AFC West: Seattle Seahawks

Broncos vs. Seahawks preview

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
Redemption or redo, what will it be?

For the first time in 17 years, the two teams who battled in the Super Bowl will play each other in the following season. The Denver Broncos, 43-8 losers to the Seattle Seahawks seven months ago, get a chance to make amends Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

A victory by the Broncos (2-0) would be a bit of redemption after the humiliating loss in Super Bowl XLVIII. A win by the Seahawks would show they're still at the top of the heap and they've regrouped after a surprising 30-21 loss last week at San Diego.

Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount take a look at some of the key issues entering the Super Bowl rematch.

Blount: Jeff, the Seahawks defense had some major problems stopping the Chargers offense last weekend, which, as you know, is very similar to the schemes the Broncos use. The Seahawks had no answers for San Diego tight end Antonio Gates. Do you think the Broncos saw some things they can exploit?

Legwold: Terry, there is no explaining away a 35-point Super Bowl loss -- or at least no explaining that would satisfy the team's faithful. But there has been a nagging feeling around the team in the weeks and months since the Super Bowl blowout that if you look at the game video, the Broncos had receivers open, that they left plays out there they had made for months. So, the Broncos feel like if they execute, they can find some room to work. In looking at the Seahawks' scheme, my belief is any team has to stay patient, be content with the short and intermediate routes and wait for the chance for the big play. That's certainly easier said than done if the Seahawks get pressure up front. For the Broncos, tight end Julius Thomas has been a matchup nightmare for defenses thus far with four touchdowns in two games. The Broncos have been far more efficient out of a two tight end look early in this season, and, more importantly, more willing to use it. By the time they reached the Super Bowl, they had worked out of a three-wide receiver set on offense almost exclusively down the stretch.

Terry, staying with the Broncos offense, do you think the Seahawks look at it any differently with Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver, instead of Eric Decker, Montee Ball at running back and Ryan Clady back at left tackle? Or do you think they see the same scheme with just different personnel than they faced in Super Bowl XLVIII?

Blount: I honestly don't think they see it much differently, believing it's still the same formula overall with Peyton Manning leading the way. One thing the Seahawks players and coaches say over and over again is they want to force teams to adjust to what they do, not the other way around. No matter who the Seahawks are playing, they tend to stick to what they do best on defense, which is aggressive play in the secondary, ferocious tackling and a relentless pass rush off the edge from multiple line sets. The goal is to coax the opposing offense into making mistakes and going all out to force turnovers. No matter who they play or how renowned that team's personnel, the Seahawks take the attitude of "This is what we do. Beat us if you can." The Chargers did last week. They dink-and-dunked them to death. So the Seahawks probably feel if they clean up what happened last week it should work this week since the Broncos have a similar style.

Jeff, it's only two weeks into it, but how much better can the Denver defense be this season with the addition of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward?

Legwold: Overall, the group still hasn't quite put together the full four-quarters, get-it-done effort they believe they can. The defense has made fourth-down plays in the closing minutes to preserve each of the first two wins, but it has had some issues on third down -- the Chiefs repeatedly converted in situations of third-and-8 or longer -- that need immediate attention. But those signings in free agency have already paid dividends. Ware, who was voted a team captain after his arrival in March, has 1.5 sacks, and Talib and Ware have given the Broncos more of a physical edge. But maybe more importantly, the two have allowed defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to use a bigger variety of looks because of their versatility. Ward lines up all over the formation, even putting in snaps at weakside linebacker at times. The Broncos also had five defensive starters on injured reserve for the Super Bowl. The return of some of those players, such as linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and safety Rahim Moore, will give the defense a vastly different look than what the Seahawks saw in the title game, or even in the preseason game in August.

Terry, the Seahawks had the inevitable talent drain of a Super Bowl winner after the free-agency dust settled. How effective do you think they've been to stay true to their plan and replace the players who departed?

Blount: It's still to be determined how this will turn out. Seattle lost 10 players who had 58 years of combined experience. They've been replaced, for the most part, by much younger players and, in many cases, players with a lot more talent. But it's hard to make up all that experience they lost. So far, it seems to have hurt them the most on the defensive line in losing defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. Those three players accounted for 11.5 sacks last season. The Seahawks added veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams, but his impact has been negligible so far. Rookie Cassius Marsh, who was expected to make a difference as an edge-rusher, hasn't shown much yet. Depth on the defensive line was a huge team strength last season because it kept everyone fresh late in game and into the playoffs. After two games, that same depth isn't apparent, but it's early.

The Broncos got a tiny bit of revenge in the preseason opener, when they beat the Seahawks 21-16 in Denver. But is this really the game they've been looking toward for the past seven months?

Legwold: A regular-season win would not erase a Super Bowl blowout, it just won't. Deep down, even the Broncos know that. But the item the team has carried around, what they've had to listen to, is they were "soft" or "intimidated" in the Super Bowl. The Broncos will admit to mistakes in the game, but they are tired of hearing they lost because they were too shaken to succeed. That's the part of the narrative they'd like to do something about, and if they can put together a quality effort Sunday, that would probably close the book a little for them on the whole thing, at least until the playoffs start. In the end, though, they know they can't make a Week 3 game of the new season be everything, either. There's plenty of work for them to do moving forward, win or lose Sunday, to get them back for another shot at the trophy.

Terry, in the end, an awful lot of people around the league believe if these two teams get their respective acts together and keep them together, it could be a repeat Super Bowl. From the Seahawks' perspective, how have they handled the title aftermath, and do they see what happened in San Diego as just a bad outing or something that might need a little more attention?

Blount: That's always the key question: Will all the fame and accolades change you? Richard Sherman has become a national celebrity who transcends football. Russell Wilson seems to appear on every other TV commercial here in Seattle. Sherman, Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett all received big-money deals in the offseason. But through the offseason, organized team activities and training camp, I didn't see the slightest indication this team had become complacent. If anything, it seemed more driven to prove it could return to the Super Bowl and win it again, breaking the trend of teams not getting it done the following season. However, they fell off the horse a little last week. It wasn't that they lost, but how they reacted to the loss. They said and did some things that were uncharacteristic, but they were clearly stunned about getting beat. How they react to it this week will say a lot about where they're headed.

Live blog: Super Bowl XLVIII

February, 2, 2014
Feb 2
Join our NFL experts for Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. Also, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for fan photos, social spotlight, videos, polls and more. See you there.

There was a time, when John Elway wore a helmet at work instead of a tie, when the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks were division rivals.

From 1977 to 2001, the two teams did their football business together in the AFC West and now these former division rivals, who have gone their separate ways since -- through good times and bad -- now arrive to Super Bowl XLVIII as the matchup many wanted to see.

The Broncos' league-leading scoring offense -- which produced an NFL record 606 points with Peyton Manning at quarterback -- against Seattle's league-leading defense (14.4 points per game), a physical, brash group that led the league in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and interceptions.

It is the first time the league's No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense have met in the Super Bowl since 1990, when the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants authored a classic, a 20-19 Giants win decided when Scott Norwood's kick drifted wide right. Seahawks reporter Terry Blount and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discuss Sunday's game:

Legwold: Terry, in your mind, what are some of the major decisions John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made to put the Seahawks in this position?

Blount: Jeff, first and foremost, the one decision that almost everyone will point to is selecting Russell Wilson with a third-round draft choice two years ago when so many experts felt Wilson was too short to be an effective starter in today's NFL. That led to another big decision when Carroll named Wilson the starter after the team had signed Matt Flynn to a big-money deal -- a brave move, to say the least. But pointing to one move doesn't begin to tell the story of a team that Schneider and Carroll completely revamped over the past four seasons. Only four players remain from the team they inherited in 2010. Schneider and Carroll's strengths are their trust in each other and their ability to make stars, or at least quality starters, out of players that other teams overlooked such as cornerback Richard Sherman (a fifth-round pick), slot receiver Doug Baldwin (undrafted) and guard J.R. Sweezy (a seventh-round pick). They also made one of the best trades in team history, acquiring Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo in 2010. It's an example of how Schneider and Carroll are willing to take chances on players who might have had off-the-field issues.

Let me ask you a similar question, Jeff. Elway gets huge props for convincing Manning that Denver was the place for him to end his career, but obviously, it took more than one move to get the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Aside from Manning, what has made Elway's tenure so successful?

Legwold: Elway's mission, for owner Pat Bowlen, when he took the job, wasn't just to make the team competitive as quickly as possible after the 4-12 finish in 2010, but to fix the cracks in the foundation. This meant addressing the personnel and salary-cap issues that needed to be dealt with if the team was going to succeed over the long term. Elway always says people talk to him about a "win-now philosophy," but he wants the team to win from now on.

Elway and the Broncos' front office cleaned up the cap a bit, and though Elway is a former quarterback, he thinks big picture. They've drafted plenty of defensive players -- 11 of 23 picks under Elway -- and they've made finding the guy they want more important than simply making big-ticket splashes in free agency, other than Manning of course. Signing players to one-year deals with little or no signing bonuses, such as Shaun Phillips (10 sacks), Paris Lenon and Quentin Jammer (two starters and a situational player in the defense), have made it go. Starting center Manny Ramirez was released by the Lions at one point. John Fox, hand-picked by Elway, and his staff also have gotten more from players who were holdovers such as Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas. Toss in some big-time draft hits -- Von Miller and Julius Thomas -- and you have back-to-back 13-3 finishes.

For their part, the Seahawks have played quality defense all season long. Terry, how do you think they will attack Manning?

Blount: They will line up and say, 'This is who were are and what we do. Beat us if you can.' I honestly don't think they'll change a thing. Whether it's a rookie calling the signals or one of the all-time greats such as Manning, the Seahawks don't believe anyone can outperform their defense. They are as talented a group as I've seen. Two things set them apart: incredible overall speed, especially at the linebacker spots, and a physical approach that borders on all-out violence and intimidation. Calling for crossing patterns over the middle against this bunch is asking for punishment. The one thing defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said they will do is change the wording and signals on their calls. And what they must do in this game is get a push up the middle on the defensive front and force Manning to move in the pocket. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald have to outmuscle Denver interior linemen in this game.

Seattle's Legion of Boom secondary is an extraordinarily talented group that includes three players who were voted into the Pro Bowl. They play a lot of press coverage and almost dare a quarterback to try to beat them.

Jeff, does man-to-man coverage help or hurt Manning and his receivers?

Legwold: Man coverage almost never hurts Manning, unless those defensive backs consistently knock the Broncos' receivers off their routes, or Mother Nature brings a windy night. And not just a breeze, but something on the order of the 40-mph gusts the team faced on a frigid night at New England this season. But even then Manning was sharp and aggressive on a late drive to tie the game at 31-31. Where some defenses have had some success this season -- Indianapolis, New England and to a certain extent Jacksonville -- was when they essentially tossed aside the idea of adding pressure to try to get Manning, because he gets the ball out too quickly, and play as physically as possible against the Broncos' receivers to disrupt their routes and disrupt the offense's timing. That said, Manning still threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts to go with 295 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars. And while the Patriots held him to a season-low 150 yards on Nov. 24, Manning still looked sharp late, throwing the ball in a game in which the Broncos rushed for 280 yards because New England often left six-man fronts after dropping so many players into coverage. In the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots, who used much the same philosophy as in November, Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns. The mix for some kind of defensive success is usually to get the Broncos receivers out of sorts and find a way to pressure Manning in the middle of the field so he can't step into the throws.

Staying at quarterback, Terry, how do you think Wilson, certainly well-known for his poise and maturity, will handle his first Super Bowl behind center?

Blount: I realize it's a lot to ask of any second-year quarterback to enter this setting and not have it effect his performance, but Wilson is an extraordinary young man. I've said all season that he has the unusual quality of being at his best when things appear to be at their worst. He thrives on the big stage. I've never seen him rattled, and when he does make a mistake (such as fumbling on the first play in the NFC Championship Game), he acts like it never happened. And I've never seen any athlete who prepares with the time and detail that Wilson prepares. You can't fool him. People often compare him to Fran Tarkenton because of his scrambling ability, which is true. But in some ways, I see him more of a Bart Starr-type quarterback, a man who had the ultimate respect of his teammates, understood the skills of the men around him and made them better. Wilson said his goal every game is to be the calm in the storm and stay in the moment. Well, there's no moment like this one. It's cliché to say, but I think he truly believes he was born for this moment.

Jeff, there has been a lot of talk about how extreme weather conditions could benefit the Seahawks and hinder Manning's ability to throw the football the way he normally would. Do you think that's overblown?

Legwold: There may be no more overblown idea circulating around than Manning's ability to play in the cold. The cold-weather stats are always tossed around, but there are at least two of those games in some of the totals people are using when Manning played only one series because the Colts had their playoff position wrapped up. One of those was in Denver to close out the 2004 regular season (32 degrees at kickoff; Manning threw two passes in the game). The wind has been a far-bigger deal for Manning. Post-surgery, he has had to make some adjustments to his game because of some grip issues in his right hand. He wears a glove on his throwing hand in a variety of temperatures now. This season, he wore it in New England (22 degrees, wind chill of 6 degrees), against Tennessee (18 degrees), as well as in Houston (kickoff temperature was 58 degrees) and at Oakland in the regular-season finale, when the kickoff temperature was 70. And with the glove on his throwing hand in 10 games this season, including both of the Broncos' playoff wins, Manning has thrown 33 touchdown passes to go with five interceptions. He's had four 400-yard games and six games when he attempted at least 40 passes. People have scrutinized every wobble of every pass this season, but somehow he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. And wobbles or not, Manning has not been sacked and the Broncos have punted only once in this postseason.

In the Seahawks' defense, Terry, how big of an impact did signing Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency have on that group?

Blount: It's this simple: The Seahawks would not be playing in the Super Bowl without them. Seattle's big weakness last year was the lack of a consistent pass rush and a lack of depth on the defensive line. Not anymore. Along with those two, Seattle also signed veteran defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a mountain of a guy who has been a disruptive force inside. Bennett may be the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL. He has been everything the Seahawks hoped for as a hybrid down linemen who can play end or tackle effectively. He is a relentless, high-motor guy who never takes a play off. Avril is a gifted speed-rusher whose claim to fame is his uncanny ability to knock the ball out of a quarterback's hands and force a fumble, something he has done five times this season and 13 times over the past three years.

Jeff, everyone talks about the matchup between the Seahawks' No. 1 defense against the Broncos' No. 1 offense, but how do you think Denver's defense matches up against Seattle's offense and its power-running game with Lynch?

Legwold: Since Champ Bailey's full return from a left foot injury he originally suffered against the Seahawks in the preseason -- Bailey played in just five games in the regular season and was shut down for several weeks after a failed return in early December -- the team has played far better. It's surrendered 17 or fewer points in each of the past four games, including both playoff wins. And while Denver's numbers, as well as its play at times for that matter, haven't always been pretty, the Broncos do play better out of their base defense.

They will be in their base defense against the Seahawks if Seattle chooses to pound Lynch out of a two-tight-end or two-back set. They inserted a veteran, Lenon, into the middle linebacker spot down the stretch in the base to add some bulk. With Lenon, Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan at linebacker, they have speed to the ball if their defensive end can consistently set the edge. Against some of the power teams they have faced this season, including those with some read-option things in the offense such as Washington and Oakland, the Broncos showed a little more of a 3-4 look on early downs. It will be intriguing if the Seahawks -- seeing the Broncos have done far better in the heavier looks -- try to run against the nickel and dime packages and how the Broncos respond.

Terry, if the Seahawks win, what players beyond Wilson will have had the biggest roles to make it happen?

Blount: Probably the defensive linemen we mentioned earlier: Bennent, Avril and the defensive tackles getting pressure on Manning. If they do, the Legion of Boom will shine and come up with an interception or two that could change the outcome. No matter how well this rugged defense performs, it won't matter unless Wilson can throw effectively. Having receiver Percy Harvin on the field could help, but it really comes down to the same story all season. If Lynch has a punishing day running the ball, someone will be open for a big play in the passing game.

Jeff, if you had to pick one thing that Denver must do to win this game what would it be?

Legwold: Overall, they have to manage the moment. Teams don't win the Super Bowl as they go through all the build-up, but plenty have lost it when they got distracted by the bright lights and attention only to forget why they were in the Super Bowl city in the first place. As Phillips put it: "If guys want to party in New York, New York will still be there next week." But on the field, they have to keep Manning clean, give him some space to work in the pocket and with that their receivers have to play with an edge, fight for both their real estate and the ball.

Live blog: Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
Join our NFL experts for Super Bowl XLVIII media day. We'll cover all the highlights through live updates, photos and videos to keep you up to date on the wackiness of media day.

The Denver Broncos will hit the podium at 10:30 a.m. ET followed by the Seattle Seahawks at 12:45 p.m. ET. Contribute your thoughts and questions at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, be sure to stop by our NFL Nation Blitz page for even more social commentary and photos. See you there.

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 11

November, 18, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 41-20 victory against the Minnesota Vikings:

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/John FroschauerSeattle is hoping that Percy Harvin will be able to produce during Saturday's playoff game.
Oh that offensive line: With all the starters back on the offensive line, the Seahawks looked like the offense that can make the big plays that matter. Russell Wilson was sacked only once (which he called a coverage sack) and wasn’t hit much. Returning tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini did have a little rust after the long layoff. Okung was flagged for holding on what would have been a 58-yard gain for Seattle on a deep pass to Percy Harvin that was an interference call. And Giacomini was beaten by Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison on the one sack. But overall, it was a strong effort and showed how good the line can be with all its starters in the game.

Percy's tumor talk: Harvin shocked everyone after the game when he said he had a tumor removed last year. No one knew for sure what he was talking about at first or how serious it was. But the Seahawks' public relations staff later learned that doctors found a tumor (apparently benign) on his appendix when Harvin had an appendectomy in late November in Minnesota, three weeks after he went on injured reserve with an ankle injury. That little oddity aside, Harvin showed his stuff in his Seahawks debut with a 58-yard kickoff return and an athletic 17-yard catch on his finger tips that kept a Seattle TD drive alive in the second quarter.

Wilson stays perfect at home: Wilson just can do no wrong at CenturyLink Field. He now is 13-0 at home in his NFL career, and those 13 consecutive home wins are a franchise record. Wilson was 13-of-18 for 230 yards with two TDs and a 151.4 quarterback rating. Both TD throws were eye-catching. The first was 19 yards to Doug Baldwin when Wilson lofted it over two defenders in a place where Baldwin was the only person who could catch it in the back corner of the end zone. The other TD toss was an improvising move when Wilson was scrambling in the middle of the field and let go a shovel pass to Marshawn Lynch at just the right moment for a 6-yard score. Wilson’s 13 completions went to eight different receivers, including four catches for tight end Zach Miller.

Hauschka is a kicking clinic: Seattle kicker Steve Hauschka is having a remarkable season. He was 2-for-2 on field goals Sunday, including a 50-yarder, and has made 24 of 25 attempts this season. His only miss was a blocked attempt at Indianapolis, which wasn’t his fault. Come playoff time with a game on the line, Hauschka could be the difference for the Seahawks.
A tough night in Seattle could make for a difficult week for the Broncos.

The Broncos did receive good news on defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, who was taken from the field by ambulance to a Seattle hospital Saturday night. Wolfe was evaluated, including X-rays, a CT scan and a MRI exam, and allowed to return to Denver in the early hours Sunday morning on the team’s chartered flight.

But Wolfe is expected to be held out of at least some practice time with a neck injury and could miss the remaining two preseason games -- he collided helmet-to-helmet with Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, the lead blocker on a run play, as Wolfe tried to shed a low block just after the snap. Wolfe was to be at the Broncos' Dove Valley complex Sunday for more evaluation. The Broncos do believe he will be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 5 against the Baltimore Ravens.

Cornerback Champ Bailey was also set for a MRI exam Sunday. Bailey suffered a left foot injury in the first half of Saturday’s game and was using crutches as he left CenturyLink Field.

Bailey told the team officials he felt pain in the bottom/middle of his foot. Bailey, too, is expected to miss practice time this week and his availability for Saturday’s preseason game against the Rams is certainly in question.

The Broncos starters are expected to play into the second half against the Rams and then be held out of the preseason finale against Arizona. So, Bailey has likely seen his last game action of the preseason and the Broncos are hoping for favorable news on the MRI as far as the start of the regular season is concerned.

And wide receiver Wes Welker (right ankle) and guard Louis Vasquez (left knee) were set to be evaluated Sunday as well. Both players were removed from the lineup in the first half.

In a matchup of projected playoff heavyweights, the Broncos took what amounted to a preseason standing eight count Saturday night in CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks played with a regular-season edge and a bit more of a regular-season game plan. The Seattle regulars were far more opportunistic and played with far fewer mistakes in opening up a 26-point halftime lead the Broncos reserves couldn’t close.

The rundown:
  • During a preseason in which they have had plenty of injury issues, the Broncos had what was the scariest thus far. Defensive tackle Derek Wolfe was taken by ambulance to a Seattle hospital, where he was examined for a cervical spine injury. On a second-and-5 play in the first quarter, Wolfe was struck on the crown of his helmet by Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson. Wolfe was trying to fend off a cut block when Robinson plowed into him in a helmet-to-helmet collision. Wolfe was examined on the field by the Broncos’ medical staff before being loaded into the ambulance. Broncos officials said X-rays showed no broken bones, that a CT scan was "positive," and that Wolfe also had an MRI. The Broncos were hopeful he could return to Denver with the team. (Update: Wolfe will be able to return to Denver with the team.)
  • Special teams play was decidedly un-special. Those units were consistently a strength for the Broncos last season with Trindon Holliday's playoff heroics -- a punt return and a kickoff return for touchdowns against the Ravens -- lost in the disappointment of the double overtime loss last January. But the preseason has been a choppy affair for the group. Holliday made two unwise decisions in the return game in the preseason opener, including being tackled inside the 5-yard line on a punt return, and Saturday night in Seattle was worse for the unit. The Broncos surrendered a 107-yard kickoff return for the touchdown by Jermaine Kearse with 1 minute, 52 seconds left in the first quarter and then had a missed-tackle extravaganza on a 33-yard punt return by Golden Tate in the second quarter. The night would have been a total washout had it not been for Holliday’s 73-yard punt return against plenty of Seahawks reserves in the fourth quarter.
  • The Broncos simply did not take care of the ball. They fumbled four times in the first half, losing three of them. Most troubling was how the Broncos turned momentum-changing plays into enormous errors with the miscues. Tight end Julius Thomas lost a fumble after a 20-yard reception on what was looking like a scoring drive in the first quarter. Running back Ronnie Hillman fumbled away what would have been a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Seattle cornerback (and former Bronco) Brandon Browner returned Hillman’s fumble 106 yards for a touchdown. Hillman fumbled twice in the game. The Broncos were among the league leaders in lost fumbles in 2012. The Broncos lost 14 fumbles overall last season; only six teams lost more. None of those six teams made the playoffs and three fired the head coach. The Broncos' backs lost seven of those fumbles, including one by Hillman. Add in Montee Ball’s missed block in the first quarter Saturday night that resulted in a crushing hit on quarterback Peyton Manning and it was not a good night for the team’s young running backs.
  • The Broncos would like to work out of a three-wide receiver set as their base formation, but that’s not going to work if they can’t hold off the rush when they are in it. The Seahawks were aggressive early against the three-wide look, often rushing six and seven defenders. And after Manning took a big shot following Ball’s bobble in pass protection, the Broncos worked out of a two-tight-end look for six snaps during their next possession. They also had one snap in a two-back formation. On that drive the Broncos had the ball for 14 plays and would have scored had Hillman not fumbled. The Broncos forced the Seahawks to back off the pass rush when they went bigger in the formation. It showed the Broncos have versatility in the offense, but pass protection out of the three-wide look is still a concern after two preseason games. Those troubles will embolden opposing pass-rushers all the more if the Broncos don’t tighten things up.
  • For the second time in two preseason games an opposing offense pounded its way through the Broncos’ first-team defense to score on a game-opening drive. The Seahawks took their opening possession 65 yards in 10 plays, with five of those plays coming on runs that accounted for 21 yards. And much like the damage the 49ers did in the run game in the preseason opener, the Seahawks pounded away against the Broncos’ base defense. The Broncos did tinker with the lineup as Mitch Unrein started at one of the defensive tackle spots in place of Kevin Vickerson.

Some odds and ends:
  • As expected linebacker Von Miller started and played for much of the first half for the Broncos. Miller spent Thursday in Washington, D.C., to meet with NFL Players Association officials about his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Miller returned to Denver on Thursday night and traveled with the team to Seattle on Friday.
  • In addition to Wolfe, the Broncos have some other injuries that will be evaluated more Sunday. Cornerback Champ Bailey suffered a foot injury in the first half and guard Louis Vasquez suffered a knee injury. Bailey limped to the locker room at halftime while Vasquez's injury wasn't considered all that serious.
  • On a night when the Broncos had difficulty at times maintaining their composure, they had some ill-timed flags. In the first half, Vickerson had an unnecessary roughness penalty and tackle Orlando Franklin had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. An offside penalty by Malik Jackson negated a Tony Carter interception. There were two illegal formation penalties on tackle Chris Clark on back-to-back plays. The Broncos also had two illegal-formation penalties in the second half -- both on rookie tackle Vinston Painter. The Broncos also took a delay of game penalty late in the first half when backup quarterback Brock Osweiler didn’t ask for the snap in time.
  • Rookie Kayvon Webster showed he has moved up the depth chart a bit, as he entered the game on defense before Omar Bolden, a 2012 draft pick. Webster has appeared more frequently in the specialty packages in practice and opened the second half on defense.
  • The Broncos had to take a timeout in the first half when they only had 10 players in the offensive huddle.
  • Andre Caldwell got several snaps with the offensive starters in the three-wide receiver set. Caldwell was in the formation in Wes Welker’s place at times in the first half. Caldwell and rookie Tavarres King are battling for the No. 4 wideout position, and the Broncos likely wanted to see how Caldwell performed with some premium snaps.
  • Manny Ramirez, after working with the first-team offense all week, started at center Saturday night. Ryan Lilja entered the game as the second-team center.

Two of the more exciting wide receivers in the NFL in 2013 will likely be Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Seattle’s Percy Harvin.

ESPN’s Fantasy analysts debated the two players and examined who may be a more valuable fantasy play this season in this video above.

They are difficult to compare because they are different types of players and Harvin has return game value as well. But in the end, Thomas is projects to have a slightly better fantasy points average.

It’s an interesting debate and it gets all those fantasy juices flowing as fantasy draft preparation has definitely begun.
The San Diego Chargers have benefited from Charlie Whitehurst and now they are bringing him back.

He is expected to be the No. 3 quarterback behind Philip Rivers and Billy Volek. San Diego clearly feels more comfortable having a veteran and known commodity like Whitehurst as a backup than a youngster.

Two years ago, San Diego traded Whitehurst to Seattle in a deal that moved the Chargers up 20 spots in the second round of the 2011 draft. San Diego also received a third-round pick last season. Seattle had hoped Whitehurst was their quarterback of the future. Whitehurst started four games, threw 155 passes and had three touchdowns in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the Chargers continue to talk to running back Mike Tolbert, but other teams are in the mix as well.
The Kansas City Chiefs are bringing in Seattle tight end John Carlson for a visit. The Chiefs are one of five teams interested in Carlson.

The Notre Dame product is a strong pass-catcher. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, but Carlson, 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, has put up some good numbers when healthy.

He has 137 receptions for 1,519 yards and 12 touchdowns in three season. He would pair with Tony Moeaki, who was outstanding as a rookie in 2010, but he missed all of last season with a knee injury.

So, if the Chiefs sign Carlson, they will have two talented tight ends looking to rebound from injury.

Eleven is heaven for the Chiefs

February, 24, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Kansas City Chiefs are 1-0 in 2012.

The Chiefs won a coin flip with the Seattle Seahawks on Friday morning and they will have the No. 11 overall pick in the first round of the April draft. Seattle will pick 12th. The coin flip was necessary because both teams tied in the draft order after all other tiebreakers were exhausted.

Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli represented the team at the coin flip.

“It’s a good start,” said Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel on Friday morning. “It’s always good to win those things.”

Having the No. 11 pick gives the Chiefs a little more power if they want to trade the pick. The Chiefs will likely look for offensive linemen, linebackers and defensive linemen with the pick.

By the way, there was even an officially minted coin for the flip. The NFL does nothing unofficially, folks.

AFC West mock draft

January, 31, 2012
With the Senior Bowl complete, we are going to do our first mock draft of the offseason. We will do this periodically after major events such as the combine, key free-agent signings and pro day workouts:

*11. Kansas City, OT, Jonathan Martin, Stanford: The Kansas City Chiefs have considered taking a tackle for the past couple of drafts. Martin would be a terrific choice for them and he should be available.

18. San Diego, LB, Courtney Upshaw, Alabama: The San Diego Chargers must hope Upshaw is available. Pass-rushers are at a premium in this draft and Upshaw is a rising stock. The Chargers may have to trade up to get him.

25. Denver, DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State: The Denver Broncos' defense is still a work in progress and taking Cox would be another step in the right direction.

The Oakland Raiders do not have a first-round pick because it traded it (No. 17) to the Cincinnati Bengals in a package for quarterback Carson Palmer.

*Kansas City will have either the No. 11 or No. 12 pick. It will have a coin flip with Seattle next month to determine the draft order.
It’s starting to be mock draft season.

There have been several early efforts, including this one from Fox Sports.

I enjoy looking at mocks to see if I agree with the thinking for each AFC West team. Sometimes, I’m surprised by the selection and other times, I’m simply fascinated by the choices.

[+] EnlargeAlabama's Trent Richardson
Matthew Emmons/US PRESSWIREIs it a stretch to think Alabama running back Trent Richardson could fall to the Chiefs?
Fascination was the word when I scrolled down and saw who Fox Sports had penciled in for the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 11 -- Alabama running back Trent Richardson. If Richardson is the pick of the Chiefs (who will take part in a coin flip for the No. 11 or No. 12 pick with Seattle next month), it will be the story of the draft for the AFC West.

Richardson is considered a potentially game-changing tailback.

The first question is could Richardson tumble to No. 11. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., in an Insider piece, Insider put out his first mock draft Wednesday. He has Richardson going to Tampa Bay at No. 5. Richardson is considered a top-flight prospect, so seeing him falling to No. 11 could be a stretch. However, we have seen running backs fall past their value spot because running backs aren’t often taken in the top 10.

If Richardson is available when the Chiefs pick, would they take him?

Kansas City has needs on the defensive line and on the offensive line. Jamaal Charles, who was the second leading rusher in the NFL in 2010, is expected to be healthy this season. He was lost for the season when he tore the ACL in his knee in Week 2.

Richardson would be a luxury pick in Kansas City. However, a backfield featuring Richardson and Charles would be one of the most dangerous running-back tandems in the NFL. It would also take immense pressure of quarterback Matt Cassel and an underrated passing game in Kansas City.

What do you think? Do you think Kansas City should take Richardson if he falls to him, or do you think the Chiefs have too many other pressing needs? Fill up the comment section below with your thoughts.

One player to watch

December, 1, 2011
One player to watch for each AFC West team in Week 13:

Denver, Brodrick Bunkley, defensive tackle: He has been an underrated contributor for Denver this season after being acquired this past summer in a trade with Philadelphia. The Broncos' defense is much improved and Bunkley’s stout play is a reason why. Check him out Sunday at Minnesota.

Kansas City, Dwayne Bowe, receiver: Bowe has been scrutinized for appearing not to make much of an effort on a last-second pass that was intercepted in a four-point loss against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Let’s see how Bowe responds Sunday at Chicago. Will the necessary effort be put forth by this talented player? It better be. People will be watching.

Oakland, Aaron Curry, linebacker: Curry has been very solid for the Raiders since coming over from Seattle last month in a trade. The former No. 4 overall draft pick has been very disruptive for the Raiders. Let’s see if his hot play continues at Miami.

San Diego, Cam Thomas, defensive tackle: Thomas, a fifth-round pick last year, is playing and he is making some plays for the Chargers. San Diego thought it got a steal in Thomas last year. He will be given ample opportunities to continue his growth Monday at Jacksonville.

Curry finding his groove in Oakland

December, 1, 2011
While much of the post-trade attention in Oakland has been focused on how quarterback Carson Palmer is adjusting to being a Raider, the addition of linebacker Aaron Curry shouldn’t be overlooked.

Curry has elevated his game since being traded to the Raiders from Seattle last month. Curry was a major disappointment after the Seahawks took him No. 4 overall in 2009. He was inconsistent, didn’t show good instincts and underachieved as a Seahawk. However, Curry has been a solid, hard-nosed player for Oakland.

He made several big plays in the Raiders’ victory over the Bears on Sunday. Curry has 27 tackles in six games with Oakland; he had 22 tackles in five games with Seattle this season.

The best part of the deal for Oakland is it didn’t cost it much at all. Seattle took on much of Curry’s remaining salary. All Oakland owes Seattle is a 2012 seventh-round choice and a conditional 2013 fifth-rounder.

I checked in with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to get his thoughts on Curry. Williamson said Curry has been productive for Oakland, especially at the price tag. Here are some of Williamson’s thoughts: “The key is that Oakland didn’t give much up for him. So this is all gravy. He has fit in well and seems to be getting better. … I wouldn’t say that he looks like a linebacker that was a top-five should look. But I do think he is probably playing the best football of his career and is now a legitimate starting linebacker.”