OK, so the latter inquiry is something of a potshot, after Williams very public - and second career - DUI arrest early Friday morning. But the fact that Denver reacted with its most impressive victory since an overtime win over the New England Patriots last October despite the Williams' controversy that stripped him of his captaincy and occurred while in the midst of a four-game losing streak makes it fair to intertwine the two events.
With the season on the brink, Williams went astray. But Denver actually rallied around the week's events instead of falling further into the abyss. They scored 49 points to beat the Chiefs - one shy of the franchise's single-game scoring record. And while the passing offense continued to click as it has for most of the year with four Kyle Orton TD throws, two huge steps forward occurred in other areas.
Denver's last-ranked rush offense ran the ball effectively behind another reconstituted offensive line that featured right tackle Ryan Harris back in the starting lineup and rookie Zane Beadles shifting to left guard. The Broncos' 153 yards - including Knowshon Moreno's first 100-yard game as pro - was an offshoot of a rare fast start that allowed the team to achieve offensive balance in its playcalling.
The defense in the end allowed 484 yards but, playing with a lead, were able to put pressure on Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. He was sacked four times, three by linebacker Mario Haggan, with his final blow turned into a 75-yard TD return by Jason Hunter that was the club's first defensive points this season.
It's clear the bye week was a welcome respite from all the on-field negativity.
Denver had lost 59-14 in its last home game to Oakland and then flew to London to get mowed down by the previously reeling 49ers.
Now, even at 3-6, the Broncos find themselves only two games out of the AFC West lead, with San Diego (4-5) coming to town next week.
But was Sunday's performance a springboard or merely a day where everything clicked, soon to be lost in the morass of another season without the playoffs? That's to be determined.
"We have played spurts of good football," Orton said. "But it just goes back to hurting ourselves and putting ourselves in terrible situations. I think if we do more of this where we just play mistake free, not a lot of penalties on offense and turnovers, if we do that, then we have a good chance."
TRENDING: Denver ran the ball 31 times, its most attempts since a Week 2 victory over Seattle. The common element in those two games - the Broncos scored first. In fact, Denver's TD vs. the Seahawks represented their only points this season in the opening quarter. But Orton threw three scoring passes Sunday for a 21-0 advantage, allowing for offensive balance.
BY THE NUMBERS: 110.5 -- The quarterback rating for Chargers QB Philip Rivers in nine career games against Denver. He has a rating of at least 97.3 in each of the last seven games in the series.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--LB Mario Haggan had four sacks in his seven-plus NFL seasons but had three Sunday, one of which turned into a return for a TD by teammate Jason Hunter. Haggan has played OLB the last three games as Robert Ayers recovers from a foot injury. It was his position all last season, too, before switching to MLB.
--QB Kyle Orton set a career high with four touchdown passes. His three TD tosses in the first quarter tied a franchise record for any quarter, as the Broncos became just the 25th team in NFL history to throw for five or more TDs without an interception.
--RB Knowshon Moreno not only had his first triple-digit rushing performance with 106 yards, his 156 total yards from scrimmage also were a career-best. Moreno had 22 carries, as Denver's early lead was able to create a more balanced attack.
--LB Joe Mays made his third career start and finished second on the team with seven tackles, all solo.
--LB D.J. Williams, punished with a hefty fine and the loss of his captain's role for his DUI mishap, also was benched to start Sunday's game but was reinserted into the lineup after one defensive series. Williams likely faces additional discipline from the league following a similar arrest in 2005.
--CB Champ Bailey led Denver with 10 tackles (nine solo), marking the eighth time in his career he's reached double digits in stops.
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