- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Had they been on the field together when one of them scored, they were going to celebrate -- by pushing each other in the end zone. The two were going to remake "Rocky II."
The two skill-position players provided the nadir of Denver’s four-game free fall when they engaged in a sideline shoving match after Moreno had a key fumble against San Diego on Sunday in a game that left Denver out of first place in the AFC West.
However, Marshall wasn’t on the field. Still, Marshall is hopeful that the two former combatants can still display their celebration when Denver next plays, Dec. 6 at Kansas City.
“Maybe we’ll kiss,” said Marshall, hamming it up in a suddenly joyous Denver locker room on a late holiday evening.
Does one night cure all of Denver’s ills? No, but it’s all the team has and it welcomed the dose of good football and good cheer.
Against the Giants, the Broncos looked like the impressive, balanced bunch that started the season 6-0 and shocked the NFL world. The team played terrific in every phase of the game, and made big, timely plays when it needed to.
The result was Denver’s first victory in 38 days.
After looking like they were incapable of ever winning again during a four-game losing streak in which they were outscored 117-37, the Broncos came alive Thursday. They really had no choice.
The Broncos would have been cooked had they lost to the Giants. Now, though, the team is 7-4 heading into the stretch run of December and January. The Broncos have two games remaining against the 3-7 Chiefs and a home game against the 3-8 Raiders. Denver’s other two games are on the road against Indianapolis and Philadelphia. Still, the Broncos, who trail the 7-3 San Diego Chargers by a half game in the AFC West, are still very much alive in the playoff chase.
The complete win ends a trying period for the Broncos, who struggled badly on both sides of the ball and dealt with off-field issues.
Tuesday, veteran safety Brian Dawkins called a players-only meeting to help stop the bleeding and to squash any tension that lingered after the Marshall-Moreno incident.
The meeting clearly played a role in re-energizing the Broncos.
“We have a lot of good leaders on this team,” said veteran receiver Brandon Stokley, who had a 17-yard touchdown catch with 10:15 to go in the game to give Denver a commanding 23-6 lead. “We got back together. Most importantly, we played good football again.”
For the first time since Denver beat San Diego on Oct. 19, it enjoyed a dominant performance.
The key was the play of quarterback Kyle Orton. Orton showed no signs of a badly sprained ankle that kept him out of about three quarters the past two games. Orton, who struggled in Denver’s first two losses of the season, far outplayed Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Orton completed 18 of 28 passes for 245 yards. He had one touchdown. The Broncos moved the ball at ease all game. They also broke out of their two-plus-game red zone funk by scoring two touchdowns from inside New York’s 20-yard line.
Orton had plenty of help from an inspired Denver offense that entered the game with just three points in its previous six quarters. Marshall had a fabulous game with six catches for 86 yards.
Moreno also has a big bounce-back game. He had 88 yards on 19 carries and he often carved up the Giants’ defense.
“It was just a good overall game by the offense,” Marshall said. “We have to continue to play this way.”
Defensively, Denver also stepped up. The Broncos’ defense carried the team in the first six games. Thursday, it looked like that unit.
Denver went back to the blitz after straying from it in recent games. Manning was uncomfortable all game. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil had two of Denver’s three sacks and he now leads the NFL with 14. He is in striking distance of Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5.
Perhaps most encouraging was that Denver played strong run defense. The Giants had 57 yards on 16 carries. Denver was ravaged against the run in the past three games. San Diego had 203 yards on the ground Sunday.
“We made the plays that we needed to make,” Denver defensive end Vonnie Holliday said. “That’s what we did in the early season. It was good to see.”
All is well in Denver again. If only for a night.
DENVER -- Brandon Marshall and Knowshon Moreno had it all planned out.Had they been on the field together when one of them scored, they were going to celebrate -- by pushing each other in the end zone.