Denver Broncos Week 12 Game Balls and Horseshoes


"Football is a game of studs, and if you want to win, you better have some" – Bear Bryant

Well it took an extra frame to finish off the Chargers, but the Denver Broncos are definitely on a roll with a 4-game winning streak. Postseason appearance possibilities are leaping like a Brandon Lloyd catch atop Christmas Lists all over Bronco Country. And speaking of Lloyd, he just became a 5th round draft pick for the Broncos with his 31st catch as a St.Louis Ram om Sunday. But this isn't about former Broncos, it's about the current players that were a major part of beating the dreaded San Diego Chargers on Sunday. This week I am combining the Game Balls and Horseshoes, so without further ado (or a False Start) here we go.

Game Balls

Willis McGahee picks up the Gamer Ball on Offense this week for his fifth 100+ yard rushing performance in 2011. After a 125 yard day in Week 5 against the same Chargers, Willis ran for 117 yards on Sunday, including 6 carries of at least 7 yards and two 20+ yard carries that led to scores. In the 3rd Quarter at the 6:41 mark,  McGahee ran up the middle for a 21-yard gain on the first play of a drive that resulted in a Matt Prater 41-yard Field Goal to pull the Broncos within 3 points (10-13). Then at the 2-minute Warning in Overtime, Willis broke another run up the middle for 24 yards. After a Tim Tebow kneel down to center the ball, Matt Prater came in and kicked the game winner from 37 yards out with 33 seconds left. McGahee has been a solid pickup for the Broncos this year, totaling 775 yards and 3 touchdowns on 162 carries for a 4.8 average on the ground.

On Defense, it's no surprise that the Game Ball should go to Von Miller. Von has lived up to every measure of a #2 overall draft pick and quite likely will end up with a Rookie of the Year Award as well as a Pro Bowl nod. The young Linebacker had a 10 Tackle day, adding another Sack, 2 Tackles for a Loss and a hit on Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers. Miller's season totals are 58 Tackles, 3 Forced Fumbles, 4 Pass Break Ups and a team leading 10.5 Sacks and 21 QB hits. Perhaps his biggest contribution on Sunday occurred in the Overtime session. San Diego was driving down the field and were going to win the game. Ryan Mathews had just ran for 10 of his 137 yards and the Chargers were near the outer limit of Kicker Nick Novak’s range at the Broncos 31 yard line. Philip Rivers handed the ball off to Mike Tolbert in an attempt to shorten the Field Goal attempt. Well, that turned out to be a bad move because Von met Tolbert in the backfield and the Chargers lost 4 yards on the play. That turned a 49-yard Field Goal attempt into a 53-yarder, which Novak missed. The Broncos’ took possession and drove their way to the win.

Matt Prater gets the Special Teams Game Ball for scoring 10 of the 16 points for the Broncos. Prater was 3 for 3 on his Field Goal attempts on Sunday, including a 41-yarder, a 24-yarder and the Overtime game winning 37-yard Field Goal. That brought his season totals up to 13/18 (72.2%) after somewhat of a slump. Matt has been very effective on his Kickoffs. 36 of his 49 Kickoffs (73%) have gone for touchbacks. Only 11 have been returned. That has contributed mightily to the success of the Broncos Special Teams Unit this year.

Rookie Right Tackle Orlando Franklin gets an Honorable Mention here for recovering a key Fumble in the 2nd Quarter. Tight End Daniel Fells had just caught a 19-yard pass over the middle and then had the ball punched out by San Diego Strong Safety Paul Oliver. Chargers Defensive Tackle Tommie Harris tried to pick up the ball and run with it, but Franklin, hustling downfield, was able to secure the loose ball. This was a key play since it resulted in an 18-yard touchdown catch by Eric Decker a few plays later.



Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow gets the first Horseshoe for another good performance. Tim rushed 22 times, the most by a quarterback in one game since at least 1950, gaining 67 yards. He also had a better day as a passer, going 9/18 for 143 yards and a touchdown. In the same drive that led off with Willis McGahee's 21-yard scamper in the 3rd Quarter, Tebow and Matthew Willis hooked up on a key 3rd and 5 for 14 yards, moving the Broncos into Field Goal range for Prater's 41-yarder that cut the Chargers’ lead to 13-10. His 39-yard completion and 18-yard touchdown passes to Eric Decker helped the Denver victory as well.

Eric Decker makes his weekly appearance here for leading the Broncos in receptions on Sunday with 3 catches for 65 yards, including the aforementioned 18-yard touchdown. Eric also returned 2 Kickoffs, one a 34-yard effort to help the Broncos maintain good field position, something they held all game. Decker leads the team in all receiving categories with 37 receptions for 527 yards, a 14.2 average and 8 touchdowns. He also has 6 Punt Returns for a nice 22.2 average which is probably skewed by a, 85-yard touchdown return. Decker hasn't suffered one iota from the so-called "Sophomore Slump."


On the Defensive side of the ball, D.J. Williams turned in another impressive game with a team-leading 12 Tackle performance. DJ was responsible for defending Chargers Tight End Antonio Gates also. Gates  ended up with 6 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. DJ was in coverage for 3 of those and along with Brian Dawkins, got beat for the score. DJ also was called for a Personal Foul on Mike Tolbert when the Charger Running Back had his helmet ripped off during a Tackle.  To be fair, there were 3 Broncos in on the play and it was probably Elvis Dumervil that should have been called for the infraction. There was no actual Face Mask on the play, so it wasn't an undisciplined act. However, DJ was stout against the run all day, repeatedly making Tackles and holding the San Diego Rushers to 1 and 2 yard gains.

Elvis Dumervil had one of his best games all year against the Chargers, registering 5 Tackles, 2 for a loss, 2 Sacks and 2 Quarterback Hits. Just before halftime at the 2:19 mark, Elvis sacked Philip Rivers for a 13-yard loss back at the San Diego 16 yard line. The Chargers ended up punting two plays later giving the Broncos the ball with enough time (1:43) to mount a touchdown drive. The Broncos would score on Tim Tebow's pass to Eric Decker to keep the score close going into halftime. Then, with 1:08 left in the 4th Quarter, Dumervil was able to Sack Philip Rivers for a 10-yard loss. That pretty much forced the Chargers to settle on an Overtime period to decide the game. 


Britton Colquitt has ended up on the short end of the stick each week for a Game Ball, but the truth of the matter is that he is having an outstanding year and should be in the running for a spot in the Pro Bowl. He is near the top of the league rankings for punting all across the stat line and has been the major factor in the field position battle for the Broncos this season. That carries a great deal of importance with the team's poor 3rd down conversion rate. On Sunday, Britton had 9 punts with an average of 43.4 yards and a net of 37.2 yards. Two punts went for touchbacks, but 3 were placed Inside the 20 yard line and 3 were Fair Caught. Colquitt also boomed a 61-yard punt, which was his second longest of the year. He has a 47.6 gross average this year, good for 7th in the league for punters with at least 50 attempts. His 40.9 Net average is 2nd and he is 5th with 20 punts Inside the 20 and 5th with 17 punts Fair Caught.

That's it for this week as the Broncos travel to the Twin Cities to meet the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome and try to extend their winning streak to five games. So until next week,

Go Broncos!

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