but we don't have anybody with the big-play capability that Eric has," Henning said. "Now, Eric doesn't block sometimes. But he started to block better the past few weeks, so we wanted to get him in the game and see if he can put it all together."