Our thanks once again to Lee for taking time out of his busy scedule to answer some Broncos questions for us!! -- TSG
MHR -- Do you think the youth of the Broncos finally get what it takes to bring it week after week? It seems the team is at its best when its backs are against the wall. Can they play with that sense of urgency every week?
LR - Ask me Sunday night. Because if the Broncos lose to the Chiefs, everyone will be lobbing the same criticisms about inconsistency they have all season. At the same time, there does seem to be a growing confidence that if the team can avoid turnovers they can hang with even the better teams. I still think they have too many defensive deficiencies to be a legitimate threat to win more than one playoff game, if that. That will depend on matchup. But getting back to the question, there has been talk this week that they've learned their lesson not to play down to the level of opponent. We'll all see vs. Kansas City, which actually isn't playing horribly despite a 2-10 record.
MHR -- What impressed you most about the win over the Jets?
LR -- I was struck by how well Jay Cutler was able to toss the ball around despite a steady downpour. I also was impressed with the power running game that Peyton Hillis brought to the table. You saw glimpses of that with Michael Pittman, but whether it's the blocking improving or Hillis himself, it seems as if he's more explosive. The Broncos averaged 5.1 yards per carry against a team that had been No. 3 in the league in yards per rush allowed. I also thought that Josh Bell is starting to come into his own a little bit at cornerback. He's not a bad pickup. And, finally, I see a different Dre' Bly. He has really improved in recent weeks after I thought he was a step slow and lacked aggressiveness in the first half of the season.
MHR -- Do you get the sense the Broncos want to enact a bit of revenge against the Chiefs this week or do they simply want to play well in front of the home crowd for the first time in a long time?
LR -- The Chiefs have yet to win at Invesco Field at Mile High. That's seven straight losses heading into Sunday. They're 2-10 this season overall and put a beatdown on Denver in KC. That should be motivation enough. But I think the three straight home losses overrides any of that. Denver, believe it or not given this rollercoaster year, is headed for a home playoff game. They need to start establishing some home mojo. I think getting away has been good for this team because it alleviates the distractions that come with home games. The young players need to get past that and show some fortitude and focus with the ticket requests, family issues etc. that come with playing at home.
MHR -- Just how good has Ryan Clady been and are coaches/players around the league noticing?
LR -- I know the coaches are. On several conference calls this year I've asked about him specifically and he's gotten raves. The players, I'm sure, are just learning how good Clady is as he makes his first go-round through the league. Clady has been matched one-on-one mostly with little help and has demonstrated the athleticism to stick with premier pass-rushers, including Joey Porter and John Abraham. He's quick enough to shadow these players and has enough power to handle bigger pass-rushers. He should be in the Pro Bowl, but two-thirds of the vote are from players/coaches and that stuff sometimes gets political with who deserves it from previous years. But one item working in Clady's favor is that both Pro Bowl tackles last year - Jonathan Ogden and Tarik Glenn - are now out of the NFL. And Marcus McNeil of San Diego, a reserve, is playing for an underachieving Chargers offense, especially running the ball.
MHR -- While they have been inconsistent, I get the feeling no one will be jumping for joy if they have to face the Broncos in the playoffs. Do you feel that way?
LR -- I doubt Peyton Manning is quaking having to face the Broncos. Baltimore's defense could be a bear for Denver's offense. New England beat up Denver pretty good in October, if I recall. And given the Broncos problems at home, I doubt anyone will be particularly fearful of playing them. All that said, the Broncos playoff fortunes are matchup-driven and influenced by weather, since, the Jets performance notwithstanding, I'm not sure how much the Broncos can just ram it against teams with the run, a la Carolina. A lot of what will occur in the playoffs depends on the next few weeks and whether Denver continues its current uptick. I'd like their chances better in a rematch with the Patriots than against the Colts and Ravens as things stand right now.
MHR -- Extra credit - what's the latest on the injury front?
LR -- My best guess is that Nate Webster starts at middle linebacker, Champ Bailey returns to action and D.J. Williams and Marlon McCree both don't play.