AFC West: MNF7 Broncos

Broncos-Patriots news and notes

October, 21, 2008
10/21/08
12:27
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Postgame news and notes:

Bailey
  • If the Broncos have to play without Champ Bailey for a long period of the time, this defense is going to be in trouble. Dre' Bly has been exploited often since coming to Denver. He'd probably be joined by rookie Jack Williams in the starting lineup if Bailey has to miss an extended period of time with the groin injury he suffered against the Patriots. I don't know how Denver would survive that loss.
  • Calvin Lowry, picked up on waivers in early September, replaced Marlon McCree in the starting lineup because of McCree's play in the run defense. The run defense didn't improve with Lowry as the Patriots crushed the Broncos on the ground.
  • In his postgame press conference, Denver coach Mike Shanahan said quarterback Jay Cutler does not have a broken finger. Cutler injured the finger on the first play of the game. Cutler finished the game and will likely be fine when Denver comes out of its bye week on Nov. 2 against Miami.
  • Denver had one bright spot on a miserable night: It had a season-high six sacks.
  • I wonder if New England will re-sign safety John Lynch if Rodney Harrison is out for an extended period of time. New England cut Lynch in September. Lynch, 37, has said often he wants to play again. Lynch, who asked for his release from Denver in July, is similar to Harrison on and off the field and he could fill a void both on the field in the locker room in New England.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

That was a first place team?

The Broncos had to take total control of the AFC West with a win Monday night, but they ended up taking a step backward.

Now the sloppy and banged up Broncos head to their bye week with a 4-3 record and just a one game lead over San Diego. The Chargers have to be feeling very good right now as they begin their week in Europe.

The Broncos were terrible on defense and committed five turnovers. These are problems that have been plaguing this team. Denver has talent on offense but they have to keep their hands on the ball.

Denver is floundering on defense. They were exploited in the passing and running games and with Champ Bailey potentially out with a groin injury, Denver could have big problems when it comes out of the bye week.

The Broncos did not play like a first-place team Monday night and if they continue to play this way, they won't be in first place in the standings either.

Denver streak lives on

October, 20, 2008
10/20/08
11:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The Broncos most likely won't win tonight as they trail 34-7, but their consecutive scoring streak lives.

The Broncos have now scored in 252 consecutive games, dating back to 1992. It is the longest current streak in the NFL and the fourth longest in the history of the NFL.

Big game for Royal

October, 20, 2008
10/20/08
8:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Eddie Royal needs to be right for the Denver Broncos tonight or it could be a long night for Denver's offense, which has scored just 52 points combined in the past three games.

The Broncos will be playing without No. 3 receiver Brandon Stokley (who suffered a concussion) and tight end Tony Scheffler (who is missing his second straight game with a groin injury). Along with Brandon Marshall and Royal, Stokley and Scheffler are Denver quarterback Jay Cutler's favorite targets.

Royal missed last week's loss to Jacksonville with an ankle injury. If Royal can't make an impact, Cutler will have to rely on Marshall. Last week, when Stokley went down and with Royal and Scheffler out, the Broncos offense struggled even with the presence of Marshall.

The Broncos need both Marshall and Royal tonight.

Torain has sights set on Miami game

October, 20, 2008
10/20/08
8:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Ryan Torain's goal was to return from a broken elbow tonight in New England.

Torain
Torain

That's not going to happen. Torain is inactive and won't play.

He is now focused on returning when Denver comes off its bye Nov. 2 against Miami. There are no guarantees that Torain will play against the Dolphins but he is targeting that game.

Torain started practicing last week or the first time since he broke his elbow in early August in training camp. Torain was a training camp star and he was close to winning the tailback job.

The fifth-round pick from Arizona State is a big, bruising back that fits Denver's run style well.

The team is excited to have him for the stretch run and if Torain has anything to do with it the stretch run will start in Denver's next game.

Moving away from Week 7

October, 20, 2008
10/20/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson


I am traveling from Oakland and the Raiders' exciting overtime win over the Jets.

I will check in later this afternoon with news and notes from around the AFC West and in preparation for tonight's Denver-New England game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Two key pieces of Denver's offense -- receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Tony Scheffler -- are in danger of not playing Monday night at New England.

Stokley has missed all three days of practice this week with a concussion he suffered Sunday against Jacksonville. Scheffler has a groin injury he suffered Oct. 5 against Tampa Bay and he didn't play in the 24-17 loss to Jacksonville.

With Denver's bye week looming after the New England game there is a strong chance both players will be rested. Darrell Jackson would be he No. 3 receiver in place of Stokley and Nate Jackson will continue to play for Scheffler.

Backup running back Selvin Young, who missed the Jacksonville game, is questionable for Monday night's game with a groin injury.

Interestingly, rookie Ryan Torain, is listed as questionable to face New England. He began practicing lightly this week for the first tem since breaking his elbow in early August. The team has been projecting that Torain will need a couple of weeks of practice before playing.

Broncos should copy Chargers' plan

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
2:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

It's long been said the NFL is a copycat league. The Denver Broncos need to make sure it is.

The Broncos need to copy San Diego's plan against the New England Patriots and attack New England's below average and small secondary with a steady diet of long passes.

San Diego completed passes of 59, 49, 48 and 29 yards against the Patriots. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers connected with receiver Vincent Jackson five times for 134 yards. It was clear the Chargers were taking advantage of Jackson's 6-foot-5 frame and the difficulty the Patriots' small cornerbacks were having.

The Broncos need to use Brandon Marshall the same way. Watch for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler to go deep often and exploit the Patriots' secondary, just as the Chargers did.

After all, it is a copycat league.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Courtesy of the Broncos' PR staff, here are samplings of quotes from Mike Shanahan and Jay Cutler's press conferences Wednesday in preparation for Monday night's game at New England.

Cutler addresses his comment on his arm compared to John Elway's (kind of) and Brandon Marshall's ball security:

Shanahan:

On having an impressive record against the Patriots
"I don't think that you really think about what you have done in the past. we have to get ready for this game. You know what type of football team they have now and what type of teams they have had over past years. It is always a great challenge. They are well coached, they have some great players and they have a great home record."

On coaching against Bill Belichick
"I have the utmost respect for Bill and what he has accomplished. Obviously with the Super Bowls and just the way he prepares his team... He is the best in the business and he has proved it over past years. We always look forward to these types of matchups and hopefully we will play well."

On T Ryan Clady playing well as a rookie
"It doesn't happen very often in the National Football League for a guy to play at the level he is playing at. He is doing a great job."

On TE Daniel Graham
"To have a good running game, you have to have a tight end that not only can block but one that can catch as football well. We have a double threat. Daniel brings us both. He can run block, he can catch and he is a great leader. He is a guy that is very important in any type of offense especially with ours."

On if the Patriots' last five years has been the most impressive stretch he has seen
"I am sure that there are a few stretches that are pretty impressive. If you go back to Pittsburgh, they had a couple stretches. We could go with a few teams, but since I have been a coach, it has by far been the most impressive stretches that I have ever seen."

On WR Brandon Stokley's health
"He is better today than the last couple days. Each day, he seems to improve a little bit. It is an on-going process and he will be a day-to-day evaluation. We should know something by the end of the week."

On concussions
"It is not my expertise. We have experts that deal with that, and they know concussions. Now with the NFL, the doctors and the emphasis that is put on head injuries, they go through all kinds of tests. It is amazing to me what they go through, and it is a learning experience for me. I was with Steve Young when he went through some of those concussions. Like you mention, you are concerned about their welfare and their family, their kids. Now they know a lot more about it and the tests that they give, give you a good indication of where somebody is at. I am sure it is not fool proof, but the improvement to me is unbelievable. When Steve (Young) had his concussion, I thought for him to even play another down was crazy. When Steve (Young) came in and visited with us at that time he was thinking about maybe playing another year or two and I think he would have had the doctors not talked him out of it."

Cutler

On the difference between the offense in the first three games versus the last three
"Turnovers. We have to secure the ball and be smart with it. Watching film, we expect to put up 30, 40 points every game and that's kind of the bar that we set. As an offense, if we don't achieve that we are obviously disappointed and we have to go back and look at what we have done and try to figure it out. This week is no different."

On whether turnovers have affected his production
"Whenever you get seven turnovers in two losses that takes away from the times we get the ball, the chances we get and the opportunities we have to score."

On the offensive injuries
"It hurts. When 'Stokes' (WR Brandon Stokley) came out it kind of hurt us on third downs. Without (WR) Eddie (Royal) and without (TE) Tony (Scheffler), we were a little limited. Hopefully we'll get some of these guys back this week, but we will have to wait and see.

"We can win with without them. We went without 'B' (WR Brandon Marshall) the first week. We can win without those guys. We just have to limit our turnovers, take care of the ball and take advantage of the situations we get."

On whether he likes playing on Monday Night Football
"I like Monday nights. I like playing at night. It's fun. Obviously we get to go to New England and play one of the top teams in the league for the last six or seven years, so it's going to be exciting."

On receiving national attention
"I'm kind of wary of getting more attention. It's not just me. It's Brandon (Marshall), it's Eddie (Royal), it's the defense. Once we had the hot start, people jumped on the bandwagon."

On his previous comments on having a stronger arm that John Elway
"I'm not going to worry about it. What's done is done and what's said is said. We are moving on to New England."

On RB Michael Pittman
"We are a little banged up at running back with (RB) Selvin (Young) out. 'Pit' (RB Michael Pittman), I think he understands this offense and he understands what we want to accomplish in the run game. It's one cut and he gets downhill."

On defenses limiting WR Brandon Marshall's touches
"We want to get the ball to Brandon as much as possible. We scripted some of those plays early (against Jacksonville) to get him going, but they took him away a lot. They played some different coverages that we weren't really expecting. We have to expect the same thing this week for them to try to take him out of the ballgame."

On the offensive line
"Any quarterback doesn't want to get hit .Those guys are playing well and we have all the confidence in the world."

On T Ryan Clady
"He's really good. It's tough for a young guy to come in and play like that, but they threw him in the starting lineup in the OTAs. He's been learning ever since and him and the rest of the guys are playing well."

On WR Brandon Marshall trying to gain yards after the catch
"That's part of Brandon's game. That's what he does. He brings that aggressiveness to our offense. He's always attacking and he can't change that. That's ju
st how he plays. He has to take care of the ball, and he understands that."

Belichick talks Broncos

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
1:49
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

New England coach Bill Belichick talked about the Denver Broncos Wednesday in a press conference leading up to the Monday night Broncos-Patriots game at New England. Here is a sampling of his comments:

Opening statement:

Belichick

Bill Belichick: After watching Denver over the last couple days, this is a real impressive football team. They have some familiar faces and a lot of new ones; some rookies are making a big impact for them. As usual, I think they are one of the best-coached teams in the league. I think Mike [Shanahan] does a tremendous job with his players, especially offensively. They are a very fast starting team. They score early and they score often. They are really throwing the ball well. They have an outstanding group of receivers, tight ends, [running] backs and their offensive line is playing well.

Defensively, they are fast. They have a very veteran secondary other than Jack Williams who comes in on sub for them. But their four starters are very experienced, fast linebackers and are a disruptive front. [They] are very good in the kicking game. They are right in the top of the league in kickoff coverage, punt coverage and returns. They have done a good job on the long field goals. Real solid football team, really good in every area of the game, well coached, fast, tough and we have a lot to get ready for this week. They are pretty good. They would be a lot more fun to watch if we didn't have to play them.

Q: Have they become more of a passing team?

BB: They have always had a good balance offensively and they still continue to do that. For example, against San Diego they were spread quite a bit. [Jay] Cutler is throwing the ball well. Their receivers are outstanding and are very good with the ball in their hands, especially [Eddie] Royal and [Brandon] Marshall. Those guys break a lot of tackles [and] make people miss in the secondary. [Tony] Scheffler too -- he is a receiver playing tight end. They have very good skill players and Cutler is throwing the ball well; he is very mobile in the pocket as well. It is fair to say they are throwing more than they did when we saw them two years ago.

Q: Have you noticed any difference in Jay Cutler this year compared to last?

BB: No. He looks pretty good to me. We didn't play him last year but he looks very good, very athletic, has a strong arm [and] can make all the throws. He can throw the ball as far as you want to throw it, as far as it can be thrown. He can get it down there but he has a good touch. He uses all of his receivers and tight ends. He will get the ball to the back some but he has hit the receivers and tight ends so much that the backs have become a lesser option for him. But he is very good. They do everything well, they really do.

Q: Rookie running back Ryan Torain could start practicing this week. Would that be difficult to prepare for?

BB: It is something that we will have to do the best we can to prepare for him. It was a little bit like the Kansas City game when [Branden] Albert didn't play all the way through preseason and then he lined up at left tackle. You go on what you've got. If he is in there than we will do the best we can to get ready for him. Some guys we know more about than others but that is a little bit of the case in the first half of the season. You are going to run into some guys you just haven't seen as much of. You have less to go on but sometimes that is true of your own guys too.

Q: Is there any difference in Denver's running game? Are they rotating guys through a little more than they were?

BB: Scheme-wise, no. The hard part about their running game isn't the plays; they run basically the same plays. They create a lot of different formations and they build them differently. You don't really see it until right when the ball is snapped. That's the hard part. It is the run force and getting everyone in the right position. Not that they do a lot of different blocking schemes; they don't have very many blocking schemes but they attack the edge of the defense probably as well as any team in football. That is really the heart of the problem, getting your run force and getting your perimeter guys in proper leverage to play the plays.

Q: How much do they use the 3-4 defense?

BB: They mix it in there. I would say they are primarily a 4-3 team, but they will mix it in there. They give you some different looks out of their 4-3 and 3-4 group and when they go into their sub packages they have some different looks on that too. They have a good mixture defensively. The one thing about it, no matter who is out there, it is a pretty fast group. They have fast players - guys that can run. It is hard to circle them up and get around all of them. You have to get into the defense and get some space there. It is hard to outrun [Champ] Bailey, D.J. Williams, [Nate] Webster, [Dewayne] Robertson and all those guys. They are a very good pursing team.

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