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Horse Tracks: Broncos kicker Brandon McManus on the hot seat

Good morning, Broncos Country! Notes on Brandon McManus, Jay Feely, and Connor Barth; the latest on injuries to Julius Thomas, Aqib Talib, Kayvon Webster, and Brandon Marshall; reviewing the Dolphins game; previewing the Chiefs game, and more in Tuesday's Horse Tracks.

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos trying out kickers

As reported Monday, the Broncos are trying out kickers Jay Feely and Connor Barth Tuesday.  After missing a 33-yard field goal Sunday, McManus now ranks 31st out of 31 full-time kickers in the league. What's worse, it's clear he's lost some of his support in the locker room. The Denver Post's Ben Hochman writes: McManus has got to go. Fans are also ready to be done with the McManus experiment, as evidenced by the thousands of "Prater" mentions on Twitter and images on reddit like this.

However, another beat writer points out that the Broncos may not be able to rid themselves of McManus so easily: Denver might need to keep him for kickoff duty, says ESPN's Jeff Legwold. McManus has kicked 75% of his kickoffs for touchbacks, second-best in the league. Meanwhile, Feely had just 38.4 percent of his kickoffs go for touchbacks in 2013, while Barth was not used on kickoffs by the Buccaneers in 2011 or 2012 and in 2010 he had just one touchback on 78 kickoffs for Tampa Bay.

Let us know your thoughts on McManus in the poll.

Injury updates, and replacing Brandon Marshall

In short: it takes a village.

Brandon Marshall into post-concussion protocol; Talib, Webster day-to-day
Linebacker Brandon Marshall will go through the league-mandated post-concussion protocol, while cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster are "day-to-day" with hamstring and shoulder injuries, respectively, Head Coach John Fox said at his press conference Monday.

Broncos will count on young LBs until Trevathan's return - Denver Broncos Blog - ESPN
Steven Johnson has played at middle linebacker in the base defense since Irving went to injured reserve, while rookie Lamin Barrow played alongside Marshall in the team's specialty packages in Sunday's win. "I thought [Barrow] played good in spots, had some other plays, much like the rest of our football team," Fox said. Barrow played 20 snaps on defense Sunday. Rookie Corey Nelson, who has also been used in some passing situations this season on defense, will also be in the mix if Marshall misses time before Trevathan's return.

Broncos have gotten thin at LB before season's biggest game, at Chiefs - The Denver Post
If Marshall is unavailable — he must be cleared by the Broncos and an independent doctor — the alternatives include rookies Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson, linebacker Steve Johnson and strong safety T.J. Ward, who serves as a linebacker in some sets. "We've got some young guys who we are rotating. We are giving them looks, and hopefully they continue to improve," Broncos coach John Fox said. "We have options."


Tale of the Tape for NFL Week 12 | Bleacher Report
Matt Bowen breaks down Wes Welker's crucial touchdown catch in the red zone.

Peyton credits Gase for game-changing play call | ProFootballTalk
(On 4th and 2), the Broncos pulled off a great call, changing the formation and the play at the line of scrimmage, and going with a handoff to C.J. Anderson that picked up 20 yards. Denver scored a touchdown three plays later, took the lead on its next possession and won the game 39-36.

Usually, when the Broncos change a play at the line, Peyton Manning gets the credit. But Manning said it was offensive coordinator Adam Gase in his ear, telling him what to call.

"To tell you the truth, Adam made the change," Manning said. "We got to the line of scrimmage pretty early and we had time on the clock and so Adam actually made the change from the sideline. It was critical. We ran the ball to the left and it was a good thing that we changed it because we really didn’t have a good play based on the look that they were showing early and we did make the change. I think it was what Adam wanted to get to all along."

Denver Broncos Rewind: Offense in 39-36 win vs. Miami Dolphins - ESPN
C.J. Anderson's 167-yard day was the Broncos' best effort by a running back in just under a calendar year -- Knowshon Moreno had 224 yards rushing last Nov. 24 against New England -- and it was a product of a bigger commitment in the game plan, some better work up front by the team's offensive line as well as Anderson's combination of patience as the blocking developed to go with decisiveness once a crease was available.

C.J. Anderson's 'hot hand' sizzles in Broncos' comeback win
In the Broncos' "hot hand" running-back platoon, how long can one set of hands produce the heat of a blue -- and orange -- flame? If C.J. Anderson has his way, it will be for as long as there is fuel for the fire stoked by his 2013 draft-weekend snub. Given how he keeps the memory of that weekend close with every carry he takes and every catch he makes, there is a reservoir of motivation the size of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Day-after takeaways from Broncos-Dolphins
In addition to his stellar coverage work, Harris, along with fellow starting cornerback Aqib Talib, is an adept, aggressive run defender. But the Dolphins opened the game with a touchdown drive that saw them use receivers in motion to draw Harris and Talib away from the flow of the run play.

Did the Denver Broncos take a page out of the New England Patriots playbook in Week 12? - NFL Videos
The "Aftermath" crew discusses whether the Denver Broncos emulated their conference rivals the New England Patriots in their Week 12 victory, and whether this bodes well for their postseason chances.

Broncos defense comes up big in comeback win
"They were doing some things that were confusing us and we came in at halftime and said 'Let's get back to the basics. Let's do what we do and force them to beat us that way,'" Knighton said. "We did a good job of at least giving our offense a chance to make a lot of plays. It's tough to play in this league and like I said, a win is a win and we'll take it."


Briefs: Julius Thomas (ankle) could return for Broncos vs. Chiefs - The Denver Post
"I have had better days, and I have had worse days," Thomas said Monday. "You hope you just wake up one day and it feels good again, but that didn't happen last week. But it has improved." Thomas made an NFL-record 12 touchdown receptions through nine games. He had such a big lead that two weeks later he still tops all NFL players in touchdowns.

Eye on Kansas City Chiefs: Stopping Alex Smith a priority - The Denver Post
Who's hot: Jamaal Charles became an early spectator against the Broncos in September because of an ankle injury. He has re-emerged as one of the league's best players over the past three weeks, grinding out 337 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. Stopping him becomes top priority for a Broncos defense that has allowed 228 yards rushing the past two weeks at 4.2 yards per pop.

Broncos open as slight favorites at Kansas City | ProFootballTalk
Several Las Vegas sports books have installed 8-3 Denver as a 1- to 1.5-point favorite at Kansas City. If the line holds, it will be the 10th time in 11 regular-season games the Broncos have been favored.

Horse Tracks

Champ Bailey tribute at Sunday's game
The Broncos honored newly retired Champ Bailey during the game against the Dolphins.

Lookahead: Packers and Patriots facing off in Super Bowl preview | Q
The Packers and Patriots are the two hottest teams in football.

NFL alumni coping with health and careers through 'The Trust'
Roughly 1,100 ex-players enrolled in the first year – more than double the goal of 500, according to Trust executive director Bahati VanPelt – which suggests there's an appetite to take advantage at a time there are more 'transition' and post-career resources available than ever. "It's just providing that roadmap that's so badly needed for our players, because for so long in their life, they've been told exactly what they need to do," NFLPA president Eric Winston said. "Once you leave football, there's just no direction."

Odell Beckham Jr. and ‘the greatest catch I’ve ever seen’ | For The Win
The Giants rookie made the 'play of the decade' according to Al Michaels.