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Horse Tracks: Steven Johnson is the next man up for Nate Irving

Good morning Broncos Country! Notes on Steven Johnson stepping in for Nate Irving, and more from the Broncos and Patriots over the weekend.

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With Nate Irving expected to miss some time with a knee injury, it's Steven Johnson who is expected to be the 'Next man up.' Andrew Mason recalls a story of Johnson stepping up when it mattered last year:

Missing the last two games rankled Johnson, a player who prides himself on being near the coaches, so they can easily insert him into the lineup if the need arises.

That's what happened last year in a Week 11 win over Kansas City, when Danny Trevathan went to the sideline after a tackle. Johnson ran into the game with the Broncos facing a goal-to-go situation against arguably the league's best running back, Jamaal Charles.

After two plays, the Chiefs had third-and-goal at the 1-yard-line. Charles got the call. Johnson read the handoff from his spot three yards deep in the end zone, shot across the flow of the play and filled the hole, stuffing Charles inside the 1-yard-line and jarring the football loose.

Johnson is healthy after missing two weeks wiht an ankle injury, and he has the confidence of his teammates, assuming he gets the job.

"Stevey Johnson is going to be able to get the job done," said Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, a college teammate of Johnson's at Kansas. "He's been in our defense going on three years now. He has experience in there. He's been waiting for his shot. Now he has his shot. We've been needing him on special teams since he's been hurt, but now he has a shot to play and he has a chance to show what he can do."

Horse Tracks

Hochman: No more slip-ups allowed for Broncos - The Denver Post
I suppose the only good to come from Sunday's debacle is that the rest of the season actually matters. The Broncos are chasing the Patriots, and the big-money Denver players must earn their big checks — or their future contracts, Julius Thomas. John Elway paid how much for this defense? Denver's defense looked like the 2013 Denver defense in the 43-21 loss at New England. (43 ... again?) Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward had their worst games of the season, according to the grades at Pro Football Focus.

Patriots rewriting the script with a familiar story -
Written off earlier in the season, the Patriots knocked off Peyton Manning and the Broncos to extend their winning streak to five games. Their resurgence goes beyond all-world quarterback Tom Brady.

John Fox on Broncos' loss to Patriots: "We all stunk" - The Denver Post
After wilting in the spotlight in the season's biggest game, the Broncos offered no excuses for a forgettable performance. Coach John Fox pointed the finger in the mirror after the Broncos lost their stranglehold on their AFC race for homefield advantage.

Patriots make short work of Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos - ESPN Boston
Seriously? This is what the best team in the NFL looks like? Time to recalibrate those power rankings. The Denver Broncos, the trendy team with the most prolific touchdown thrower in history, the defense that had allegedly coalesced behind a healthy Von Miller, newcomer DeMarcus Ware and former Patriot Aqib Talib, and a corps of receivers that on any other day would leave Tom Brady green with envy, showed up at the house of horrors known as Gillette Stadium and were thoroughly slashed in just about every possible category, losing 43-21.

Fox: 'We're capable of better' |
Head Coach John Fox talks about whey everyone is taking responsibility for Sunday's loss to the Patriots.

Why Can't John Fox Get It Done At Foxboro? -
They call John Fox a player's coach. He is admired and loved by all who have played for him. But what does that mean, a "player's coach"?

Presumptuous Bronco Vows ‘Different Game’ When Patriots Visit Denver |
Peyton Manning wouldn’t discuss a potential playoff meeting with the Patriots, but Broncos teammate Chris Harris Jr. already had a hypothetical rematch  circled on his calendar, just hours after New England blew Denver’s doors off Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Defense needed 'another level' |
DeMarcus Ware and other defensive players talk about what was missing against the Patriots.

Bradley Roby, Julius Thomas and C.J. Anderson flash big plays |
The Broncos won't be happy with the result of Sunday's game against the Patriots, but Bradley Roby's big plays and Julius Thomas starting a new touchdown streak are encouraging signs.

Scores, highlights and the big takeaways from Week 9 -
The Arizona Cardinals are for real. New England's defense is seriously underrated. We have reservations about the Eagles, Chargers and the Cowboys. Let's take a look back at Week 9.

MMBM Week 9: The difference between being hurt and injured, explained -
We explore the biggest NFL news on and off the field and recap the weekend's most important games.

Marc Trestman reportedly on hot seat with Bears -
Trestman's lack of leadership could cost him his job as head coach of the Chicago Bears.

Packers sign Mike McCarthy to contract extension -
The Green Bay Packers have announced a contract extension with head coach Mike McCarthy, per a team announcement. Terms of the deal are currently unknown.

Roethlisberger's six touchdowns, Patriots over Broncos lead Week 9 | The MMQB
Week 9 had no shortage of big-time storylines. Let’s examine each of them, from Big Ben's second straight six-spot, to the Patriots’ punishment of Peyton, to the Cards’ continued dominance in the NFC.