Denver Broncos: Denver Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As they approach a Super Bowl rematch in Seattle that isn’t really a second chance at a Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos find themselves trying to find the right balance between past and present.

Between remembering the sting and embarrassment of a 35-point loss on the league’s biggest stage, and simply moving on to try to create another opportunity to make it right.

“Yeah, you don’t forget what happened and also, you set the standard by playing against the Super Bowl (winners)," said Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. “They’ve earned the right to talk how they talk and we’ll just speak with our pads and show up on Sunday. Obviously we still have a bad taste in our mouths from the Super Bowl, but it’s a new season and we want to get back to that point and obviously win it. But playing against the team that won the Super Bowl and actually having a chance at a rematch really will show how far we came as a team and if we improved or not."

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Ben Liebenberg"I think naturally you're motivated anytime you play a team that beat you last year," Peyton Manning said. "But being motivated, or being mad doesn't mean anything if you don't go out there and execute and do your job."
Sunday will be the Broncos’ first regular-season trip to Seattle, a former division foe from 1978-2001. Everybody knows the numbers: The Seahawks have gone 18-1 in their last 19 regular-season home games and the last time these two teams met in a game that counted, the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII by 35 points.

And in the social media world, a team that loses the Super Bowl by 35 points somehow doesn’t finish second. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said “people don’t see you as a team that was a runner-up because of what happened."

The Broncos have lived with being called soft, intimidated and unable to play to the moment in the title game. That’s all fodder to wind a team up.

Asked if he had ever been more excited to play in a regular-season game, Knighton said; “No. No I haven’t been this excited … Saturday, when we get on that plane, a lot of guys’ adrenaline will start boosting. It’ll be a hostile environment and that’s just the way we like it -- with our back against the walls."

But it’s also, for both the Broncos Seahawks, Week 3 of a season with plenty of miles to go before another shot at the postseason. In that vein Broncos head coach John Fox has tried to emphasize, at least publicly, Sunday’s game is indeed the kind of stage any Super Bowl hopeful would want to be on, but not the end-all, be-all of the new season.

Quarterback Peyton Manning even took a far simpler approach.

“Yeah, I think naturally you’re motivated anytime you play a team that beat you last year,’’ Manning said. “But being motivated, or being mad doesn’t mean anything if you don’t go out there and execute and do your job … so I still think you have to try to simplify it in some ways and try to find a way to protect the ball, score some touchdowns in the red zone and stay out of a lot of third-and-longs. I think if you don’t do those things, it’s tough to be a good football team."

So, whatever errors the Broncos made this past February, the opportunity that was lost, it's all a part of history’s stew. Almost half of the players currently on the Broncos' roster weren't with the team in MetLife Stadium, and the team will likely start at least seven players on defense Sunday who didn’t even play in the Super Bowl, so how it all turns out this time around will depend on how the current Broncos seize the day.

“I think we’ve got to caution ourselves from trying to make this a revenge for the Super Bowl game,’’ said tight end Julius Thomas. “This is the 2014 season, but we’re still playing a very tough opponent -- probably what a lot of people consider one of the better teams in this league. When you’re going up against a playoff team three weeks in a row, you’ve got to keep on making a statement to everybody else in the league about what type of team we’re going to be this year."

“You’ve got to stay in your (playbook) and just work on your fundamentals and get better each week and watch your opponent as much as possible without getting riled up and feeding into all the talk -- you know, the bulletin board stuff, all the quotes they got,’’ Knighton said. “But we just keep it simple."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The San Diego Chargers used a former college basketball player turned tight end, Antonio Gates, to score three touchdowns on the Seattle Seahawks defense this past weekend.

So, as the Denver Broncos prepare for the Super Bowl rematch Sunday in Seattle, perhaps it would stand to reason their former college basketball player turned tight end -- Julius Thomas, who is tied for the league lead in touchdown receptions with four -- should be a big part of the plan.

[+] EnlargeJulius Thomas
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesBroncos tight end Julius Thomas leads the league in touchdown receptions with four.
"You can't really look at the game like that," Thomas said following Wednesday's practice. "Just because Gates had three touchdowns [Sunday] doesn't mean that I'm going to be able to go out there and have three touchdowns."

But it is something to consider as the Broncos work to try to make Sunday's visit to Seattle a little better than their last game that counted against the Seahawks -- the 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Is Denver taking anything from how the Chargers, who happen to be coached by Mike McCoy, a former Broncos offensive coordinator, attacked the Seahawks defense in San Diego's 30-21 victory in Qualcomm Stadium? If they are, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is taking a loose-lips-sink-game plans approach.

"I can't really speak to the San Diego game plan, the Green Bay game plan [in Week 1 against the Seahawks], and I can't speak to our game plan," Manning said.

But beyond Gates' seven-catch day to go with 96 yards and three touchdowns, the Chargers did do some things on offense worth noting.

First, they played with patience and efficiency. Gates' 21-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was San Diego's longest pass play of the game. No other receiver had a reception of more than 16 yards in the game against the Seahawks' zone looks.

The Chargers worked short and intermediate routes with Gates' seven catches to go with nine receptions combined for the Chargers running backs. The Chargers also held on to the ball and did not have a turnover.

They had two field-goal drives go for 10 and 14 plays, respectively, in the first half. And, two of their three touchdown drives went for 75 and 80 yards.

What that means for Thomas and the Broncos remains to be seen. In the first two weeks of the season, Thomas has been the matchup that has created the biggest problem for opposing defenses.

Some of that is Thomas' continued growth as a player, as well as the Broncos' desire to be a little more physical. But it also was likely because of Wes Welker's suspension for a violation of the league's drug policy and the fact rookie receiver Cody Latimer, a physical, athletic player the Broncos continue to rave about in practice, is not quite ready to work in the audible-heavy offense.

So the Broncos, who were primarily a three-wide receiver offense last season on the way to a record 606 points, have played far more out of a two-tight end set this season. In Sunday's win over the Chiefs, they were in that look for all but one snap -- usually with Thomas paired with Jacob Tamme, who often plays like a bigger slot receiver.

"There may be some things that we saw on tape that we may try to do with me, but ultimately you've got to go out there and play your own game,” Thomas said. "The Chargers were able to go out there and have some success last week, and we're going to find our own success. If that's with me being able to have a good game then I have no problem with that. But whatever it takes for us to get the W.”

With Welker being reinstated Wednesday, how the Broncos proceed is still a question they won't reveal the answer to until Sunday's game. Still, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday he knows facing Gates and Thomas in back-to-back weeks is a challenge.

"We've got some great power forwards that are playing tight end and can do everything," Carroll said. "Tony Gonzalez was a tremendous mold for that … We saw a great one last weekend that gave us all kinds of problems, just like [the Broncos] have so we know it can be a big factor particularly when they're hooked up and have great chemistry with the quarterback."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Before Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker was suspended earlier this month, most of the discussion surrounding the 11th-year veteran was about his health.

About the fact that, after a concussion in the Broncos’ Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans, Welker had suffered three concussions in a 10-month span. Welker has returned to the Broncos after being reinstated in the wake of the NFL and NFL Players Association finishing negotiations on a new drug policy that has been enacted immediately.

Welker
Welker took part in the Broncos’ practice Wednesday, his first on-field work since limited participation on Labor Day. Welker said Wednesday he had been cleared medically “about a week or so ago."

He was asked following practice if he understood why people were concerned about his well-being and why some have questioned publicly whether he should return to the field.

“I appreciate their concern, I do," Welker said. “But at the same time, I feel great. I feel sharp and ready to go."

Welker was held out of the final three games of the regular season in 2013 after he suffered a concussion in a Nov. 17 game against the Kansas City Chiefs and another in a Dec. 8 game against the Tennessee Titans.

He returned to play in all three of the Broncos' postseason games, including Super Bowl XLVIII. Wednesday marked the first time -- the Broncos had a fully padded practice -- Welker had been a full participant in practice since the days before the Aug. 23 concussion.

After Welker’s suspension was announced, Broncos head coach John Fox said the time away, from a health perspective, might be a “blessing in disguise" for Welker.

“Maybe a little bit, you always hate to miss any time at all," Welker said. “But especially with head injuries and different things like that, every week and every day is a good thing for it. Not the way I wanted it to happen, but it is what it is."

Under the guidelines of the league’s concussion protocol to return to play, Welker had to be cleared by an independent physician, designated by both the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Danny Trevathan moving toward return

September, 17, 2014
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- His return to the practice field was overshadowed plenty by wide receiver Wes Welker’s presence in practice as well, but linebacker Danny Trevathan’s ability to do at least some work with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches was good news for the Broncos and an indication that one of the team's most productive players is closing in on a return.

Trevathan, who was the team’s leading tackler last season and an every-down player in Jack Del Rio’s scheme, suffered a fracture at the top of his tibia on Aug. 12. Though he did not take part in the Broncos' practice Wednesday -- he stretched with the team -- Trevathan’s work was his first appearance on the field in a practice jersey since the injury.

Trevathan said last week, "I’m getting there, I’ll be ready to get back in there soon."

Trevathan is five weeks out from the injury. The Broncos have been optimistic throughout Trevathan’s recovery that he would need six to eight weeks before a return to the lineup.

The Broncos face Seattle this weekend, but then have a Week 4 bye, so Trevathan, if he continues at his current pace, may be available for the Broncos’ Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Broncos will likely practice at least twice during their bye week.

Linebacker Von Miller, who left the Broncos' win over the Kansas City Chiefs this past Sunday with a groin injury, practiced Wednesday.

Linebacker Lerentee McCray (knee) and defensive tackle Marvin Austin (excused) did not practice. Austin’s father, Marvin Sr., was involved in an automobile accident Sunday.
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Perhaps it took a little longer than the Denver Broncos had hoped, but the team is poised to get wide receiver Wes Welker back on the roster this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported Tuesday that the NFL had begun to inform players who would be reinstated once representatives of the NFL and NFL Players Association had signed a term sheet on the new drug policy.

[+] EnlargeWelker
AP Photo/Jack DempseyThe Broncos could have Wes Welker back from his league suspension as early as Wednesday.
The Broncos have kept a roster spot open for Welker for over a week. The team, with the negotiations on a new drug policy seemingly nearing a conclusion, cut wide receiver Nathan Palmer on Sept. 9 and remained at 52 players since.

Welker, who suffered a concussion in the Broncos’ Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans, has been cleared medically, so he would take part in practice as soon as he is formally moved from reserve/suspended to the active roster.

Following Broncos practice last Friday, coach John Fox said the team was ready to welcome Welker back whenever an agreement was in place. But earlier this week, Fox wasn't prepared to publicly say when he thought that would be.

"I know we get Wes back for sure after four games," Fox said Monday. "Anything other than that, that’s somebody else’s decisions.”

Welker was originally suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and already has served the first two games of the suspension, missing the Broncos’ wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs. However, Broncos officials and players have believed that a new policy would change the criteria of Welker's suspension and allow for the reinstatement of Welker and several others players around the league.

Welker had been limited in practice at the time of his league-mandated punishment because of the concussion he suffered against the Texans. The concussion was Welker's third in a 10-month span.

Welker has taken part in just one practice -- he was limited in the team’s Labor Day workout -- since the injury.

Welker's chance at reinstatement came because, under the new policy, Welker's positive test for amphetamines would now fall under the league's policy for substance abuse because it occurred during the offseason. Under the guidelines of the substance abuse policy, a player enters the treatment program with the first positive test, a program that includes meeting with counselors. The player is also subject to increased testing each month.

It takes multiple positive tests under the substance abuse policy before the suspension phase is reached. Welker's positive test had fallen under the PED policy, which put players into the suspension phase with the first positive test.

Under his original suspension, Welker would not have been eligible to return to the team until Monday, Oct. 6, and then would have played for the first time in the Oct. 12 game against the New York Jets.

In Welker's absence, the Broncos have run far more plays out of a two-tight end set than they did down the stretch last season or in the playoffs. Of quarterback Peyton Manning's league-leading six touchdown passes, five have gone to tight ends: four to Julius Thomas and one to Jacob Tamme.

Broncos Rewind: Defense, special teams

September, 16, 2014
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos’ re-vamped defense has made a fourth-down play in the closing minutes to preserve each of their two wins.

Now, in the weeks to come, the group is hoping to do a little better in the minutes that come before that.

[+] EnlargeJohn Fox and Aqib Talib
AP Photo/Jack DempseyJohn Fox will be imploring the Broncos to commit fewer penalties after they committed 23 in the first two weeks.
“I don’t think anybody is all hyped up about where we’re at," cornerback Chris Harris Jr said. “We know we have a lot of work to do to be what we want to be."

And after a long look at the video here are some thoughts on the team’s defense and special teams:

  • At times the Broncos have crossed the fine line between hard-charging and aggressive unit and being a unit that commits too many ill-timed, unforced errors. In the win over the Chiefs alone they had five offside penalties by four different players, a roughing the passer, and a flag for 12 men on the field. After two games the Broncos are tied with Chicago and Washington for fifth in penalties, having been flagged 23 times. The team’s defense has accounted for 13 of those flags, with only one of those having been declined. The offside penalties particularly stung this past Sunday, as one negated an interception return for a touchdown by Aqib Talib. The Broncos have surrendered six first downs by penalty as well in the first two games.

  • In 2012, the Broncos struggled covering opposing tight ends for much of the season. That year tight ends caught 81 passes against the Broncos for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns. The current group hasn’t reached that level of difficulty yet, but opposing tight ends have had some impact. This past Sunday the Chiefs’ two -- Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano -- had a combined seven catches for 120 yards. Kelce did particular damage in the Broncos’ specialty looks on defense. Kelce had a 20-yard reception on a third-and-18 in the third quarter to go with a 20-yarder with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Both catches came with the Broncos rushing just three and dropping eight into coverage. That’s going to get a long look from the offensive coordinators still on the docket, unless the Broncos deter them in the coming weeks.

  • The Broncos have made it clear where they stand on the recoveries of Harris Jr. and safety Rahim Moore from their stints on injured reserve last season. Moore has played more total snaps than any player on the team, having been on the field for 159 of the Broncos 160 defensive snaps to go with 12 plays on special teams in two games. Harris Jr., just seven months removed from ACL surgery, played 80 of 86 defensive snaps against the Chiefs this past Sunday. That was after he had played 39 of 74 snaps against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. “I just felt like my conditioning was better, I felt better after working on it more last week," Harris Jr. said. “It just keeps getting better and better."

  • Whether it’s finding one undrafted rookie after another good enough to make their roster or signing somebody else’s castoff for a 1-year deal to get a player who ends up starting, the Broncos continue to pick players to help in specific roles. The swapped a conditional seventh-round draft pick for kicker Brandon McManus so McManus could fill in for Matt Prater, who is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. And while McManus hasn’t been asked to kick with the game on the line -- he’s 2-of-2 on field goal attempts from 20 and 21 yards -- he has shown an NFL-worthy leg. With two home games in Denver’s altitude, he’s tied for the league lead in touchbacks (10) and tied for the league lead, with Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, for touchback percentage with both players at 10-of-11.

Denver Broncos rewind: Offense

September, 16, 2014
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- They’re fourth in the league in scoring, tied for sixth in yards per play and the Denver Broncos are 2-0.

Yet the feeling around the team, and certainly among the team's faithful, is they’ve left some points on the table and the second-half lull in each of the first two games will need some attention.

After a long look at the video, here are some thoughts on the team’s offense:
  • Welker
    With wide receiver Wes Welker's time in suspension limbo expected to end this week -- he would join the Broncos roster as soon as the league’s new drug policy is formally agreed to by both the NFL and NFLPA -- it will be intriguing to watch if the offense drifts away from what it’s done well in the early going. Five of Peyton Manning's six touchdown passes have gone to the team’s tight ends so far -- four to Julius Thomas and one to Jacob Tamme. And four of those scoring plays have come in the two-tight-end set with Welker out of the lineup. The Broncos have also spent far more time in the two-tight-end set, including all but one snap this past Sunday. And they are consistently creating matchup problems with it all over the field. If Welker isn’t ready for full duty -- he’s only practiced once, on a limited basis, since Aug. 23 -- or the Broncos want to limit his snaps since he has had three concussions in 10 months, it’s clear they have a viable option that’s more than a change of pace. Last season they used a variety of offensive sets early, but down the stretch they were almost exclusively in three wide.
  • The Broncos went into the offseason to try and squeeze more out of the team’s running game without losing their throw-first edge. And the Broncos have flashed some potential -- like Montee Ball's 23-yard run on a third-and-24 in the third quarter Sunday -- but they have spent almost 90 snaps in the first two games in a two-tight-end formation and have more runs by running backs or wide receivers for no gain or negative yardage than they did in last season's first two games, when they played out out of largely three-wide-receiver sets. They’re leaving gaps on the interior, both in the zone run game and when they pull one of the interior linemen to cross the formation. But overall they’ve had nine carries already for no gain or negative yardage (other than kneel-downs), and seven of those have come on first down. No surprise the Chiefs were involved in that already, though; last season the Chiefs stopped Broncos ball carriers for 15 runs of no gain or negative yards, with 11 of those in the Broncos’ Dec. 12 win. But add in the fact the Broncos have had seven additional carries for 1 yard each, and 34.8 percent of the rushing attempts the Broncos have had from plays other than Manning kneel-downs have gone for 1 or fewer yards.
  • Can’t say Ball isn’t willing to stick his nose into the action in pass protection. Tamba Hali did have the Chiefs’ only sack Sunday, and he did overpower Ball to get it. But Ball threw himself at the much bigger outside linebacker for what was perhaps the biggest collision in the game.
  • Many years ago Ron Erhardt, a longtime NFL assistant to go with a brief stint as Patriots head coach, said “throw to score, run to win." That was long before receivers were set free down the field by the rules makers and quarterbacks were more accurate overall than they’ve ever been. But the Broncos are living the throw-to-score mantra. They have touchdown passes of 3, 5, 4 and 4 yards already this season.
  • Of the Broncos pass catchers, Emmanuel Sanders played 48 of the team’s 49 snaps Sunday, while Julius Thomas played 46 and Demaryius Thomas 45. Tamme, who was in the formation for all three Broncos touchdowns, finished with 37 snaps.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Throughout the offseason Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan lauded the team’s depth at the position, offering "we’ve got guys who can do so many things and we can line up a lot of ways."

Well, things change and often that change comes quickly. Just two games into this regular season and the Broncos are facing a far different look on the depth chart at linebacker and it may affect how they can line up Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

"We know some guys have some things," said middle linebacker Nate Irving. "Our job to pick it up, whoever is in there has to get the job done. We don’t make excuses."

It started in training camp when Trevathan suffered a fracture at the top of his tibia. The team’s leading tackler in 2013, and the starter on the weak side, did not play in the preseason as a result of the injury and is not expected to play in the regular season for a few more weeks.

Then Sunday against the Chiefs, the Broncos took a hit on the strong side of the formation when Von Miller suffered a groin injury after his backup Lerentee McCray had suffered a right knee injury earlier in the game when former Broncos tackle Ryan Harris hit McCray low in pass protection.

Miller played on in the game after it appeared his legs were pinned awkwardly as he made a tackle earlier in the day. In the end, Miller ended up leaving the game in the fourth quarter -- he played 57 of the team’s 86 plays on defense.

The Broncos were already using McCray to spell Miller at times as Miller is just eight months out from ACL surgery.

Those two injuries forced the Broncos to alter things in their base defense. They moved Irving, who was Miller’s backup last season and started late in the year -- including the Broncos' three playoff games after Miller’s ACL surgery -- into a more strong-side role with Steven Johnson in the lineup as well. Brandon Marshall, already filling in for Trevathan, stayed on the weak side.

Asked Monday if he was concerned Miller could miss time, Broncos head coach John Fox said; "I get concerned about all the players."

McCray, who spent the 2013 season on injured reserve with an ankle injury, underwent an MRI for was described as an injury that would cause him to miss some time.

Fox said "it’s not season-ending or anything of that nature.”

But it could force the Broncos into some decisions as they are poised to face the Seahawks’ power run game. The Chiefs found some success against the Broncos by running the ball against the Broncos’ nickel package (five defensive backs).

So, if the Broncos find themselves in a nickel look against the Seahawks’ three-wide set that includes wide receiver Percy Harvin as a potential runner, with two linebackers in the formation, they’re going to have to get off blocks in a lighter formation in the front seven than they did in the first half against the Chiefs.

If they line up in their base look, with three linebacker, if Miller doesn’t play Sunday the Broncos will have backups in two of the three linebacker spots.

The Broncos could also use safety T.J. Ward, who often lines up as a linebacker in some of the specialty looks, in a bigger variety of roles and play Quinton Carter at Ward’s strong safety spot as well. But keeping the Seahawks from setting the tempo with physical play in the run game has to be Job 1.

"Again whoever is in there has to play," Irving said. "Nobody on the outside is going to care what you have to go through. We just have to go out there and get it done, whatever it takes."

The Film Don't Lie: Broncos

September, 15, 2014
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A weekly look at what the Denver Broncos must fix:

In these pass-happy times when third-and-short is still a time for a quarterback to be in the shotgun with three wide receivers in the formation, a defense has to find a way to survive in its nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six) packages, even if an offense decides to run the ball.

On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs made it clear -- and the Seattle Seahawks' coaches are just as certain to take notice this week as they prepare for the Broncos -- they believed the Broncos would have trouble defending the run out of the nickel. On seven of the first nine snaps the Broncos were in the nickel, the Chiefs ran the ball.

The results: a 25-yard run by Knile Davis and a 2-yard touchdown run by Davis in a second-and-goal situation. In addition, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith rushed for 25 yards on a designed pass play when he took advantage of an easy escape from the pocket.

In the imitation-is-inevitable department, the Broncos are going to have to show they can defend the run when they go smaller on defense, especially with teams like the Seahawks, Jets, 49ers and Chargers on the docket over the next five weeks.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When some of the NFL’s officials rolled through the Denver Broncos complex during training camp to enlighten the team’s coaches and players on the rules changes for the season as well as the "points of emphasis," the Broncos saw one of their own on the training video shown to every team in the league.

In the portion of the video that discussed centers moving their heads or their hands too much before the snap in an effort to get defensive players to jump offside, it was the Broncos’ Manny Ramirez who was used as the example of what not to do.

[+] EnlargeJohn Fox
AP Photo/Jack DempseyJohn Fox saw his defense commit five offside penalties on Sunday, matching its total for 2013.
And after five offside penalties on Broncos defensive players Sunday, head coach John Fox believes not everybody got the memo, citing some “abrupt’’ movements from Kansas City Chiefs center Rodney Hudson.

Asked Monday for the root of four different defensive players being flagged for five offside penalties in Sunday’s 24-17 Broncos win, Fox said:

"They might have been a little abrupt. [That’s] something we’re, of course, going to turn in. I can’t speak about it, but we’ll turn it in."

One of those penalties, from defensive end Quanterus Smith late in the fourth quarter, negated an interception return for a touchdown by Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. Fox also didn’t let his own players off the hook, either, as defensive end DeMarcus Ware was flagged twice to go with one penalty each for Smith, Von Miller and Terrance Knighton.

Because of crowd noise at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Chiefs used a silent count for much of the game -- "There was no cadence," Fox said.

"After maybe one or two, think we probably should have adjusted a little better," Fox said. "[But] the squatting and turning of the head fairly abruptly, you know, was something that we’ll make sure the league knows about."

Asked about the team viewing the training video this summer, Fox added: "Yeah, something we made people aware of. It didn’t work out so good."

"They had a really good snap count," Ware said. "There’s no excuse, it’s watching the ball. But when you have a lot of movement before the snap of the ball, you get a little antsy."

Last season the Broncos' defense was flagged for five offside penalties all year.

Before the season, officials were told to flag centers under the guidelines that "prior to the snap, any quick, or abrupt movement by any offensive players, or several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of a play, is a foul."

The league's directive also said among the things to be penalized was to be "a center abruptly lifting or dropping his head not immediately followed by the snap."

In the league’s training video it was Ramirez who was shown quickly dropping his head without snapping the ball.

The NFL made it a point of emphasis given there were 33 neutral zone infractions by defenders flagged in 2005. Last season there were 132. Last year Broncos opponents were flagged seven times for neutral zone infractions and three for being offside.
DENVER -- Two halves don’t add up to the whole story right now for the Denver Broncos. At least not the story their offense wants to tell.

In two games, both wins, the Broncos' high-powered offense has had the ball for nine possessions in the first halves of their two games combined, excluding one kneel-down play for quarterback Peyton Manning to close out the opening half against the Indianapolis Colts.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Jack DempseyPeyton Manning and the Broncos are 2-0 despite their second-half woes on offense.
On those nine possessions the Broncos have scored six touchdowns, a field goal and had two punts. The Broncos also have scored on their opening drive in each game.

"It feels good to go down and score on the opening drive," Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "It gives everyone confidence that we can seriously do it over and over and over again."

But in back-to-back games the Broncos have left the offensive mojo in the locker room. In eight second-half possessions that haven’t included Manning taking a knee to end both games, the Broncos have scored just one touchdown and one field goal to go with six punts with offensive coordinator Adam Gase working out of the same playbook.

Broncos head coach John Fox, sitting at 2-0 after Sunday's 24-17 win over Kansas City, bristled at least some following the game with questions about discipline and offensive flow.

"We’re not going to beat everybody 58-to-nothing," Fox said.

For his part, Manning took a bit of a big-picture look following Sunday’s win.

"We’re playing a lot of good football teams," Manning said. "We played two really good teams, two playoff teams off the bat. Feel fortunate to win those games; have another tough game next week as well. So it’s still kind of the goals that you set on the offensive philosophies that you have, if you can achieve those goals those usually can lead to positive results. So we’re hitting some of those goals and some things we can do a little better job of."

Yes, Manning did finish his day with the NFL lead in touchdown passes, with six in two games. He has been particularly willing to find the best matchup in the scoring zone with four of those scoring passes having gone to tight ends Julius Thomas (three) and Jacob Tamme (one).

But the second-half numbers are troubling given the Broncos have been forced to hang on in each game, having to make a fourth-down play on defense in the game’s closing moments to preserve the win in each of the first two weeks.

Against the Colts, the Broncos didn’t make the most of their chances -- three three-and-outs in the second half -- while the Broncos simply didn’t get many chances against the Chiefs.

"If the other team has it, we can’t score," running back Montee Ball said.

The Broncos had just two possessions, other than Manning’s kneel down to end the game, in the second half against Kansas City. They turned one into a field goal, but were penalized for almost as many yards (17) as they netted on the drive (27).

The Chiefs opened up the first 10 minutes of the third quarter with a 19-play drive (23 plays with penalties included). They did not score after all that work when Cairo Santos missed a 37-yard field goal, but they got the next best thing by keeping Manning & Co. on the sideline for most of the third quarter.

"That’s ball-possession defense, all 10 minutes with no points," Fox said with tongue in cheek. "In all seriousness, that team struggled last week on third down. I’d say it’s fair to say, like any very competitive people, they worked very hard at it. Hat's off to them."

But the Broncos exited their 2-0 start knowing the team next on the docket is the one that derailed their offense in the Super Bowl just over seven months ago -- the Seattle Seahawks -- and that status quo won't be enough.

"We’ve got some work to do," Ball said. "We’re getting better every week. … It’s part of the game. The tide is going to turn, momentum is going to swing. Once we get momentum, we want to keep the momentum."

Third-down dilemma nearly dooms Denver

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
10:40
PM ET
DENVER -- On fourth down, the Denver Broncos are game-savers; they suit up, slap on a cape and do some super-hero stuff.

In both games this season, the Broncos’ defense has made a play on fourth down as the clock wound down to stop a rally and preserve a seven-point win. As they did in the season-opener against the Indianapolis Colts, the Broncos did it again Sunday to hold off the Kansas City Chiefs, 24-17, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
AP Photo/Joe MahoneyAlex Smith's ability to convert in key situations had Denver defenders frustrated after Sunday's game.
But it wasn’t without plenty of worry lines all around. Because on third down? It was third-and-brutal.

"Converting on third down, getting off [the field] on third down is something the defense is always about," Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. "If you can get off [the field] on third down, then it’s a great defense. [Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith] strings some of the plays out, they were able to make some big plays on us in key situations."

"We all get paid to come in here and do our job," Broncos linebacker Nate Irving said. "We don’t have any excuses, we know we can’t do that and be the kind of defense we want to be. We’ll look at it all. Like I say, we’ll look at it and see where we messed up."

Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has consistently started most any conversation about what needs to be done each week with two items. He will say the defense needs to "leverage and tackle," and he will routinely add the importance of getting off the field on third down "to give the ball back to our offense as many times as possible."

If you take away quarterback Peyton Manning taking a knee to end the game, the Broncos' high-powered offense had just two possessions in the second half Sunday. Two.

In all, the Chiefs converted 11-of-16 third downs and converted all types along the way. Some short, some intermediate, some long and some in the no-offense-should-ever-convert-those range.

During the Chiefs’ marathon 19-play (23 plays when penalties are included), 10-minute drive to open the second half, Kansas City converted five third-down situations. The Broncos escaped without surrendering any points -- Kansas City kicker Cairo Santos missed a 37-yard field goal attempt -- but those five were an alarming third-and-18, a third-and-11, a third-and-13, a third-and-3 and a third-and-8.

The Chiefs made three of those on completions from Smith for 20, 14 and 5 yards. But the Broncos put a little more self-inflicted woe on the pile with flags for roughing the passer on Malik Jackson to go with an illegal contact penalty on Chris Harris Jr.

The Broncos also, on a third-and-9 situation in the game’s closing minutes, had an Aqib Talib interception return for a touchdown that would have closed things out negated by an offside penalty on defensive end Quanterus Smith.

"We know," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "We know, every guy in here knows we have to do a better job of getting off the field. We’re 2-0, we made some plays to get the W's, but we know what we’re going to look on film."

They better. Because while 2-0 always feels pretty good, the Broncos know the Seattle Seahawks await them next Sunday.

Or as Harris put it before he strolled out of the Broncos' locker room: "If guys go out and celebrate and act extra hyped off winning this game … then their mindset is not in the right place."

John Fox: 'There are no cupcakes'

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
9:00
PM ET
DENVER – Observed and heard in the Broncos' locker room after their win 24-17 over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday:
  • The Broncos were left to explain what was on, at least some levels, an unsightly win. And while the scrappy, not-so-pretty wins were celebrated before Peyton Manning signed, the Broncos 11-penalty day where the Chiefs ran 29 more plays on offense than Denver did was not. It was enough to get coach John Fox’s hackles up . “We’re not going to win every game 58 to nothing,’’ Fox said. Fox later added: “There are no cupcakes, there never will be. They’re all tough and you feel good about all of [the wins].’’
  • The Broncos' defensive players all say they love the crowd noise, the thunder of stomping feet by those in the seats for their home games. But Sunday the Broncos struggled in their own stadium at times. The Broncos' defense had five offside penalties, including one by defensive end Quanterus Smith that negated what would have been a game-clinching interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. “They had a really good snap count,’’ defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. “There’s no excuse, it’s watching the ball. But when you have a lot of movement before the snap of the ball, you get a little antsy.’’
  • The Broncos' defense has made a play on fourth down in the closing minutes to preserve a seven-point victory in each of the first two games. Last week it was rookie cornerback Bradley Roby knocking a pass away from Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne and this week it was defensive tackle Terrance Knighton knocking down a pass on fourth down with 15 seconds to play. “We just got to end the game there,’’ cornerback Aqib Talib said. “We saw the clock, we saw the down and distance, defense just had to end that game. We like being on field last.’’
  • The Broncos came out of the game with two injuries -- to linebackers Lerentee McCray and Von Miller. Initially McCray’s looks to be more serious. He was taken to the locker room in the first quarter with a right knee injury and did not return. McCray will have an MRI on Monday, but after the preliminary exam there was some concern he could miss some time. Miller, who was not in the game during the Chiefs’ final drive, will be evaluated more on Monday as well.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
7:33
PM ET
DENVER -- A few thoughts from the Denver Broncos' 24-17 victory Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High:

What it means: The Broncos certainly won't put a frame around this one after a somewhat choppy performance with ill-timed penalties, inconsistency on defense and an off-and-on day on offense when the numbers looked better than the actual output. But the Broncos were able to win without their best fastball in an early AFC West matchup.

Stock watch: He's a do-it-all guy who fits many roles in the team's offense and special teams: Tight end Jacob Tamme continues to show his worth over and over again. On a day when special teams captain David Bruton Jr. was out with a shoulder injury, Tamme filled in the leadership void in those units. When the Broncos inserted Tamme on offense as the second tight end in their two-tight end, it sparked a unit that hadn't quite found its rhythm with back-to-back touchdown drives late in the first half.

Way too much bend: The Broncos held on for a win in the season opener with a defensive stop in the closing minutes against the Indianapolis Colts. At times Sunday they showed plenty of teeth on defense, but at others they allowed the Chiefs to convert in situations when the defense holds most every advantage. On a mammoth 10-minute third quarter drive alone the Broncos allowed the Chiefs to convert a third-and-18, a third-and-11, a third-and-13 and a third-and-8. Two of those were Chiefs completions and two were Broncos penalties.

Game ball: If a team is going to win without its best stuff, at some point one of the marquee players has to step up and pull everybody else through. Sunday, it was the Broncos' biggest name on the marquee who did so. Quarterback Peyton Manning finished with yet another three-touchdown day -- the 86th of his career.

What's next: The Broncos say they're tougher, more physical, that they have moved past a 35-point Super Bowl loss to put themselves in position to play in the title game again. They get a chance to prove it at 4:35 p.m. ET Sunday when they travel to Seattle to face a Seahawks team that will be smarting from a loss in San Diego, in a game in which anything but the Broncos' best will send them home with an ugly loss.

W2W4: Broncos Week 2

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
7:30
AM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Cornerback Chris Harris is just seven months removed from ACL surgery, so the team's Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts had a work-in-progress feel for him.

"I know in the first game I wasn’t quite where I want to be with my stamina and things like that, but my knee feels great, when I was in there I felt like I showed I can play the game how I want to play it," said Harris. "But I wasn't all the way where I want to be, but I'll get there. We got the win, that’s all we’re concerned about. We’ll fix what we need to fix after wins, that’s what we want."

That is true for the Broncos as a whole. They weren’t quite where they want to be in the victory over Colts, but they won.

And as they head to a Week 2 game against the Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) Sunday, here are some things to keep an eye on:

  • [+] EnlargeDemaryius Thomas
    Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesExpect to see Demaryius Thomas get more opportunities against the Chiefs than he got in Week 1.
    Demaryius Thomas had just four receptions for 48 yards in the season opener, but those numbers figure to go up this week, especially if Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton sticks to what he did last season against Thomas. Sutton didn’t match a cornerback on Thomas, so when the Broncos moved Thomas around in the formation, they could usually get the matchup they wanted, often getting Thomas on Marcus Cooper in last season’s two meetings. As a result Thomas had two 100-yard games against the Chiefs and averaged 28.5 yards per catch in those two games. Cooper, who missed last week’s game with an injury, is expected back in the lineup Sunday.
  • Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles had just 11 touches in the opener, including just seven carries. The Broncos should, and do, expect Charles to get many more opportunities Sunday. There was a time, during his tenure in Philadelphia, when Chiefs head coach Andy Reid took some heat for leaving the run game behind in his play calling. Things got away from the Chiefs offense a bit in the loss to the Titans Sunday -- the Titans led 10-3 at half, 20-3 just before the end of the third quarter -- but the Chiefs ran the ball just 17 times in the game. The Chiefs had just two running plays in the third quarter. "We know Jamaal Charles is one of the best," Harris said. "We know they want to get him the ball."
  • The Chiefs have just one offensive lineman -- center Rodney Hudson -- who is starting in the same position for the team that he played last season. And the group looked out of sorts at times in the opening-week loss to the Titans. As a result the Broncos figure to get a steady diet of quick-hit plays as the Chiefs try to adjust. Reid has an extensive screen game in the offense and the Chiefs run many of those screens, to either side of the field, to a variety of players, when they all look the same at the start of the play. The Broncos' linebackers will have to be disciplined in their pursuit.
  • Sutton will offer plenty of unorthodox looks in the pass rush, often dropping safety Eric Berry into the mix with a delayed rush in the middle of the formation. The Colts had some success sending a rusher from off the ball late into the middle of the formation. The Broncos were slow to adjust at times and there were times Colts defenders got a free run at quarterback Peyton Manning.
  • The Broncos figure to test the Chiefs defense on the inside, particularly in the run game. Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive tackle Mike DeVito will miss the remainder of the season with Achilles tendon injuries and that is a significant amount of production out of the team’s defense, particularly on early downs when Johnson was the keystone of the team’s run fits and DeVito was in the rotation. The Broncos figure to pound away a bit to see how the Chiefs respond, both out of their two-tight-end or three-wide-receiver looks.

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