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Sunday, October 6, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

By Jeff Legwold


ARLINGTON, Texas -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 51-48 win over the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium:

What it means: The Broncos were forced to adapt and overcome Sunday. The Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead, Peyton Manning threw his first interception of the season and the Broncos lost three more starters on defense to injuries: cornerback Chris Harris (concussion), defensive end Robert Ayers (shoulder) and linebacker Wesley Woodyard (shoulder). It was all in the pile of trouble for the Broncos, yet they still came away with a win.

Stock watch: It had to happen at some point, but the Broncos' defense has taken some hits on the stat sheet this season with Von Miller and Champ Bailey yet to play in ‘13. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo feasted on the linebackers in coverage throughout the day, and he repeatedly targeted cornerback Tony Carter, who was in the game far more than planned because of Harris’ injury.

Not the usual: The Cowboys' beleaguered secondary, which had surrendered two 400-yard passing games to opposing quarterbacks before the Broncos arrived, was able to limit Denver's ability to get the ball to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for much of the day. By the time the fourth quarter began, Thomas still had just two catches for 13 yards until he had a well-timed, drive-saving 26-yard reception late in the game to go with another leaping grab with just 1:49 to play.

Bumps and bruises: The Broncos kept 11 defensive backs coming out of training camp -- a rare move for any team (they kept nine out of camp in 2012) -- and they have now needed every one of them. They have kept Bailey on the roster rather than designating him for return from injured reserve now five games into the season, and Harris will have to pass concussion protocol to even return to practice. Suddenly, Quentin Jammer and second-year cornerback Omar Bolden could become extremely important to the Broncos’ defensive plan.

What’s next: The Jacksonville Jaguars entered Sunday’s game as the league lowest-scoring team with 31 points in their first four games -- 13 fewer points than the idle 0-4 Buccaneers had scored in their first four games. Things did not get better as Jacksonville scored 20 Sunday but finished with a pile of injuries for its troubles. The Jaguars will arrive in Denver to find an irate team which narrowly escaped against the Cowboys.