SAN DIEGO -- A job usually handled by middle linebackers around the league, San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle has worn the green dot on his helmet the past two games, which means he's wearing a radio headset in his helmet so he can directly communicate with defensive coordinator John Pagano and relay the calls to the rest of his teammates.

Weddle
"I'm a unique kind of guy," said Weddle, known for his long, gnarly beard. "I do a lot more than most people."

Middle linebacker Donald Butler wore the green dot earlier this season. But with the University of Washington product's reduction of playing time, coupled with Weddle's experience in the defense and the fact he doesn't leave the field, the defensive co-captain became the natural choice.

"It's been awesome," Weddle said. "It helps me because I'm not waiting for the call. And then all of the alerts from what I see, I can get it out because I'm in front of the huddle. So anything the coach is alerting me on I can get it out instead of running around the field telling each guy because I'm already in the huddle with them. So it's been good. We haven't had any mishaps."

The Chargers are 2-0 since making the switch, and have played more consistent on that side of the ball since the bye week. Weddle said he called the plays defensively three years ago, but he never consistently got back to the huddle to call the plays, something he's doing a better job this time around.

"I think it takes the burden off of other guys," Weddle said. "I can handle it. I've been in this league a long time. When you have a bunch of voices talking to you -- not only Coach [Pagano] but other players -- sometimes it can be overwhelming. But it's been good."

The Chargers have allowed just 23 points defensively in two games, holding teams to 9-of-29 (31 percent) on third down. Better communication has resulted in more consistent play.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs fell to 7-4 after losing 24-20 on Thursday night to the Oakland Raiders. Here is our weekly look at the Chiefs’ place in the AFC playoff picture.

Where the Chiefs stand: They are 7-4 and tied for second place in the AFC West with the San Diego Chargers. The Denver Broncos lead the AFC West at 8-3. The other AFC division leaders are New England (9-2), Cincinnati (7-3-1) and Indianapolis (7-4).

If the season ended today: The Chiefs would be the second of the AFC’s two wild-card teams and the sixth overall seed in the conference playoffs. The Chiefs are one of four AFC teams not in first place to have a 7-4 record. The Baltimore Ravens can make it five by winning tonight against the Saints in New Orleans. Because of tiebreakers, the Chiefs would rank second among those teams, behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chiefs would be headed to play the Bengals in Cincinnati for their wild-card round playoff game. The 7-3-1 Bengals are in first place in the AFC North.

Chiefs this week and what it means: The Chiefs have a lot on the line in Sunday night's game against the Broncos at Arrowhead. A win moves them back into a tie for the division lead. A loss ends all realistic hope of winning the AFC West championship for the Chiefs.

Other games to watch this week: In games involving 7-4 AFC teams not in first place, Pittsburgh is home against New Orleans, Cleveland is at Buffalo and San Diego is at Baltimore.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs recently signed contract extensions with two players who otherwise would have been free agents in March: defensive lineman Allen Bailey and fullback Anthony Sherman.

Both moves make sense for the Chiefs. Bailey is playing well in his first season as a starter. Sherman is one of the league's best blocking fullbacks and plays well on special teams.

Those signings reduce the Chiefs’ list of prospective free agents, but it is still considerable. Potential free agents include outside linebacker Justin Houston, who leads the NFL with 12 sacks. The Chiefs should and will designate Houston as their franchise player, if they don’t get him signed to a long-term deal.

Six other regulars are also in the final seasons of their contracts. That list includes three offensive linemen (center Rodney Hudson, guard Mike McGlynn and tackle Ryan Harris), linebacker Josh Mauga, defensive back Ron Parker and nickel back Chris Owens.

I’ll get more into what the free agent strategy for the Chiefs should be when the season is over. For now, it’s safe to say they must retain Houston and Hudson. Mauga and Parker have played well and could have a role depending on price, too.

Other potential unrestricted free agents are running back Joe McKnight, offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach, defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson, safety Kurt Coleman and long snapper Thomas Gafford.

Wide receiver Junior Hemingway, linebacker Dezman Moses and safety Kelcie McCray are scheduled to be restricted free agents.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- That gift the Kansas City Chiefs presented last week to its competitors for the AFC West championship? Well, the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers didn't return the favor on Sunday.

The Broncos and Chargers won close games at home and each picked up another half-game on the Chiefs, who lost to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night. The Broncos are in first place at 8-3 with the Chiefs and Chargers tied for second at 7-4.

Much has to play out before the division race is decided. The Chiefs play against the Broncos on Sunday night and on Dec. 28 against the Chargers, with both games at Arrowhead Stadium. The Broncos also have to play against the Chargers in San Diego on Dec. 14.

Otherwise, the teams face difficult schedules. The Chiefs also have games remaining at Arizona and Pittsburgh and at home against Oakland. The Broncos will play in Cincinnati in the season's final Monday night game. The Chargers have a brutal finishing schedule that also includes games against the Ravens, Patriots and 49ers.

While it certainly looks for now like the Chiefs ruined any realistic chance of winning the division title by failing to beat the previously winless Raiders, the race figures to take some more unforeseen turns. The Chiefs are still in position to take advantage, as long as they don't have any more slip-ups similar to the one they had in Oakland.
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DENVER – Don't say you weren't warned.

Last Monday, coach John Fox said the Broncos had to run the ball more. Last Wednesday, quarterback Peyton Manning said they had to run more efficiently and might be an “old-school run team" against the Miami Dolphins.

Last Thursday, C.J. Anderson said he’d be ready to carry the ball as many times as the Broncos wanted to hand it to him, and the Broncos' offensive linemen, who had worn the biggest target for the what’s-wrong-with-the-Broncos arrows, promised they were ready.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Anderson
AP Photo/Jack DempseyC.J. Anderson rushed for 167 yards as the Broncos leaned on the running game against Miami.
Sunday the Broncos turned all of those words into deeds as they sported offensive equilibrium -- 35 rushing attempts, 35 pass attempts -- in pounding out 201 rushing yards in a 39-36 victory over the Dolphins in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

“It was important for us just to come out here and hold up for our teammates," Broncos guard Orlando Franklin said. “… We knew we had to come out here and do our job. That’s all it is, do your job and your team is going to be good."

Anderson had 27 carries for 167 yards, the most carries and rushing yards for a Broncos running back since Knowshon Moreno had 37 for 224 in an overtime loss last Nov. 24 at New England. Sunday, Anderson ran with vision, with power and perhaps most importantly, with decisiveness.

He also put the action back in play-action after a bit of a sluggish start for Manning, who was at his ruthless best with 28-of-35 passing for 257 yards and four touchdowns. The Dolphins were unable to consistently keep the pressure on Manning and the Broncos were able to muscle their way back into a game they trailed 14-3 early in the second quarter and 21-10 just before halftime.

“I think it’s better to be mad," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “All of us, we talk about playing with a pissed-off attitude and it came out; we did that. I think if we can keep doing that, we’ll have a better chance each week."

“That was certainly part of the game plan," Manning said. “ … We kind of felt the plan was working; we just needed to get the ball more and stay on the field."

In the piles of touchdowns the Broncos have put up since Manning signed in 2012, one overriding criticism has been not only if they could consistently win a slug-it-out game on offense when December turns to January and January turns toward the Super Bowl, but that they weren’t always that committed to trying to slug it out.

An offense with a quarterback who has now thrown 126 touchdown passes in his 43 regular-season starts with the team -- and 13 games with at least four touchdowns in his past 27 regular-season starts -- is going to throw the ball. But the Broncos know that 10 rushes will not cut it, which is what they did in the loss to the Rams. The Broncos' offense needs balance to win a championship.

“When you’re able to have that balance, it helps everybody’s efforts … we got in a chuck-and-duck game a week ago," Fox said. “We needed to reel that back in."

Reel it in they did, but nobody should expect the Broncos to be 50-50 run-pass all the time. Because the postal-service games are coming, in the wind, rain, sleet, snow and perhaps all of the above in New England.

For one day, the Broncos' offensive line offered an alternative for the Broncos to get done what they want to get done, and all involved want, need and expect that they’ll need to do it again.

“Tonight was their night," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, about the offensive line. “They wanted to show we can run block, we can pass block, we can get the job done. We go as far as they take us. We understand that and they understand that."
DENVER -- When the Denver Broncos rolled into the offseason off their Super Bowl loss, they made a major investment -- in both free-agency dollars and draft capital -- to remake the defense.

That portion of the depth chart has already been tested some this season and will be tested even more in the coming weeks after another round of injuries in Sunday’s 39-36 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Linebacker Brandon Marshall suffered a concussion during safety T.J. Ward’s interception return in the fourth quarter and is now under the NFL’s concussion protocol. Marshall will be evaluated by both the Broncos' medical staff and an independent physician.

Marshall suffered the injury when he collided with Dolphins tight end Dion Sims during Ward’s return and was immediately taken to the Broncos' locker room following the play. At linebacker Nate Irving is already on injured reserve for the Broncos while Danny Trevathan is eligible to return to practice this week, but will not be eligible to play coming off injured reserve until the Broncos Dec. 14 game in San Diego.

That will put rookie Lamin Barrow, who played as the second linebacker alongside Marshall in the nickel, for much of Sunday’s game in line for more playing time. Rookie Corey Nelson could be worked into some of the specialty packages as well.

“Everybody has to get in there and be ready to play,’’ said Broncos linebacker Von Miller. “We get all the troops in there.’’

The Broncos could also have some juggling to do in the secondary as cornerback Aqib Talib, who has never played in 16 games in any season of his career, left the game with a hamstring injury in the first quarter. He tried to return for a handful of plays, but did not play in the second half.

The player the Broncos put into some of the nickel and dimes looks after Talib suffered his injury, cornerback Kayvon Webster, suffered a right shoulder injury as well. Both Talib and Webster are expected to get MRI exams Monday, but Webster was wearing a sling on his right shoulder following the game.

“On this defense we play everybody even when everybody’s healthy,’’ defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “Guys get ready to play because they know we need everybody.’’
SAN DIEGO -- A few takeaways from the San Diego Chargers' locker room after the 27-24 win over the St. Louis Rams:
    Gilchrist
  • The last time Marcus Gilchrist corralled an interception was nearly 1,000 snaps ago, in a 41-38 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 24 last year. So it's fitting that the fourth-year pro got his first interception of 2014 to preserve a win in the final minute for the Chargers.

    Gilchrist had tight end Lance Kendricks in coverage. But he stayed in and blocked, which allowed Gilchrist to drop back in coverage, read Shaun Hill's eyes and get in front of St. Louis receiver Kenny Britt on the play.

    "I didn't really have too much responsibility on that play," Gilchrist said. "And I was able to get my eyes on the quarterback, and make a play."

    Fellow safety Eric Weddle said that Gilchrist is versatile player who holds things down in the back end, allowing Weddle to run around and take chances when he sees an opportunity.

    "Gilchrist is one of the most important players on our defense because of how much he can do," Weddle said. "He plays the nickel. He plays safety. He lets me roam around because he can do so much, which lets me do my thing. So for him to win the game like that, guarding his guy and seeing his guy blocked, and then just having great vision and instincts -- those are the plays you want a guy to make in that situation."

  • Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers took the blame for Janoris Jenkins' 99-yard interception return for a score. Rivers said the ball placement could have been better but also acknowledged that Keenan Allen slipped and could have been in better position to make a play on the ball.

    According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers completed 14 of 15 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown pass in the second half, including going 8-of-8 against the blitz.

    "It wasn't my best throw," Rivers said. "I did want to put it on that outside shoulder. I felt [James] Laurinaitis coming. I haven't seen it, but I think Keenen would tell you that he didn't have his feet up under him to where he could react to it. But I take responsibility for the interception. I threw the football. But I think a lot of times that's not an interception if he can keep his feet and at least get his body out in front of it."

  • Keenan Allen had a tackle against the Rams, so he still has more tackles (three) than touchdowns (two).
DENVER -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Denver Broncos' 39-36 win over the Miami Dolphins in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
    Talib
    Talib
  • Already hurting on defense with linebacker Nate Irving on injured reserve and Danny Trevathan out with a fractured leg, the Broncos had two starters and backup leave the game. Linebacker Brandon Marshall, the team's leading tackler, left in the fourth quarter with a concussion. Marshall is under the guidelines of the league's concussion protocol. Cornerback Aqib Talib left with a hamstring injury in the first half but returned for a handful of snaps before halftime. Talib did not play in the second half. He jogged into the locker room following the game but was receiving treatment later and will be evaluated further Monday. Cornerback Kayvon Webster was wearing a sling on his right shoulder following the game and will be evaluated, as well.
  • The Broncos rushed for a season-best 201 yards -- 139 had been the season-high before Sunday -- behind an offensive line that had spent the week answering its growing list of critics. So the group felt some satisfaction following the game. "But it's short-lived, we know that," guard Orlando Franklin said. "All you have to do is look at who we're playing, starting next week with the Chiefs, and they might have the best [defensive] front in the league."
  • On Broncos running back C.J. Anderson's 20-yard run to convert a fourth-and-2 on the last play of the third quarter, Anderson said quarterback Peyton Manning had audibled to a run, and that led to the Broncos scoring three plays later to close to within 28-25 with 14:09 left. But following the game, Manning said because the Broncos got to the line of scrimmage so quickly before the snap, the coach-to-quarterback communication system was still operating, and offensive coordinator Adam Gase had changed the play. "I might not have told C.J. that," Manning said.
  • Anderson's 167 yards were the best effort by a Broncos back since Knowshon Moreno had 224 yards Nov. 24, 2013, against the New England Patriots and the most by an undrafted player in team history. But Anderson had the chance to tack on a few more on his last carry Sunday when he broke free for 26 yards with plenty of real estate in front of him. But as the Dolphins defenders approached, Anderson fell down in bounds at the Miami 16-yard line to keep the clock moving. Manning took a knee on the next two plays to end the game. "In my head, I'm going, 'Go, go, go,' but in the back of my head I hear Coach E, my running backs coach, Coach [Eric] Studesville, saying, 'Fall down, get the win,' which is more important," Anderson said. "So I just fell down and we took a knee."
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SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers’ 27-24 win over the St. Louis Rams.

What it means: After winning two straight games coming out of the bye week, the Chargers (7-4) allowed 14 points in the final two minutes to a sub-.500 team in the Rams, but held on for the victory after safety Marcus Gilchrist's interception in the end zone with just over a minute remaining. San Diego is a game behind the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos (8-3) and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs (7-4). The Broncos travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs next week, and San Diego takes on the Baltimore Ravens (6-4) on the road.

Chargers led by turnovers: Heading into Sunday’s contest, San Diego’s defense had forced just one turnover in the past four games. But a Brandon Flowers interception led to a Nick Novak 23-yard field goal. Darrell Stuckey blocked a Greg Zuerlein 46-yard field goal attempt. And linebacker Andrew Gachkar rumbled 13 yards on a fumble return forced by Corey Liuget for a score. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gachkar’s score was the first defensive touchdown for San Diego since Week 9 of last season. The Chargers had gone 18 games without a defensive score over that span.

Mathews regains form, suffers injury: In his second game back since missing seven games with a knee sprain, Ryan Mathews rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time this season. Mathews finished with 105 yards on 12 rushes, including a 32-yard run for a score. It’s the first time Mathews has rushed for more than 100 yards since totaling 144 yards in a 27-24 overtime win over Kansas City last Dec. 29 that clinched a playoff berth. Mathews suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter, but did return to the game.

Stock watch – Down: Philip Rivers wasn’t awful, but he has not returned to the MVP-type effort we saw from him early in the season. Rivers finished 29-of-35 for 291 yards, one touchdown pass and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Rivers eclipsed 35,000 career passing yards with his effort on Sunday and now has 35,204.

Up-and-down game for Allen: Keenan Allen rebounded from a couple of costly mistakes. He continued to struggle finding a rhythm with Rivers. Allen finished with six receptions for a team-high 104 receiving yards. But he failed to knock down a pass in the end zone that St. Louis cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted and returned 99 yards for touchdown. Allen also fumbled after a long reception and muffed a punt after cornerback Chris Davis ran into him. However, Allen corralled his second touchdown catch of the year, a 29-yard reception for the winning score. Allen has as many tackles (2) as touchdown catches (2) this season.

Game ball: On second-and-goal from San Diego's 4-yard line with just over a minute remaining, Gilchrist picked off a Shaun Hill pass intended for Kenny Britt in the end zone, returning the ball to his team's 3-yard line to preserve the win.

What’s next: The Chargers go on the road to face the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
DENVER – After not practicing this week, Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas was one of the team’s game-day inactives Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Thomas
While Thomas, who did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, was dressed for practice Friday as he went through stretching with the team, the Broncos held him out of the workout. At the time, Broncos head coach John Fox said: “We could have said limited, but it was probably closer to did not participate."

Tight end Virgil Green, who had been limited in practice this past week with a calf injury, will be active for the Broncos.

Thomas suffered his injury in the first quarter of the Broncos’ 22-7 loss to the St. Louis Rams last Sunday. The current injury is not to the ankle Thomas had surgically repaired before the 2012 season.

Thomas, after suffering an injury to his right ankle on his first NFL catch in his rookie season in 2011, had surgery on that ankle before the 2012 season when the ankle continued to give him problems.

Defensive tackle Marvin Austin Jr., who has been in uniform for the Broncos' previous 10 games, was inactive as Mitch Unrein was in the lineup, and tackle Chris Clark, who was moved out of the starting lineup Oct. 19 against the San Francisco 49ers, is also inactive for the first time this season.

The rest of the Broncos inactives were running back Montee Ball, cornerback Tony Carter, running back Ronnie Hillman and tackle Michael Schofield.

W2W4: San Diego Chargers

November, 23, 2014
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The San Diego Chargers (6-4) will try to win two straight when they host the St. Louis Rams (4-6) at 4:05 p.m. ET at Qualcomm Stadium.

Here are three things we’ll be watching for on Sunday.

1. Can the Chargers contain Tre Mason? A rookie running back out of Auburn, Mason finished with a career-high 113 rushing yards on 29 carries in the Rams’ impressive win over the Denver Broncos last week. It’s the first time Mason ran for over 100 yards this season. At 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds, Mason is a physical, downhill runner who can move the pile and break tackles. So the Chargers have to get 11 men to the football in the run game. The Rams are 3-2 this season when they rush for over 100 yards.

2. Convert on third down: San Diego is 7-of-26 (27 percent) on third down offensively the last two games. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterback Philip Rivers have to do a better job of getting positive yards on first and second down in order to make converting on third downs more manageable. The Chargers also have to protect a dinged-up Rivers from an aggressive St. Louis pass rush. The Rams have totaled 18 sacks in the last five games. Rookie Chris Watt, likely making his first career start at center on Sunday, has to do a good job of communicating and picking up the different looks St. Louis defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will dial up.

3. Win the turnover battle: The Rams are 0-3 when they lose the turnover battle this season, and have a minus-3 turnover differential in 2014. San Diego has forced just one turnover in the last four games. Defensively, San Diego has to find a way to steal a possession or two from St. Louis. The Chargers also have to do a good job of protecting the football on offense. San Diego protected the football early in the year, but has seven turnovers in the last four games.
SAN DIEGO -- A signal that center Rich Ohrnberger will not be active on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, the San Diego Chargers signed offensive lineman Ryan Miller from the practice squad to the active roster on Saturday.

To make room for Miller, the Chargers released cornerback Richard Crawford. A University of Colorado product, Miller was added to San Diego’s practice squad on Nov. 11 after a workout during the team’s bye week.

Miller was drafted in the fifth round by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 draft. He appeared in eight games for the Browns as a rookie. Miller went to training camp with the Denver Broncos, but was released during final roster cuts.

With Ohrnberger questionable for Sunday’s game against the Rams due to ankle and back issues, rookie Chris Watt is slated to get his first career start at center. Miller could serve as depth at interior offensive line, along with center Trevor Robinson, with Watt starting.

Crawford signed with San Diego on Oct. 27 after the team released cornerback Richard Marshall. But Crawford was not active on game day for the Chargers during his time with the team.

Tony Sparano back in office early after Raiders' first win

November, 21, 2014
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ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders were given the day off Friday, one day after winning for the first time this season and ending their 16-game losing streak. Interim coach Tony Sparano, however, kept his same schedule and was back at the team’s facilities early in the morning breaking down film long before the sun began to rise.

[+] EnlargeTony Sparano
AP Photo/Ben MargotTony Sparano coached the Raiders to their first win of the season on Thursday.
Though the Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention long ago and don’t play again until Nov. 30, when they fly to St. Louis, Sparano saw no reason to change his daily routine. A quick stop to grab a cup of coffee on the way to work qualified as a highlight of his morning.

“I was the first person at Starbucks this morning, I’ll put it that way,” Sparano said. “I left the house at 4:30 and I was in here this morning. But I have every intention of walking out of this building today when the sun is still up, hopefully.”

Many of Oakland’s players have credited Sparano for keeping things together after general manager Reggie McKenzie fired head coach Dennis Allen after the team’s 0-4 start.

The soft-spoken Sparano has repeatedly deflected the attention onto the players for anything positive they’ve done since he took over, and was in that same mode following the stunning 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

But he was unable to shrink from the spotlight in the team’s locker room afterward when left tackle Donald Penn handed Sparano a game ball.

“I have gotten some game balls before [and] quite honestly, probably none more meaningful than that one,” Sparano said. “I say that because of what this team has been through and how far we’ve had to come; and how much the guys have stayed together in that locker room. But really, they’re the ones that deserve the game balls. Our owner, our GM, those people and all of our fans that were out there last night. It was fun last night to go out to dinner and see Oakland Raider fans out there last night with a smile on their face. It was good.”

The Raiders won’t resume practicing until Monday. Bet that Sparano will be up in his office long before then.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When they trimmed the roster to 53 players as the preseason drew to a close, the Denver Broncos understood there could very well be days like these because of it.

When the Broncos face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the three available running backs figure to be three undrafted players who have been in uniform for 24 games combined in their careers.

“I guess I didn’t really think about it until now," said Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase with a smile when asked about the prospect earlier this week.

[+] EnlargeCJ Anderson
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesIn his second season, C.J. Anderson is suddenly the veteran running back on the Broncos roster.
Running back was already the youngest position group on the roster when the regular season began, as 23-year-old Ronnie Hillman was the most experienced running back, entering his third season. But with Hillman (left foot) and Montee Ball (right groin) now injured, the Broncos have second-year running back C.J. Anderson as their primary back, with rookie Juwan Thompson and third-year back Jeremy Stewart behind him on the depth chart.

Anderson and Thompson were undrafted rookies. Stewart was with the Raiders in the preseason and signed to Broncos' practice squad on Oct. 8.

“I think, during the course of preparation, when you have injuries, you have a pretty good idea some guys aren’t going to play," said Broncos head coach John Fox. “You’re able to practice and prepare guys much better than, for instance, in a game when you have a tight end or a receiver go out, those guys are now playing with a whole lot of reps in preparation for that opponent. So those guys have practiced all week, got reps -- we have our test on Sunday."

The Broncos, from Fox to quarterback Peyton Manning to Gase, have all openly discussed the importance of running the ball with more consistency against the Dolphins on Sunday. The Broncos had just 10 rushing attempts, one of those a kneel-down by Manning just before halftime, in the 22-7 loss to the St. Louis Rams last Sunday.

Anderson had 163 total yards in the Broncos’ victory over the Oakland Raiders, a total that included a 51-yard catch-and-run reception when he made a one-handed catch and then broke several tackles for a game-changing score. Thompson has had 30 carries this season to go with three touchdowns.

Sunday figures to be the first game for Bibbs to be in uniform. He has been a gameday inactive for four games since being signed off the team’s practice squad on Oct. 20, but the Broncos like what he's done and Bibbs spent some time after Friday's practice talking to Manning.

“You feel good with C.J.," Gase said. “He’s shown the last couple of weeks what he can do and just him getting in the rotation has been eye-opening. We might have something good and you just don’t know because he hadn’t had an opportunity. He’s taken most of the opportunity he’s had and the rest of these guys it’s just going to be, ‘make sure I know who’s in the game and help them as much as possible,’ whether it be in the protection game or in the run game."

“All of the guys in the running back room are ready to play," Anderson said. “[Running backs coach Eric Studesville] gets us ready to play; he expects us to be ready."

For the most part, it isn’t carrying the ball in the Broncos offense that is the adjustment. It’s everything the backs have to do to earn the ability to carry the ball. It’s handling all of the audibles at the line of scrimmage in what is primarily a no-huddle offense and it’s getting it right in pass protection.

As Studesville has consistently said: “If you can’t do the right thing in pass protection, you can’t play … you don’t get to run the ball."

The Dolphins have an active defensive front – Miami is tied for fourth in the league with 30 sacks – and they blitz plenty to unsettle opposing quarterbacks.

“I would say the protections are a challenge, but at the end of the day, when they run the ball, it’s just natural instinct," Gase said. “So they just know once you give them the ball, they are just going to find the open hole and hit it. The good ones seem to develop quickly."

“Our job is to do the right thing when we’re in there," Anderson said. “We’re prepared to do that."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- A significant part of the Arizona Cardinals' passing game would be missing if wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald does not play Sunday in Seattle.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
If Fitzgerald is sidelined for the first time in 110 games, the Cardinals would be losing 24.9 percent of their passing yards. And no Fitzgerald would be a blow to Arizona’s mid-range passing game and would take away most of the Cardinals’ production on passes to the right side outside the numbers.

Through 10 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Fitzgerald has 248 yards on plays 11-20 yards -- a team-high by 91 yards.

Fitzgerald has also caught 27 passes for 426 yards on the right side of the field.

He was listed as a game-time decision by Cardinals coach Bruce Arians on Friday after Fitzgerald missed his third-straight practice with a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee.

Fitzgerald leads the team with 46 receptions and 658 yards, and is on pace for his seventh 1,000-yard season.

Fitzgerald has 122 yards on plays up to 10 yards, the second most on the team behind Andre Ellington's 124. The Cardinals wouldn’t feel his loss as much in the deep game. On plays of 21 yards or longer, Fitzgerald leads Arizona with 288 yards, but Michael Floyd is second with 248 and John Brown third with 245. Even Ellington has added 142 yards.

Fitzgerald hasn’t been the main source of offense on the left side of the field on plays of any distance. Brown leads the Cardinals with 23 passes for 334 yards outside of the left numbers. Floyd has 171 yards and Fitzgerald has 165.

However, Fitzgerald has a team-high 67 yards between the hash marks.

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