Broncos Thoughts and Musings - Kansas City Week

Following the burden of four losses, and continuing through the lighter job of a Thanksgiving turkey-down being visited on the NY Giants, I've been busy in the film room. The Broncos had gone through a hard stretch of the season and I wanted to know why: What changed? What made them goats after weeks of success? The game film was the only place to find out.

Of course, film room is a slight exaggeration. It's also the TV room, the reading room, the computer room and the filing room. In my case, it holds a large table that holds a lot of equipment, including my phones, router, speakers, tower (yes, I was raised PC) and a 26-inch monitor that lets me work in comfort. I worked in a padded brown leather office chair and a small table for the keyboard. I'd go wireless, but the keyboard is a special ergonomic model that I got used to and can't stop using. Maybe Microsoft will awaken and make a wireless version of this one, but so far, no joy. You can step outside the french doors that lead from the room onto my deck and watch the molten brass of the autumn sun sliding down into the ocean almost every night and that's a big plus. I miss the mountains, but that view doesn't seem to get old.

It's the only room that I have privacy in, other than a bedroom, but when I'm watching this much film, it's definitely a film room, so I'll use that term. The TV will have a DVD or a Tivo going that's relevant and the computer can be running two more games at once if I need to make some comparisons. I indulged in a quad core, 64-bit with a suitably large HD and an even larger external backup drive that saves everything, everyday. If I'm not on the computer, I also put in a leather recliner for the TV. Life is not hard...anyway you slice it, I've had a lot of time to watch the Broncos recently. The first few days of that were sheer torture, but it suddenly got much easier on Thursday last. It's funny how you enjoy breaking down film more when your team is winning.

I spent a lot of time watching each of the losses and trying to comprehend exactly why, in terms of their on-field play, they were losing. It was a helpful exercise.  The losses showed exactly why we were struggling and the victory last week showed equally well what happens when you rectify those same errors. Losing is usually about errors -- sometimes you just are beaten by a better team, but most of the time you open the door and usher them into the victory circle. Jimmy Johnson is a complicated man but he nailed it when he pointed out that you only have to beat about 10 teams in the NFL. The others will create the victory for you if you just stay around. That's exactly what Denver was doing.

The entire breakdown is fiendishly long and I won't bore you with all of it. I'll pull bits and pieces off of it as the next few weeks move along. I can say this -- everyone agrees that  there are certain basic principles that are essential to winning. Discipline is essential. Gap control is essential. Success in the trenches is essential. Mental errors are the bane of the football existence. If you just apply those to the losses, you'll find that nearly every failure was created not by the opponent, but by the Broncos.

For those who have asked me, yes, I was badly disappointed in the work of the referees during some of the games. They missed calls, called phantom infractions and generally weren't as good as they have to be, but the real culprit was gazing implacably out of the mirrors in the locker room when the Broncos came back in from the games. Here are a few observations to get us started, in no particular order.

 

Tight Spots

It didn't take a lot of film work to notice exactly why the Broncos drafted Richard Quinn earlier this year. Josh McDaniels requires a talented blocking tight end and long-time TE Daniel Graham showed up on film as having difficulty at holding the edge on passing downs. While Quinn is still struggling to master the speed of the NFL and the intricacies of the complex Broncos offense, he was the highest-rated blocking TE at this year's Combine. He'll have to step up greatly to fulfill the Broncos' faith in him, taking him as the last pick in the 2nd round of the 2009 Draft, but it's still fair to say that Graham was struggling during the losses. He'd look like an All-Pro on one, then disappear on the next.

About Quinn - the Broncos drafted off of a 'short board' this year, listing only those players that they felt would fit their system effectively. That has led to complaints by the Mile High community regarding where, exactly, they made their choices, but it explains a lot. Drafting a player that they didn't see in their system makes far less sense than using a 2nd-round pick on a player who was rated in the late-2nd to the 4th round. Why Quinn? Because during the losses, Daniel Graham made me wonder if he was getting older. Of course, after last Thursday, I'm not as concerned with that problem. He just hadn't played his best for a few games.

When Graham is on, he's one of the best. Blocking, chipping, running routes and catching, Graham is a tremendous advantage for Denver. When he fails, though, especially since Tyler Polumbus was struggling, it can make for a long game for both the run and the pass.

Graham has an issue with his hand placement. I've mentioned this previously on a thread, but he has a tendency to grab at the outermost aspect of the shoulders of the jersey. Technically, it IS holding, the way he uses it. Keep in mind, by the way, that his placement is legal as long as he works inside from it. Unfortunately, Graham has been finishing plays with a hip-twist to the side that takes down his player with a judo-like throw. He seems to do this a great deal - some refs call it, some don't, but he has to learn a better hand placement or we will have that issue regularly. It's a lot of fun to watch, but is still illegal. We need his play, though - he's still one of the best, all-around, and that's a huge plus.

Lots of fans including myself have awaited two things - a more balanced attack and better usage of Tony Scheffler. A big reason the latter didn't happen was that the blocking wasn't good enough for him to be used as a receiver more often. As the blocking improved, magically, Scheffler got free and started to create matchup troubles for NY.

It all starts with blocking. The trenches are where the games are won.

 

Being Offensive

 

Speaking of blocking, watching film over the past week has opened my eyes to the exact nature of the Broncos' decline on offense. I'd like to state, for the record, that I more or less expected to see problems that could be traced to many players and situations, but particularly to issues with the blocking and to the offensive line. I was still stunned to see how far those problems on the O-Line extended, though. Here are a couple of examples from the 1st quarter of the Pittsburgh game that might serve to clarify the issue. They were good illustrations of what we are dealing with.

The right side of the offensive line, except for the continuing excellence of Chris Kuper, has been a huge problem during the losses. Ryan Harris has been injured and Tyler Polumbus hasn't been able to step up fully in his absence until the Giants game. Daniel Graham seemed to be struggling to finish his blocks. In addition, I grew convinced that Russ Hochstein isn't the answer at guard before he played well on Thanksgiving and confounded me. The following two plays were a good indication of the problems as they stood. The plays ran back-to-back.

In the first one, Denver is lined up on offense with 5 down lineman and 4 receivers; Brandon Marshall is in the right slot. His safety, the man covering Marshall, releases to penetrate, going after Orton. Orton sees him and chooses his receiver quickly, accurately gunning it to Brandon. Marshall goes over the middle and makes the reception. However -- the safety ran square into Polumbus who missed the speed rush, letting the safety move easily past before he hurried Orton. The pass is still complete, but Polumbus got taken.

An illustration of just how bad the blocking had become came next, on a power running play Denver used toward to the end of the 1st quarter. The Broncos lined up the usual 5 OL, with Hochstein outside of Polumbus on the right side of the line and Graham on the outside of him to the right. Hochstein was essentially playing as an extra blocking lineman, as was Graham. This wasn't the kind of play that is designed to fool anyone: it was a simple, power run formation. It looked good, right up until the ball was snapped.

At the snap, Hochstein fired out of his stance and toward an OLB on the right as Orton took the snap and handed the ball to Knowshon Moreno. Unfortunately for Russ, his man simply stepped back and to the side. Hochstein went after him, and the end of the play saw him still literally chasing around behind the player who was not, happily, much in the play. Polumbus was keyed on James Farrior, ILB, who brushed him aside as you might a small child, knifing into the backfield. Polumbus fell flat on his face, Farrior reached Moreno in the backfield, almost untouched, and the play went for a loss of three.

There are a couple of obvious things to mention. I've rarely, if ever, seen a power run to the right that left two of our right-side lineman grasping at air, having failed to engage anyone at all that they were supposed to block. Polumbus knelt there on the ground and pounded it with his fist, but that's no substitute for doing your job. This wasn't the only play that left me leery of Hochstein, by the way - it seemed unfortunately obvious why he's been a backup for most of his career. In my own view, I'm sad to say that Tyler hadn't played well enough to even keep him as a backup in the offseason unless he improved rapidly. Of course, this changed greatly against the Giants and he had a very good game. That's been a pattern -- good O-Line play will win you games. Lacking it is an invitation to a loss. What's new?

A third example involved Ben Hamilton. Ben looked like a different player on the recent film. It's almost as if someone stole him in the night and left a changeling in his place, one who fooled everyone into believing that he's Ben. How bad was it? In the same quarter listed above, earlier on, the Broncos ran off-guard to the right. Hamilton was tasked with taking up a linebacker on the play. He easily got to the second level, made contact - and quit. He just stopped and let the player disengage. His man promptly ran over, following the run, and tackled Correll Buckhalter. Hamilton was immediately pulled for one play, with Hochstein taking his place. Unfortunately, Russ wasn't an improvement and Hamilton returned for the next play after, having received some loving personal instruction and attention from Rick Dennison. I've never known Hamilton to quit on plays before this season - something is obviously going on with him.

Think about it. Orton is hit on the first play. He made the completion anyway (Orton looked very good in that half) but it was touch and go whether he could get the pass off accurately within that narrow window. On the next play, Moreno never had a chance - Farrior had a perfect shot at him. On the third play, Buckhalter would have had a first down if Hamilton just finishes the play. Instead, the Steelers killed that drive. That was a pattern during the losses. Individuals didn't play well and the team couldn't get anything going.

I'm not claiming for a moment that we don't have other issues, and I'm going to talk about others over the next few weeks. The defense was also a problem, communication between Orton and the receivers left some points on the field, and there were plenty of other things to work on. It's just that the degree of problems with the offensive line were killing drive after drive, even when you had to look carefully to see why that's true. I had to run the plays over and over to spot every player, but once I did, the crux of the matter was too obvious to miss.

I also saw that plenty of people - far too many - made mental errors at critical times. To be honest, it's the NFL - any time is a critical time. A single mistake wipes out a 40-yard gain - is that critical? It is to me. The difference in the Giants game? For what it's worth, I think that it's not that they didn't make those errors - they still did. It was that once they had, they got it back on track and didn't keep on making them, while the Giants did. If they can keep that kind of aggressive spirit and increase their effective discipline, the Broncos can still compete in the playoffs.


Not-so Special Teams

In watching film, a pattern emerged that had hovered just at the edge of my consciousness. I've been listening to and reading about how the special teams play has been a problem and I fully agree. If you look at the overall results it's hard not to be concerned about this area of the Broncos. Many of the members had problems with bringing ST coach Mike Priefer on board, and I tend to agree. But the problem here, even so, can easily be deceiving. A pattern came to light that has no simple solution.

It's this: Our opponent gets the ball. We stop their drive, but they make it to about mid-field. They punt, and their punter is good at finding that 'coffin corner', pinning us back in our end of the field. Sure, you hope that Eddie Royal can break a few, but let's be real - Eddie is getting the ball with two players or more in his face. He's in a tight area, with defenders reaching him under the punt. We get pinned in the 10-20 if he catches the ball, maybe the 23 or so. It's on the 20 if it rolls into the end zone. We're looking at another long, tiring drive - if we're successful. If not, we're punting and the opposing team gets it at about the 30-to-40 yard line. then we do it all over again until the D is tired and/or we get scored on. I used to notice this with Shanahan's last few teams as well. It's a terrible habit to get into, since it assures that you will have the maximum problems scoring and will give the easiest time to the opponent.

And then came the Giants game and it all changed back, as mysteriously as it arrived. The Broncos suddenly woke up from an autumn nap, smelled the air and strapped on their helmets. They stopped them at their end of the field, created a little more room to run back punts and boomed punts that stuck the Giants back in their end of the field. Everything was different. In the end, the starting field position was Den: 30.20, NYG: 21.30 according to StatMaster TJ (Thanks for the aid, Your Dudeness). Seeing that showed why the difference was so stark.

If we look more at the starting field position, we really did get clobbered by BAL and PIT. After that, it was more about errors. Consider our starting field position over the past 5 weeks:

 

Week 8, Baltimore: 20.55
Week 9, Pittsburgh: 21.64
Week 10, Washington: 27.91
Week 11, San Diego: 29.60
Week 12, New York: 30.20

 

The Washington game, to me, was a matter of mistakes and the issue of Chris Simms - if we had Orton, I still think that we would have won, even with a poor performance by the D. Our field position was not that bad and we did score well. the lack of defensive discipline may have tipped the game in their favor. SD was a meltdown. Error compounding error, awful work by Simms, who will not return, Orton trying to play lame. We had decent position and lost it anyway.

Yet, with about the same position, we pounded on NYG. The difference was that we put together a comprehensive, complementary football game, with all sections doing "A" work. That's hard to beat. It sounds awfully simplistic, but this time, the solution was simple. Stop making egregious errors that kill drives or sustain the opponents' drives. If a mistake happens, overcome it with better play. Many times, how we responded to errors determined whether or not we won any given battle.

 

Throwdown, Elvis Style

Daniel Graham wasn't the only Broncos who's been engaged in throwdowns recently:  What to make of Elvis Dumervil? With 5 games to go in the season, he's accumulated a career high and NFL-leading 14 sacks. Will the Broncos pay to keep him around? Count on it. I don't know any more than you about how they will deal with the uncapped year and the new CBA beyond that, but Doom will be a Bronco in 2010. Dumervil is already sixth all-time in the NFL in third-down sacks in a season. The record is held by San Francisco's Tim Harris, who had 11 third-down sacks in 1992 and Doom has 5 more games to pad that stat. When he finds the QB on third down, it does more than just give us back the ball. It changes the way the game flows. How will they pay him? Again - that's what Brian Xanders does. I've got a lot of faith in him. Gosh, why do you want a GM with a lot of cap experience? I couldn't believe it when I heard that in the offseason. The cap is a defender who will always be waiting to trip you up, year 'round.

When Doom is getting his sacks on any down the Broncos are almost impossible to beat. That's because when he's bringing the QB down, It also means that everyone else has tied up their guys or is bringing their own pressure. Good as he is, only when the team plays well does he do as well. His numbers are a tribute to Mike Nolan's job and the play of the front 7 in general. It was one of the huge differences in the losses and the wins. The play of the front 7 will always be essential to success.

Very few teams get a weapon like him, someone who can shut down the passing game in the 4th quarter and protect your win. Doom gets his sacks more often than not when the Broncos play aggressive defense, stay in their gaps and collapse the play. Usually, Doom places a move on a lineman while his cohorts are filling the lanes and gaps, giving the QB no place to run. Even though the number of sacks is a tribute to his talent and performance, he's getting there because the players next to him are doing a great job.

It comes up a lot when I talk to other football geeks: Disciplined gap defense wins games. I can't explain why the Broncos started trying to run around their blockers instead of taking them on and defeating them, but that was exactly what happened as they lost and it didn't change until Thursday. By moving back to gap control and discipline, they took on and overpowered blockers and showed the kind of performance that they can be proud of. Brandon Jacobs is a big load at running back but he was held to 27 yards on 11 carries. There were no gaps for him to exploit, leading to gang tackles and short yardage. That's the kind of defense that wins game.

If the Broncos maintain that gap discipline against the weaker KC line and Jamaal Charles they can shut down the run game and force Matt Cassel to beat them. If the secondary plays the kind of vicious, lockdown coverage that they showed last Thursday KC won't be able to keep up.

What else does gap discipline result in? Stopping the run on first and second down leaves a lot of third-and-long plays which plays into the Broncos' aggressive style and leads to chances for Doom and Co.


Rookies

There is a lot of talk about the Broncos' rookies in the game. Some fans are leaping to conclude that X player is or isn't a bust based on the 1st half of the season. That's something of a bizarre idea. Despite fan 'rules' about how anyone taken in the the top 10 or 15, or the 1st round, should be ready to come in and contribute immediately, that's a rare thing in the NFL. What you really hope for is that they find some ways to contribute the first season and that they play well over the course of the rest of their career. Anything else is 'gravy' so to speak.

Josh McDaniels isn't opposed to playing rookies who can contribute immediately, such as Moreno and Alphonso Smith. Even Knowshon has struggled as he has to learn a completely different style of running, reading and executing. From the early results, I suspect that he'll be fine but it's also fair to say that playing running back is less stressful mentally than playing cornerback, as an example. Then you get to the defensive line, where you really hope for a breakout in the player's 3rd or 4th year. Demanding too much from the rookies is a path to problems. Why? Rookies = mistakes.

It's not just in the NFL, either. Regardless of the sport, very few rookies contribute much. There's just too much to learn. Even those who play brilliantly in their first season, rare as they are, often suffer a diminishment in the second season, just as Eddie Royal and Ryan Clady have done. Why? It's a tough, fast, difficult game. Once other teams know what you do and what you struggle with, you're going to see a lot of hard situations that will challenge you in new ways.

This means exactly nothing over the course of the player's career; most players improve during their first few seasons. Much is made of the stat that the average player has about a 4-year career, but that stat takes into account the number of payers who don't stay after a single year. They are the undrafted or the badly drafted, those who just can't make the leap from college to the pros. I've never seen a breakdown of how the average is determined, and I'd like to. Because in general, those who do fairly well during their first year tend to be out there for a long time.

That's what we're going to see from some of our rookies. Knowshon Moreno, Alphonso Smith, Darcel McBath, Robert Ayers and David Bruton have all done some good things during their rookie season. I'm not going to get bent out of shape if they can't suddenly be brilliant - that's a rare thing in the NFL. But I do want to see flashes of why we wanted those men, and I have. The rookies are doing well. Give them time.

I have to note that we saw some fine performances from a lot of our 2009 rookies against New York. The draft class stepped up front and center last Thursday night and the list of contributors is long. Alphonso Smith had a big game - he made a couple of mistakes, but his overall performance was excellent and lends support to his draft status. David Bruton and Knowshon Moreno we've discussed; Bruton was brilliant and Knowshon gets better every game. I went back and saw more of Quinn on ST than I expected to. Robert Ayers also returned to the active roster after a week in which the Broncos believed that Jarvis Moss could contribute more for them; they were playing the odds because SD had troubles with speed rushers, and that fit Moss better than Ayers. Ayers had another good game against NY, though. McBath played well. The team has some great young players and they will contribute for seasons to come.

 

Knowing Knowshon Moreno

Speaking of great young players, I loved Knowshon Moreno's comments after the Giants game:

"Every week it's gonna be tough. The offensive line opened up those big holes for us and we just ran through them. We all looked out for each other."

Typical Knowshon. No arrogance, no personal preening, just a willingness to share the credit and to accept the blame. Given that he's also reputed to be a delight to coach and a pleasure to have around in the locker room, I'm thrilled that he's going to be a Bronco for a long time. Watching his TD run over and over, each time I'm sure that he'll be stopped short and each time he keeps the legs churning in classic form. He's up for Rookie of the Week again, too. Talented, gutsy player. Great draft choice.

Knowshon has been growing into this role on the team steadily and not that slowly, either. The only thing that has stood between him and a few 100-yard games is the fact that he's being rotated with Buckhalter, a runner whose contribution to the team is just as essential. 'Buck' is teaching Moreno during the week and making him more effective on weekends. Both runners block well and receive well and Buck even had a 41-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. That's exactly what a good team requires. I'd love to see a third back in the rotation, but that hasn't been important so far (knock on wood).

Knowshon's comments also bring out the same thing I mentioned above: The Broncos go as the lines go. When the O-Line is making three errors in the red zone, back-to-back-to-back, we are in serious trouble. When they get it together and blast open those holes, they're tough to stop.

By the way, check this from the denverbroncos.com:

During the last three weeks, rookie RB Knowshon Moreno has totaled the sixth-most rushing yards (265 / 88.3 ypg.) and the third-best yards per rush average (5.6) in the NFL. He leads all league rookies in rushing yards (688) and yards from scrimmage (784) this year.

To that end, I loved seeing Polumbus and Hochstein step up against NY. That's exactly what we need to see from them. Daniel Graham made a few bad errors, but he also blasted linemen and linebackers alike and he deserves a round of applause as well. The Giant's were holding him and trying to apply what looked like takedowns against him by the end of the game - he confounded them in high style. The running game will always be dependent on what happens in the trenches, including the TEs. Always has been, always will. Last week, they were the team that's very hard to beat. They need to take that anger that they seemed to tap into to KC. Decembers there are tough.

By the way, a big thank-you to Spencer Larsen and Tony Scheffler as well for their work against NYG. They each played a role in making this a complete-team win and blocked like demons in the running game. I can't think of a single area where the Broncos didn't dominate. The final stats seemed more respectable due to the vagaries of garbage time, but the fact was that NY was shut down and hammered flat.

Another player that deserves recognition is Wesley Woodyard. Woodyard has struggled recently, as did most of the defense, but he brought back his "A" game for the Giants. He was in the right place at the right time over and again, and even though he's very light as LBs go, he's doing a heck of a job on the nickel defense, hitting and making tackles. Nice going, WW. I hope that his neck injury is short-lived.


Orton and Learning

There's no way to deny it: I've been a Kyle Orton fan ever since I watched a lot of film on the man during the offseason. The more I saw of it, the more I liked him. Now that he's thrown with a brace on a right index finger that was mangled and played hobbled without excuse, he's impressed me. This is the second season in a row that he's played on a bad ankle and never complained; I'm starting to really like the man. He never, ever, blames anyone. He puts it on his own shoulders. If they're successful he talks about wishing that he had a couple back and about how well the team played. If they lose, he states baldly that everyone needs to step up more. There's no finger pointing, no nonsense. No fuss, no tantrums, no excuses. Expect to see a lot of Kyle over the next few years. I'm great with watching Tom Brandstater, by the way. If he can outplay Kyle, more power to him. I expect Brandstater to be 2nd string next season. But Orton? You have to go a long way to find a tougher QB. I love that in any player.

It's also worth noticing that we're starting to see more of the longer passes. Whether that's the playbook opening, players getting to know each other better, or taking what the defense gives us can be debated, but Brandon Marshall on a go route will scare a lot of defensive coordinators. He's not blazing fast but his ability to get to the ball is rare when he's playing like he did on Thursday. Orton said this, yesterday:

"He's the first guy that I've had like this. It's been a change for me in my way of thinking, being able to trust him and give him those chances. He's a phenomenal player, and I don't see too many people when the ball is in the air going out and out-jumping him or being more physical than he is going for the ball. You certainly want to put it in a good spot to give him the best chance go up and make a play."

What that tells me is that the early comments that Orton and the other players needed to get used to each other and the offense were right on, and kudos to the guys that caught it. I'm starting to see the defenses collapsing on the short and mid routes and Marshall taking the go route to counter and I love it. Those fans who called for more longer passes are getting their wishes fulfilled. The NY game showed us that this is still the team that started 6-0. They can win a wild card slot if they continue to play like that as the season winds down.

You can talk 'til Hades is endothermic, but Orton will be our starting QB next year. He will agree to a nice contract that will keep us cap-friendly and will give him a lot of financial security. That's exactly why we brought him in and why we brought Brian Xanders on board.

Orton has also improved every year that he's been in the pros. I'd say that you can look for that to continue, and that he's going to bring the rest of the offense with him. .


For Kicks

Here's a toast to Mitch Berger, the much-maligned punter who took over for the struggling Brett Kern a few weeks past. He managed 3 punts for 145 yards, an average of 48.3 yards per punt. I can't tell you why he seems to be improving, but that kind of performance can't be overstated. The punting game in the previous losses tended to the pattern I talked about earlier. By kicking longer and permitting good hang time, he let the coverage move down the field and do their jobs. They did - and a special thanks to MHR favorite David Bruton, who was tearing up ST on Thursday night. When we talk about young drafted players who are stepping up, I don't hear his name quite often enough. Give him a few years and he's going to be a heck of a safety, too, bringing that same intensity and talent for the big hit. I know that we talk about this safety and that one, and that's understandable. I'd love to have Eric Berry playing for the Broncos. But it's more likely that we won't, and we won't have a big dropoff if Bruton continues to develop the way that he has.

Berger wasn't the only one who knocked the laces off the rock, by the way. Matt Prater had a stellar night, bisecting the uprights on kick after kick and driving his kickoffs far back into the end zone. If they can't run it out, they won't have much of a runback. Domenik Hixon managed just two returns for 20 yards each for NY, while Prater was faultless on 4 field goals, with a long of 47 yards. Contrary to many concerns, he's shown no signs of fading as the season wears on. He won the AFC ST Player of the Week award, and he earned it.

"I think that's the best game I've ever had," said Prater. "It was perfect weather for kicking." Perfect weather for a dominating win, too.

 

Kansas City Here I Come

Want an unusual stat? Kyle Orton is still one of the best QBs in terms of home record in the past 3 decades. That's a heck of a stat, really, but it's not even the one I'm interested in. What interests me is that he plays even better on the road, whether his team might or not. Orton's home QB rating? 80.3, less than his overall average of 84.1. On the road, Orton is managing an 89.6 QB rating. That's one of the things that gives me a lot of confidence gong into the KC game this week: Orton has actually been better on the road.

KC can be a meat grinder at home - that's worse in December and I'll never discount that. The Steelers took them too lightly and were handed their hats with a defeat that could end up influencing their post-season standing. The Chiefs gave a heck of a tussle to Baltimore and beat the Redskins (who are coming on themselves, you might notice) and the Raiders. They are still a weaker team, but they have some pieces that are starting to fall together and their 3-4 is starting to play well. Jamaal Charles is a great addition to their team and Larry Johnson a great subtraction.

The Broncos will be well rested going into the game and they will have some extra time to gameplan. My sole concern is whether this squad is ready to keep on being angry and aggressive. If that happens, I believe that we'll have an eighth victory to celebrate, moving into the game against Indianapolis, but I expect this one to be hard-fought.

One thing I like about KC: Matt Cassel. I like the fact that he's working hard, making improvements, and that he's able to score some points if you give him some time. KC still doesn't have that great an offensive line and frankly, I'm shocked that the Steelers gave them so much time to throw -- it's not a mistake that Denver can afford to emulate. I'm glad that PIT did, though. It gives us a clear picture of what happens when you don't bring the intensity that the NFL requires to a game. My question is whether the Broncos can bring the kind of pressure that has won us some games. If so, we'll probably take this one.

There's a certain glow to a long week off after an excellent home win. Now, let's take it on the road...

Go Broncos!

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