The Film Don't Lie: Broncos

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
A weekly look at what the Denver Broncos must fix:

With a bye week, the Broncos get a couple of extra practices to try to regain, or even find, the balance they want on offense. Because waiting on the other side of the bye week are the Arizona Cardinals and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who once interviewed for the Broncos' coaching job in 2009.

Bowles is an aggressive sort who will, if he doesn’t feel he has to concern himself with the run game, blitz wild against an opposing quarterback, even one who has carved up blitzes as often as Peyton Manning has in his career.

When he does turn his guys loose, Bowles will blitz from all over the formation, often adding defensive backs to the mix. Which is why the Broncos’ performance on first down in their overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks needs plenty of attention.

First off, the Broncos were fairly one-dimensional -- they had just nine first-down runs in the game and just one in the second half, which came with just 2:29 left in regulation. Trailing or not, that makes them predictable.

Secondly, when they did run on first down, they struggled mightily to get anything done, especially when the score was such to afford them the chance. And the Broncos struggled almost equally out of their two-tight-end look and three-wide-receiver set. Overall, of those nine first-down runs, three went for minus-1 yard, two went for 1 yard, one for 3 yards, one for 5 yards and the longest was a 9-yard run by Montee Ball on the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage in the game.

Ball, however, fumbled on that play.

And if the Broncos can’t -- or don’t -- run on first down, it only puts Manning in harm's way.

The Film Don’t Lie: Chiefs

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A weekly look at what the Chiefs must fix:

Despite getting their first victory Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs have a few things to clean up heading into next Monday night’s game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium. Foremost is their protection of quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith has been sacked on 10.8 percent of his pass attempts this season, which is the second-worst rate in the NFL. The Chiefs will be missing starting offensive linemen Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson again, one because of an injury and the other because of an NFL suspension.

So the Chiefs will again be forced to use an offensive line inhabited by journeymen (tackle Ryan Harris and guard Mike McGlynn) and developing players (tackle Eric Fisher and guard Zach Fulton). That means the pass protection will get tested by the Patriots next Monday night.

The solution is to go with a quick passing game, a strategy that best suits Smith’s abilities. The Chiefs had some success with the shorter passing game in Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins. Smith was sacked five times by the Dolphins, mostly when he took deep drops and intended to go downfield with the ball.

But when Smith stayed upright, he got rid of the ball quickly. None of his 25 pass attempts in Miami went beyond 8 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Smith completed 19 of 25 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-15 victory.

The Film Don't Lie: Chargers

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
SAN DIEGO -- A weekly look at what the San Diego Chargers must fix:

When the San Diego Chargers host winless Jacksonville for a Week 4 contest at Qualcomm Stadium, one of the issues San Diego offensive coordinator Frank Reich will attempt to resolve is jump-starting the run game.

The Chargers are averaging a league-worst 2.43 yards per carry. One of the concerns for San Diego is depth. The team’s top two running backs, Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, are not available due to injuries. Donald Brown finished with 31 carries for just 62 yards in a win against Buffalo over the weekend.

In the second half against the Bills, Brown ran the ball 15 times for 7 yards, with seven of those carries going for either 0 or negative yards.

Brown is new to the offense, so establishing cohesion with the offensive line and getting the right read as to where the running lane is going to open up could be an issue. However, Chargers coach Mike McCoy was not buying that as an excuse.

“Donald has played plenty of football,” McCoy said. “To me, inside zone is inside zone, it doesn’t matter where you’re running it. Outside zone is outside zone. Power is power. We just have to do a better job of executing it.”

San Diego also could change up the bread-and-butter plays it uses in the running game, adding more misdirection plays like traps or counters in an attempt to create better blocking angles for the offensive line at the point of attack.

Finally, the Chargers could consider using fullback/tight end David Johnson more. Having a lead blocker at the point of attack could help clear up the trash, giving Brown and the rest of San Diego’s runners a better chance to get positive yards before getting hit at the line of scrimmage. Johnson has played an average of 16 plays in the first three games.

The Film Don’t Lie: Raiders

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
A weekly look at what the Oakland Raiders must fix:

The Miami Dolphins allowed the Kansas City Chiefs to reach the end zone five times in Week 3. The Raiders would love to see the Dolphins' defense continue that trend Sunday in London.

The 0-3 Raiders' biggest issue is entering the Dolphins game is offense. The Raiders just can’t score. Oakland had to settle for three Sebastian Janikowski field goals in a 16-9 loss at New England and has had just one touchdown in non-garbage time this season; it came on a short field in the first half against the New York Jets during Week 1. The Raiders, who have not led a game in the second half since playing at Dallas on Thanksgiving last year, have produced a league-low 37 points.

Coach Dennis Allen said the team has to come through in the “moment of truth.” That means every phase of this offense must elevate its game.

The key is the receivers finding a way to make plays. After a Darren McFadden potential game-tying touchdown was nullified by a penalty in the final moments, receiver Denarius Moore had a pass deflect off him that was intercepted to end the game. If Moore and James Jones can make plays in the passing game and perhaps McFadden, whose longest run this season is 10 yards, can pop free, perhaps the Raiders will find the end zone when it matters. If not, the losing will continue.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Knile Davis was back to his old habits in Sunday's 34-15 win against the Miami Dolphins. Davis had a big game while replacing the injured Jamaal Charles, rushing for a career-high 132 yards and a touchdown. But his performance was marred by a couple of fumbles, one of which happened at a most inexcusable time, with the Kansas City Chiefs trying to kill the clock in the fourth quarter.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid didn't seem troubled by these developments, at least not publicly.

"The crazy part of that is that both of them were high and tight," Reid said. "We always talk about that, keeping leverage on the ball. One of them he probably should have put that second hand on it in traffic. The second was kind of a fluke deal. I really don't worry much about him in that area. You saw we came right back to him. It wasn't like we sat him down."

I might be willing to, like Reid, dismiss Davis' fumbles as just a one-time thing. Except they aren't.

Davis came to the Chiefs last season as a rookie from Arkansas with an extreme fumbling problem. He's better at it now than he was last season but, as we could see for ourselves on Sunday, he isn't cured.

Davis is one of three NFL running backs with three fumbles this season, though the Chiefs have lost just one of them.

"You get comfortable," Davis said. "You don't see what's around you. Things happen, you know, but you've got to keep two hands on the ball at all times."

I like Davis as a runner. At 227 pounds, he's much bigger and more powerful than Charles. We saw that, too, against the Dolphins. He might be as fast as Charles, and he's a big-play threat.

But he's not a complete player. The Chiefs are a better team when they pass the ball with Davis on the bench.

Then there's the fumbling problem. The Chiefs can't truly trust Davis until he fixes it once and for all.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Three games into the regular season and the Denver Broncos are just now ready to move the defensive plan they made in the offseason from the drawing board to the field.

As they work through two bye-week practices this week -- Tuesday and Wednesday -- before a four-day weekend, the Broncos will continue to monitor linebacker Danny Trevathan's progress. Trevathan, who suffered a fracture at the top of his tibia Aug. 12 in a practice, returned to practice last week for the first time since the injury and was on the sideline for the Broncos' 26-20 overtime loss in Seattle.

And when the team’s leading tackler from 2013 is back in his starting weak-side linebacker spot the Broncos will have the defensive lineup they've hoped for. The Broncos continue to point to the Oct. 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals, their first after the bye, for Trevathan’s return.

“I’m always optimistic," Broncos head coach John Fox said. “He kind of started getting closer last week and he was limited in practice on Friday. This week’s preparation is a little bit different than an in-game schedule ... we’ll work as a football team Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m anticipating he’ll be there Tuesday."

With Von Miller's play Sunday -- Miller was consistently disruptive as he played 67 of the Broncos’ 78 snaps on defense -- Trevathan’s return would add another three-down linebacker to the mix as well as give defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio more options as the team moves from its base package to its specialty packages.

The Broncos often use a three-linebacker look in their nickel package (five defensive backs), and Trevathan’s return could allow Del Rio to use Miller, Trevathan and Brandon Marshall -- who has played for Trevathan -- as the three linebackers to go for more speed in the formation.

The Broncos tinkered with some different looks on defense in search of speed Sunday when rookies Corey Nelson and Lamin Barrow played two and 11 snaps, respectively, on defense. It was the first time Barrow and Nelson had taken snaps on defense this season.

“I’ve said it when I get back in there, that’s the full defense, all the linebackers, all the DBs, all the D-linemen," Trevathan said. “I just want to do my part, man, the way they’ve been playing has been what you want to see, they’ve gone out there grinding, making plays. I want to see what we can do as the full group."

Because the Broncos had limited the practice time in training camp for Miller and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. -- the two had ACL surgeries eight and seven months ago, respectively -- and Trevathan suffered his injury before early in the preseason, the Broncos haven’t had their projected defense practicing fully together at full speed.

Tuesday’s practice might well be the first look at that, as will next week’s practices.

“As a football team we’re not there yet," Fox said. “I think we’re making strides. I saw improvement from Week 2 to Week 3, and that includes Von. I think he’s gotten better. He did miss quite a bit of last season and like everything it takes a little bit of time, lot of facets to play this game at a high level."

“I’m ready to see what we can do, where we can take our game," Trevathan said.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A day after a gritty overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox said good isn't good enough and close isn't close enough.

That, when all was said and done, the 26-20 overtime loss in CenturyLink Field wasn't redemption, revenge, or even all that acceptable, as the Broncos entered their bye week.

"Do you mean is there a moral victory? The answer to that would be no," Fox said Monday. "But like all games, you have things you do well and things you don't do well. We call it the good, the bad and the ugly. We ended up on the short end of the stick. It was our first loss of the season. We're disappointed about that but we'll look at it."

[+] EnlargeJohn Fox
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports"Do you mean is there a moral victory? The answer to that would be no," Joh Fox said of the overtime loss in the Super Bowl rematch with the Seahawks.
Monday, the Broncos players went through the game video from Sunday's loss and while the team made a significantly better showing than it did in the 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII, a little time to sleep on it didn't make anyone in the Broncos complex feel any better about how things went.

"That's important every week, regardless of who you play, it's a physical, combative game every week," Fox said. "I think to go on the road in an environment that's proved to be tough to win at over the course of three years, yeah I think that's always important. It's going to be important the next time we go on the road. Did we have a chance to win the game? Yeah, but we didn't finish it and we need to figure that out. We're going to be doing everything we can to do that, regardless of who it's against."

"We played better, we did some good things, but it wasn't what we wanted," said Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "We didn't play to be close, be better than the last time. We always want to win. We'll go through things and get it right."

The Broncos will do some on field work this week -- Fox said Monday the team would likely practice in some fashion Tuesday and Wednesday -- before giving the players four days off for the bye weekend. Some of that time will be used to try find some solutions in the run game -- the Broncos are averaging just 3.2 yards per rushing attempt -- and to get things a little more dialed in on offense as a whole.

Quarterback Peyton Manning's eight touchdown passes put him second in the league, to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, but Manning has thrown just one of them to any of the team's wide receivers (Demaryius Thomas). Tight ends Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme have five and two touchdown catches respectively.

And while there is some take-what-the-defense-gives-them at work there, it is also a sign things are not running quite as smoothly as the Broncos had hoped.

"I know everybody in there, coaches included, need to improve," Fox said. " ... I don't know that it's really people doing a lot of things differently (against the Broncos). I think it's fair to say that we might be more balanced now. That's really kind of how I'd say it. I think it's important in football to have that balance and not be one-dimensional. That's what I'd say up to this point. I don't think our offense has been lacking. We're just trying to win games. Right now, we're 2-1."

Would Raiders have gone for two?

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- We may have been seconds from being introduced to Riverboat Dennis on Sunday had it not been a for a disputed penalty flag. Now, we will have to wait to see if Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen is a gambling man.

In the final two minutes of the game, the Raiders appeared to cut the New England Patriots' lead to 16-15 on a 6-yard touchdown run by running back Darren McFadden. However, rookie guard Gabe Jackson was called for holding. Allen and several Oakland players disputed the call. New England intercepted a pass on the next play to seal the 16-9 win.

Allen was asked after the game if he would have tried to go for two points and win instead of playing for overtime. He smiled.

“Yeah, that thought went through my head,” Allen said.


“It is kind of a moot point now,” Allen said. “You know what I mean? So, we would have done what we felt like we had to do to win.”

Quarterback Derek Carr wouldn’t have hesitated if Allen kept the Raiders on the field after a touchdown.

“That’s coach Allen’s decision, but I was ready to go,” Carr said.
One of the keys to offensive success for the Kansas City Chiefs is utilizing their best skill players. Sounds like a no-brainer, but the Chiefs in the first two games hadn't been giving the most work to their best receivers and running backs. That was particularly true for the season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Chiefs distributed their snaps wisely in Sunday's 34-15 win against the Dolphins in Miami. Their top five skill players (other than quarterback Alex Smith) in terms of play counts were tight end Anthony Fasano (all 72 plays), wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (55), running back Knile Davis (53), tight end Travis Kelce (47) and wide receiver Donnie Avery (41).

Other than perhaps running back Joe McKnight, who caught six passes and scored two touchdowns on just 15 plays against the Dolphins, those are probably the top five playmakers the Chiefs had available to them Sunday.

Kelce's snaps as a percentage of the total offensive plays were way up. He hadn't played more than 37 percent of the snaps in either of the first two games.

Wide receiver Junior Hemingway, in for 27 snaps, played less than he had in either of the first two games. The Chiefs also got more work to tight end Demetrius Harris (13 snaps) than he had seen in the first two games combined.

So nice work by the Chiefs' coaches (finally) to get their best players into the lineup. That excludes McKnight, of course, but the Chiefs probably maximized his production for one day, anyway. At least until Jamaal Charles returns, it's reasonable to expect McKnight's playing time will increase, particularly if the Chiefs are doing a lot of passing.

A couple of thoughts about snap counts in Miami from a defensive standpoint:

-- Dee Ford was in for 13 snaps, more than he played in the first two games combined.

-- Allen Bailey was in for more snaps (56) than any other defensive linemen, including Dontari Poe (53). That's two straight weeks for Bailey as the playing time champ of the defensive line.

Broncos, Ball struggle in run game

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
SEATTLE -- The search for some semblance of balance has the Denver Broncos' offense a bit out of whack.

Three games into the season and the Broncos are averaging just 3.2 yards per rushing attempt, they have just one rushing touchdown and in three games they have not had a run play go longer than 23 yards against defenses primarily constructed to stop the Broncos from doing something else.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsThe Seahawks shut down Montee Ball and the Broncos running game, with Denver gaining just 36 yards on the ground Sunday.
“We all just have to get better,’’ said Broncos running back Montee Ball following the 26-20 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. “It all starts up front, but then us as running backs have got to do a better job. Personally I have to hold on to the ball. I have to get that corrected.’’

The Broncos are not looking for some sort of 50-50 split between run and pass. But they are looking for what they tab as “efficient’’ runs, those rushing plays that secure first downs, no matter the down and distance, or runs that go for at least four yards.

Well, in Sunday’s loss the Broncos converted just one first down on a run play and just six of their 20 rushing attempts in the game went for at least four yards. It was a particularly grueling day for Ball.

The player the Broncos believe is ready for the lead role in their run game fumbled the ball away on the team’s first offensive play from scrimmage against the Seahawks. By halftime he had just 19 yards rushing on 10 carries and finished the day with 38 yards on his 14 carries.

Also Sunday Ronnie Hillman rushed for 2 yards on his two carries combined and C.J. Anderson rushed for minus-3 yards on his two carries. All in all it has taken at least some edge off the Broncos' play-action passing game because opposing defenses aren't having to commit additional players to the line of scrimmage to slow Denver's running game.

Asked following the game how he would grade himself, Ball was honest and quick to the point.

“Right now, not too good at all,’’ Ball said. “It’s early on and we are getting better, making improvements. We are going to make things happen in the backfield, change some things up probably and get this thing rolling. We’re most definitely committing to it. It’s just some things are not going well for us. We knew this was going to be an ugly game, two great teams playing. I think this is going to make us better.

On the game-opening fumble, Ball added: "I can’t blame anyone else on that. I let a lot of people down right there."

The Broncos had particular difficulty handling the interior of the Seahawks’ defensive line. Seattle defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Kevin Williams finished with a combined three tackles for loss in the game.

“We play disciplined, team football,’’ said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

Offensive woes do in Broncos defense

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
SEATTLE -- The Denver Broncos spent lavishly in free agency to buy a defense with enough of an edge to give them a chance in a rematch of the NFL's title game and enough on-field toughness to push them back into a Super Bowl.

That defense opened the season with fourth-down, game-saving plays in each of the Broncos' first two victories before Sunday's trip to the grown-up table that is a game at CenturyLink Field. But in the reap-what-you-sow department, the Broncos' offense couldn't find its rhythm for most of Sunday, leaving the defense with too many short fields and in too many bad spots. In the end, when the Broncos really needed one more dig-in series from the defense, the tank was empty.

And with that the Seahawks escaped with a 26-20 overtime win.

“We didn’t play our best today," wide receiver Wes Welker said of the offense. “And ultimately we came up short because of it."

Bottom line is the Broncos needed to force one more punt in overtime, get one more third-down stop from its revamped defense that had done so much in the first four quarters, and they didn’t get it. The Seahawks won the coin flip for overtime, kept the ball 13 plays, went 80 yards and ended the game when running back Marshawn Lynch plowed into the end zone from the 6-yard line for the win.

On the drive, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson rushed for 21 yards, including 5 yards to convert a third-and-3 and 5 yards to convert a third-and-4.

“We forced a fifth quarter, our offense got it going, we just have to find a way to get off the field in overtime," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "They just executed in overtime and we didn’t. We needed one more play in overtime. ... Ultimately it’s about win or lose, it’s either win or a loss. We’ve got nothing to be happy about."

But to beat this Seahawks team -- in this stadium, with the vaunted 12th man screaming at your every move -- every team walks a fine line. The Broncos’ inability to crank things up on offense until it was almost too late may be what ultimately did in the Denver defense. The miles are on the odometer, after all, whether they come in the first 15 minutes or in the game’s last 5 minutes, 46 seconds.

The Broncos rushed for 15 yards on 14 carries in the first half. On running back Montee Ball's longest run of the opening half -- 9 yards on the team’s first offensive play -- he fumbled. That put the Seahawks on the Broncos' 23-yard line and the Denver defense held Seattle to a field goal.

After the Broncos answered the Seahawks' field goal with one of their own on the possession following Ball's fumble, their offense went punt, punt, punt, kneel down to end first half, punt, punt, punt, punt and punt.

The Broncos didn’t put a touchdown drive together in the second half until Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. returned an interception to the Seahawks’ 19-yard line with just more than 11 minutes remaining in regulation.

“Offensively, we have some things we have to fix just from an execution standpoint," quarterback Peyton Manning said. “And I have to play better as well."

The Broncos made a fight of it Sunday, the offense did go 80 yards in 41 seconds, with no timeouts, to tie the score with a touchdown and two-point conversion. And as you would expect for a team with designs on big things, everybody took the blame when it wasn't enough.

But three games into this young season and the Broncos, like some kind of struggling pitching staff, are still looking for their first complete game.

“There really isn’t a second-place prize, a honorable mention or anything like that," linebacker Von Miller said. “We got better [Sunday] … but unfortunately we didn’t get the win."
SEATTLE -- A few takeaways from the Denver Broncos' locker room after Denver couldn’t close the deal in a 26-20 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

  • Broncos defensive tackle Marvin Austin played Sunday, just two days after his father, Marvin Sr., 49, died from injuries he suffered in a car crash last Sunday. “I know he was looking down,’’ Austin said following the loss. “We fought the way he would have wanted us to ... but I know he’d be saying he wanted us to win too.’’ Austin finished with two assists on tackles in the game as he played in the defensive line rotation. Marvin Austin Sr. was in an automobile accident in Selma, N.C. last Sunday. Austin Sr. was one of four people hospitalized Sunday after the accident. Austin Sr. suffered serious injuries when he was ejected from the vehicle. Marvin Austin has said he will wear “Austin Jr.’’ on his jersey for the remainder of the season, following the team’s Week 4 bye.
  • Wide receiver Wes Welker, in his first game since he suffered a concussion in the Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans and had been re-instated from what was originally a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, finished with six catches for 60 yards. As a player with three concussions in the last 10 months, Welker took some exception to being leveled on Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor’s interception in the fourth quarter. Welker was behind the play when the hit happened and he talked to referee Bill Vinovich immediately following the play. “I asked the referee about it, and he said ‘well he caught the ball first, right?’ so it’s your call. It is what it is, nothing you can do about it.’’
  • Broncos tight end Virgil Green doesn’t catch the ball much in the Broncos offense, but when he left Sunday’s game with a concussion he suffered on special teams in the first half, quarterback Peyton Manning thought it changed things for the team’s offense. “I thought Virgil Green’s injury was significant ... it limited us a little bit formation wise that we were going to try to do ... so we changed a little bit when Virgil went out.’’ Green will be evaluated more on Monday, but is expected to be under the league’s concussion protocol. The Broncos do have a bye next week.
  • The first play on offense has not been a good thing for the Broncos against the Seahawks. In Super Bowl XLVIII center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball past Manning for a Seattle safety. Sunday, running back Montee Ball ran for 9 yards on the team’s opening play on offense, only to fumble the ball away at the Broncos’ 23-yard line. Four plays later the Seahawks had a field goal and a 3-0 lead. “I was trying to do too much,’’ Ball said. “I was trying to jump around, that didn’t work too well for me, I have got to run the hole.’’
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- In the absence of the injured Jamaal Charles, the Kansas City Chiefs knew they would have to operate their offense smartly Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. They have no one else with the all-around abilities of Charles, so they would have to spread the ball around and hope quantity could make up for quality.

The Chiefs did that in their 34-15 victory at Sun Life Stadium. Seven receivers caught at least one pass and Knile Davis rushed for 132 yards.

But the best idea the Chiefs had was to get a little-used running back by the name of Joe McKnight involved. McKnight, playing mostly in passing situations, led the Chiefs in receptions (six), receiving yards (64) and touchdowns (two).

“He gives you a lot of options when he’s back there," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You got to see that today. That’s why we kept him."

The Chiefs kept McKnight as a fifth running back despite having Charles, who by himself figured to consume a huge portion of the playing time. The decision looks brilliant now. McKnight certainly didn’t win the game by himself, but it’s likely the Chiefs wouldn’t have defeated the Dolphins without him.

McKnight’s first touchdown, an 11-yard catch-and-run, came in the third quarter after the Dolphins had gotten to within four points of the Chiefs. His second score, on a 4-yard reception, came in the fourth quarter and extended a six-point Chiefs lead into a 12-point advantage.

Suddenly the Chiefs have some offensive possibilities even without Charles. Maybe the best thing about his injury is they now know they can survive or even thrive without him.

The running back spot was a two-headed monster for the Chiefs. Davis pounded away with 32 carries, though he also fumbled twice (one lost) and will have to correct that before the Chiefs can truly trust him.

Then there’s McKnight, who proved his worth as a receiver against the Dolphins. The Chiefs will soon also have Charles and De'Anthony Thomas, a rookie whose world-class speed needs to be put to good use.

“We’ve got a good group," quarterback Alex Smith said. “I think there’s a reason we kept so many of them. I think you can see that now. They all have something to offer."

Sorting through the options at running back will be a pleasant problem for Reid. Where the Chiefs once relied to a ridiculous extent on Charles, they no longer have to do that.

“We have all these running backs," Reid said. “It’s hard to dress all of them.

“I do like the other guys too. I’d like to dress all of them every week. You can do that sometimes and you can’t other weeks."

The point is Reid now has flexibility. Davis at least knew he was going to be a big part of things against the Dolphins.

“We knew we’d give him the ball some," Reid said. “I didn’t put a number on it."

McKnight’s involvement was a revelation. He became a necessary component with Charles out of the lineup. One of Davis’ weaknesses, in addition to his fumbling habit, is as a receiver.

That’s McKnight’s strength.

“We’re just trying to keep things rolling while Jamaal is out," McKnight said.

Their mission was successful in their first try without Charles.
BUFFALO -- Donald Brown said he hadn't carried the ball that many times during a game since his days as a star running back in college at the University of Connecticut.

Well, he better get used to it. With Ryan Mathews out for at least four more weeks with an MCL sprain in his right knee and Danny Woodhead suffering an ankle injury that could potentially end his 2014 season, Brown is the last man standing in the San Diego Chargers' three-headed monster rotation the team touted during training camp.

[+] EnlargeDonald Brown
AP Photo/Bill WippertDonald Brown, the last running back standing from the Chargers' heralded training camp rotation, carried 31 times Sunday.
Brown earned every one of 62 yards on an NFL-high 31 carries. His longest run was 14 yards, but there were a whole lot more 1- and 2-yard runs. The 31 carries were the most for a San Diego running back since LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 131 yards on 31 carries in San Diego's 27-0 win over Oakland on Sept. 11, 2006.

It was just another day at the office for Brown.

"I feel good," Brown said. "I'll probably be sore, but whatever it takes to get a win. We knew it was going to be a grind, and it was."

The 31 carries by Brown was the most he carried the ball in a football game since Dec. 6, 2008, when he rushed 34 times for 189 yards in UConn's loss to Pittsburgh.

Brown also finished with a team-high five receptions for 27 yards. He touched the ball on 36 of San Diego's 63 plays.

"He stepped up big," Chargers receiver Eddie Royal said. "Donald was huge for us, just the way he runs the ball. I mean, he's a physical runner. He can get those tough yards, and you need a running back like that.

"We kind of missed that with Ryan [Mathews]; he's our physical back, but Donald stepped in there and got those tough yards."

Some NFL observers questioned Chargers general manager Tom Telesco's thinking for signing Brown to a three-year, $10.4 million deal as the team's top free-agent acquisition during the offseason. But fast forward to September, and the move appears prophetic for Telesco, with Brown ready to step in as the team's every-down back until others can get healthy.

"You look at the offseason and I didn't wonder -- but some people wondered -- why we went out and got another back," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "They got a couple backs, and thank goodness we did. That's already shown to be a good move here early in the season."

Along with Brown, the Chargers have undrafted rookie free agent Branden Oliver on the active roster and sixth-round selection Marion Grice on the practice squad. San Diego is a team that will lean on the run, so this group will now be pressed into duty moving forward.

However, the next step for San Diego's offense will be creating wider rushing lanes for the hard-running Brown and the rest of the running back group. The Chargers are still averaging a league-worst 2.43 yards per carry. San Diego needs to get back to the way they consistently ran the football last season.

"We have a lot of confidence in Donald," Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Obviously, we didn't run the ball as well as we wanted to today. The goal was to be patient with it, and you feel like we're going to break through. We'll just keep working at it, and try and get better."

Added San Diego offensive lineman Chad Rinehart: "Obviously, bringing him in as a free agent was a great call. You don't expect to use your third running back that much. And to see that he can carry the load and we can keep carrying on with the run game is great to see. But it's frustrating that the running game is not where it needs to be, or even close to that. Fortunately we got the win, but it definitely needs to improve."

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
SEATTLE -- A few thoughts from the Denver Broncos' 26-20 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

What it means: Once again, the Broncos got a good enough day from the defense to defeat the rugged, opportunistic Seahawks, but the Broncos' stars simply never came out on offense. Quarterback Peyton Manning had just 141 yards passing by the end of the third quarter, Demaryius Thomas didn't have his first catch until just before the end of the third quarter, and while the Broncos scrapped their way to overtime, those lost possessions on offense earlier in the game were a little too much to overcome.

Stock watch: The Broncos needed some kind of balance from the offense, something to get the Seahawks' safeties to have to honor the line of scrimmage. But running back Montee Ball fumbled on his first carry of the game, and it never really got much better. Ball had 19 yards rushing on 10 carries in the first half and gave way to Ronnie Hillman on some drives in the second half. The Seahawks' defense controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the day, especially in the middle of the formation, as the Broncos' run game didn't pull its weight.

Deserved better: When they waded into the offseason with the intent to fix their defense, the Broncos wanted a nastier, more versatile unit that could both get to the passer and still hold opposing run games in check. The Broncos had it all going on that side of the ball Sunday, especially in the second half. When the Broncos tackled Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch in the end zone for a safety with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, then added a Chris Harris Jr. interception on the Seahawks' next possession, the Broncos still had a chance to win the game. By the time overtime arrived, the unit was too gassed to get the stop.

Game ball: Get out the paint and make a pile of them, but the Broncos' defense played the kind of game that can win a team a championship if it gets any kind of help. They had a couple of bobbles -- the Seahawks briefly found a little something with Lynch being used as a receiver -- but overall the group played quality situational football, kept Seahawks' wide receiver Percy Harvin in check and kept the Seahawks from using Lynch to set the tempo.

What's next: The Broncos get an early Week 4 bye and have to find a way to keep the mojo they showed on defense Sunday and rediscover their groove on offense. After fast starts in the first half of each of their two wins, the Broncos faltered on offense in the second half of those games, and the group really never found its rhythm against the Seahawks.