Latavius Murray returns to Raiders practice

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray practiced Wednesday for the first time since suffering a concussion during last Thursday's victory over Kansas City.

Murray took part in the individual running back drills and ran well during the 30-minute media window. Interim coach Tony Sparano will update Murray’s situation later this afternoon as well as his availability for Sunday’s game in St. Louis.

Murray came off the bench to spark Oakland’s running game with a career-high 112 yards and two touchdowns on only four carries. The second-year running back had spent the previous 10 games playing mostly on special teams while buried on the depth chart behind Darren McFadden and Maurice-Jones Drew.

Sparano has previously indicated he intends to give Murray more work in the final five games, though he has repeatedly tempered his enthusiasm about Murray’s production.

Left guard Gabe Jackson also practiced after being excused Monday for personal reasons.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – With Jamaal Charles and the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 4 ranked rushing attack waiting in Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, the Denver Broncos’ injury issues on defense will require some attention.

Linebacker Brandon Marshall, who is the team’s leading tackler and has played 95.5 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season, did not practice Wednesday as he goes through the NFL’s concussion protocol. Marshall plays in every defensive personnel grouping, so his absence would require the Broncos to use multiple players to replace him.

Rookies Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson would be in that mix as will Steven Johnson, who is already filling in at middle linebacker in the base defense for Nate Irving, who is on injured reserve. Todd Davis, a linebacker the Broncos claimed off waivers just before they played in St. Louis, even worked some on defense in Wednesday's practice.

“We’ve got a long list,’’ Broncos coach John Fox said. “We’ve got some young guys … We’ll lean on Corey Nelson, Lamin Barrow, Steven Johnson. We got Todd Davis out there [Wednesday] a guy we acquired last week … He got a pretty good look. It will be from that crew.’’

Cornerback Aqib Talib (left hamstring) also did not practice Wednesday, and cornerback Kayvon Webster, who plays in some of the team’s specialty packages, did not practice because of a right shoulder injury. Talib was on the field during practice, dressed in sweats, but Marshall and Webster were not.

Also Wednesday, tight end Julius Thomas (left ankle) was once again dressed for practice, as he did last week, but did not participate. Thomas did do some work with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches off to the side.

Thomas dressed for practice each day last week, but did not practice and was a gameday inactive for the Broncos’ 39-36 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Running backs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) did not practice last week and were not on the field Wednesday. Hillman, who has been wearing a walking boot on his left foot, is expected to miss several weeks. The Broncos continue to hope Ball can return to the practice field within the next two weeks.

Defensive end Quanterus Smith (ankle) and safety Quinton Carter (knee) were limited in Wednesday’s practice. Both are expected to play Sunday.

Safety David Bruton, who had X-rays for a finger injury following Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, took part fully in practice.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --The news about safety Eric Berry's lymphoma hit hard everyone connected with the Kansas City Chiefs, but perhaps no one more than running back Jamaal Charles.

The two players became close in 2011. Berry and Charles suffered a torn ACL a week apart from one another, Berry in the season opener and Charles in Week 2. They pushed each other through the recovery from surgery and rehab, along with tight end Tony Moeaki, who tore his ACL the final week of the preseason that year.

"Eric is a great teammate," Charles said. "I've been with Eric through a lot of things. We've both been through knee surgery and he was right there by my side. I know Eric is a good person, a great person. If he can do it, anybody can do it. Good thing he found it early. He was happy about this journey he's about to go through because he's one of the toughest persons I've ever been around. What a great person to go fight this.

"Having his presence gone is sad. I just want him to have the best health in the world. I want him to get himself get better. I don't care about the game right now. I just want him to be OK so I can see my friend forever."

Charles was also close with a teenager who recently drowned in rural northern Missouri. Andre Lance, 17, had befriended Charles a year or two ago at training camp and Charles posted a photo of the two together to his Instagram account.

"I want to dedicate the game to him," Charles said. "He was just a young kid. That was a sad story to find out about."

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs got back to work Wednesday in preparation for Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium without safety Eric Berry. Berry was at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to continue testing for what the Chiefs believe is lymphoma.

Berry indicated in a statement released by the Chiefs on Monday that he was focused on beating the disease. But coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that it took Berry some time before he arrived at that opinion. Reid said Berry indicated first to team medical officials and later to him that he wanted to play against the Broncos.

"He did ask that,'' Reid said. "That wasn't an option. That's the way he's wired.''

The Chiefs returned to the practice field on Wednesday without Berry. Cornerback Ron Parker will shift into Berry's starting spot, as he did during Berry's five-game absence for a high-ankle sprain.

"I would like to go back to what Eric said to the team: It's about the Broncos now. Let's move on,' '' Reid said. "I think the guys have taken that to heart. That's where they're at. They're focused in and ready to go.''

Quarterback Alex Smith indicted it wasn't quite as easy as that.

"You never expect something like this,'' Smith said. "It is tough and it's new to a lot of us. Difficult. You have to find way to refocus and focus that much more.''

Chargers center Chris Watt can build on fast start

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26

Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams talks about rookie center Chris Watt and his success in his first start.

Raiders’ challenge is to keep winning

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26

ESPN NFL Nation reporter Paul Gutierrez talks about the challenge the team faces now that it has won a game.

Broncos benefit from finding undrafted gems

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold talks about finding undrafted players, like C.J. Anderson and Chris Harris, Jr., and what it has meant to team’s success.

Chiefs face must-win vs. Broncos

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26

Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher says the team hasn’t had much success against the Peyton Manning-led Broncos. Will Sunday night be the breakthrough?
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Emmanuel Sanders has been such a good find for the Denver Broncos that even when things don't quite work out, there is a silver lining in tow.

On Sunday, quarterback Peyton Manning tried and tried and tried to hit Sanders for the game-changer up the right sideline on the drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters. They never connected, but the Broncos eventually carved out a touchdown on the drive. Demaryius Thomas is the Broncos' Alpha receiver, but it's clear from that sequence that Sanders has been every bit the 1-A the Broncos had hoped he could be.

"I'm so glad we scored on that one drive I overthrew him three times in a row," Manning said. "He's a hard guy to overthrow so I take a little bit of pride in that. That means my arm must be hanging in there because it's late in the season. ... He's a great route runner. ... He has that deep threat, which is going to allow some of the shorter stuff and the crossing routes to be open."

[+] EnlargeDenver Broncos
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) is the Broncos' 1A option to Demaryius Thomas (88).
Sanders already, with five regular-season games remaining, has single-season career-bests in catches (76), yards receiving (1,079) and touchdowns (seven). His dives, deep down the field with a cornerback often trying to close the gap, have become a signature, as have his jaunts into the high-traffic areas in the middle of the field. And as teams continue to rotate coverage to Demaryius Thomas and put cornerbacks on tight end Julius Thomas, Sanders has become the choice that consistently makes them pay.

Broncos head coach John Fox often says "they can't double everybody," and that often leaves Sanders running past single coverage to reel in another Manning pass. His 105 targets are only behind Demaryius Thomas' 124.

Not bad for a guy who had interest from several teams in free agency because many believed he could do more than he had done in the Pittsburgh Steelers offense during his first four seasons in the league. Still, Eric Decker, Golden Tate, DeSean Jackson, Julian Edelman and Andre Roberts all signed larger contracts than the three-year, $15 million deal Sanders signed with the Broncos.

Sanders was the Broncos' top target because of his ability to line up and contribute in the formation, outside or in the slot. The Chiefs, the Broncos' opponent this week, were public in their belief they had a verbal agreement from Sanders to sign. Sanders has consistently maintained the Broncos were his top choice because of Manning's presence in the huddle and the playbook the Broncos use.

Asked if his best career season may have opened some eyes around the league, Sanders deferred.

"I don't look at it like that," Sanders said. "I just enjoy this game, I try to be passionate about it. I wanted to come here, in this offense, everybody knows what this offense can do, what they did before I was here and what it can do on a weekly basis. The best thing is any day can be your day because Peyton can put the ball so many places."

And while Demaryius Thomas' presence means Sanders will have a difficult time leading his own team in any of the major receiving categories. But only Thomas, the Steelers' Antonio Brown and the Colts' T.Y. Hilton have had more receiving yards than Sanders this season and only Thomas and Hilton have more catches.

"(Sanders) makes it hard on defenses," Demaryius Thomas said. "They can't really get right up on him because he's so quick, but if they give him room he can run by them. … He fits in this offense like he's been here more than just this season."

Manning will always credit time and effort as the keys to success and Sanders has certainly put that in. Sanders regularly worked with Manning after practices in offseason workouts and in training camp. And on the rare occasion Sanders felt the on-field sting of a heat-of-the-moment dressing down from Manning, Sanders just kept grinding.

"You don't need any more proof for what Peyton can do for wide receivers," Sanders said. "If you're in the right spot, where he expects you to be, he will find you. Sometimes just put your hands up and the ball is there. As a wide a receiver that's a dream situation, you can't ask for more than that so you don't leave anything undone."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For much of the last two seasons, the Denver Broncos have lived the hot-hand life in the run game.

Running backs coach Eric Studesville, with a collection of backs he ranks every week for playing time but close enough in abilities to split the carries in some fashion, would roll them all through the huddle.

As he puts it: “It’s a gut feel, you look at the guys, look at where were are on offense, see how they’re running and you go from there."

Besides, when a team throws the ball as often as the Broncos have since Manning’s arrival in 2012, there aren’t always that many carries to go around.

Still, C.J. Anderson is now poised to have a stretch of games like the Broncos haven’t had since Manning’s inaugural season.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I just look at it like I need to get myself ready to handle whatever they ask me to do," Anderson said. “[Studesville] tells me to go in and I go in. He tells me to run it, I run it. If you need to block, you block, if you need to catch the ball, you catch the ball. And if you need to wait a bit to do it, you wait and stay ready."

With injuries to Montee Ball (right groin) and Ronnie Hillman (left foot), the sturdy Anderson might get a workload that resembles a primary-back approach like he did in Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins. Anderson had 27 carries for 167 yards -- both season-highs for a Broncos running back and easily career-bests for Anderson.

In Manning’s first season with the Broncos in 2012, the Broncos had five games in which a running back had at least 22 carries -- three of those by Willis McGahee and two by Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos had two such games in 2013. Moreno had both in back-to-back games with 27 carries for 79 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs followed by 37 carries for 224 yards against the Patriots the following week.

This season, with Ball, Hillman and Anderson having been at the top of the depth chart, the Broncos have had three games where a running back has had at least 22 carries. Two of the three have resulted in 100-yard games, with Anderson’s against the Dolphins to go with Hillman’s 24-carry, 100-yard day against the New York Jets.

“C.J.’s a baller," guard Orlando Franklin said. “He’s hungry out there ... I look forward to watching him as the weeks progress."

“Whatever’s working, keep it going," Anderson said. “... I think you just stick to your roles, keep your same routine, never get too big about it all and just continue to play hard."
SAN DIEGO -- After he's dealt with a nagging back issue for most of the season, the San Diego Chargers finally brought center Rich Ohrnberger's season to a conclusion, placing the Penn State product on the season-ending injured reserve.

U-T San Diego reported that Ohrnberger will have surgery to correct the issue. The Chargers now have placed three centers on injured reserve this season in Nick Hardwick (neck), Doug Legursky (knee) and Ohrnberger.

Rookie Chris Watt started in place of Ohrnberger last week against the St. Louis Rams and played well. The Chargers selected Watt in the third round of this year’s draft as a potential long-term replacement for Hardwick at center, and the Notre Dame product will get a chance to prove his worth for the rest of the season with Ohrnberger out.

With a vacant spot, the Chargers signed outside linebacker Cordarro Law from the practice squad to the active roster.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a new week, so we'll refresh your memory about what the Kansas City Chiefs are getting from their wide receivers this season.
  • Catches: 86, last in the NFL.
  • Yards, 997, last in the NFL.
  • Touchdowns 0, last in the NFL.
  • Longest gain, 33 yards, last in the NFL.
  • Targets, 141, last in the NFL.
  • Percentage of dropped passes, 6.4, last in the NFL.
These are all good reasons the Chiefs need to get newly signed wide receiver Jason Avant involved in Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium.

It's a mistake to consider Avant a savior. He won't be. His best season, from his younger days with the Philadelphia Eagles, had Avant catching 53 passes for 648 yards and zero touchdowns. That was in 2012, when he was 29. Avant has 13 career touchdowns in 127 games.

This season, in 11 games for the Carolina Panthers at age 31, Avant had 21 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown.

Still, the Chiefs are desperate for help at wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe, after a midseason surge, has slumped the past two games. Donnie Avery could conceivably play against Denver for the first time in two months, but in that case how much do the Chiefs have a right to expect from him?

Otherwise, the Chiefs are getting little in terms of catches and yardage from their wideouts. So get Avant in the lineup and let's see if he can make a difference.

Boneheaded plays overshadowing Sio Moore's solid season

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Sio Moore became a national punchline for his sack-dance celebration 30 yards from the line of scrimmage late in the final minute against Kansas City last week. It almost cost the Raiders a chance at their first win and obscured the fact Moore has been playing at a very high level this season.

A third-round draft pick in 2013, Moore is the Raiders' co-leader in tackles (82) and is tops on the team in sacks (3). Moore has reached double-digits in tackles four times this year, including matching his season-high of 12 against the Chiefs.

Moore has benefitted from playing in the same linebacking corps as first-round draft pick Khalil Mack. Mack regularly faces double-team blocking from opponents, and that has freed Moore up to make additional plays.

Yet there are a handful of incidents like the one against the Chiefs that have prevented Moore -- who is tied for 14th overall in tackles among all NFL players -- from being considered one of the top at his position.

During Oakland's 41-17 loss to Denver in Week 10, the Broncos scored on a 51-yard screen pass from Peyton Manning to C.J. Anderson. At least six Raiders defenders whiffed at a chance to stop Anderson. Moore? He didn't come close and instead took himself out of the play with a half-hearted effort that later was widely criticized by Mike Mayock of the NFL Network.

Mayock pointed out that while numerous Oakland players missed a chance to stop Anderson, it was Moore's "egregious lack of hustle" that was the biggest mistake made on a play that ultimately swung momentum in the Broncos' favor for good.

Until Moore matures and stops making the boneheaded plays like that one and his ridiculous celebration of a sack against the Chiefs, he'll continue to get overlooked by the national media.

That's a shame, too, because the kid is actually having a very good season.

QB snapshot: Alex Smith

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Alex Smith and how he played in the Chiefs' 24-20 loss in Week 12:

While Smith wasn't exactly the Mad Bomber against the Raiders, he did take more chances down the field than usual. Smith completed three passes that went at least 15 yards, the most he has had in a game since Week 2 against Denver.

All three passes went to tight ends, which highlights the problems at wide receiver. With the Kansas City Chiefs needing a touchdown on their final drive, Smith was just 1-of-4 on passes intended for wide receivers.

Smith averages 7.1 yards per pass attempt to a wide receiver this season. The league average is 8.0 yards. Meanwhile, Smith averages 7.0 yards per pass attempt to a tight end or back, which is slightly higher than the league average (6.9 yards).

QB snapshot: Peyton Manning

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation about quarterback Peyton Manning and how he played in the Denver Broncos' 39-36 win in Week 12:

In the win over the Dolphins, Manning had his 13th game in his past 27 starts with at least four touchdown passes, a staggering number that this time was a direct result of the team’s ability to dial back Miami’s pass rush, as well as the Broncos' ability to run the ball out of their favored formation.

Manning was 28-of-35 passing -- 10-of-11 in the fourth quarter -- for 257 yards and the four touchdowns. But the win was another example of how much more efficient he is out of the team’s three-wide-receiver set when the Broncos have a commitment to run the ball and some success doing it.

When the Broncos are in three-wide they usually have Manning in the shotgun or pistol -- Manning not under center, but in front of the running back -- so that’s how the running plays come.

In the nine games the team has used the three-wide set the most this season (in their first two games of the year they were in two-tight-end more than three-wide during Wes Welker’s suspension), their three losses have come when they ran the ball just six (St. Louis), 11 (New England) and 12 (Seattle) times out of the shotgun or pistol -- three of their four lowest totals of the season.

For the most part, Manning’s highest efficiency and the Broncos' highest point totals have come when they’ve run the ball 21 times with Manning in the shotgun or pistol against Arizona (41 points), 19 times against Oakland (41 points) and 18 times Sunday against the Dolphins (39 points).