Broncos Update Insider - 11/16

The Broncos' search for a functional offensive line has been a season-long endeavor.

But after Kyle Orton was kept clean Sunday and the rushing game finally broke loose for a season-high 153 yards, the Broncos are confident they've finally found the right combination.

Fact is, it's the group the team envisioned all along.

Rookie Zane Beadles spent the entire training camp at left guard with Ryan Harris at right tackle. But with Ryan Clady still recovering from a torn patellar tendon, his insertion into the mix didn't come until right before the final preseason game.

But in that Sept. 2 exhibition, Harris had his legged rolled and suffered a severe ankle injury that would keep him out of the first three games. It necessitated a shift of Beadles into Harris' spot, followed by a trial-by-error parade at left guard that began with Stanley Daniels, then shifted to Russ Hochstein.

Harris did return for Weeks 4 and 5 but may not have been completely healthy and was relegated to the bench, further complicating the issue.

Meanwhile, Denver's running game was mired in last place in the NFL at 67.3 yards per game, hampered by a group of running backs who had their own share of physical maladies.

Yet during the bye, coach Josh McDaniels decided to go with the group he'd intended to employ all along. At first glance, it appears to be the long-term answer. Denver had just one negative run, and the line got into a rhythm.

"We absolutely hope that this is going to be a consistent thing for our football team," McDaniels said. "This was the way we practiced most of training camp, and this was our goal going into the year. I know we didn't have Clady all of training camp, but we kind of assumed that once Ryan got back that he would plug that spot at left tackle, so we went ahead and made that choice in training camp, and for a lot of different reasons have not necessarily been able to have a healthy five guys at those spots that we practiced in all training camp play together.

"It was good to see them get out there and play together, and they played well as a unit."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Perhaps no performance was so stunning Sunday as outside linebacker Mario Haggan getting three sacks. He'd previously had four in seven-plus NFL seasons.

Haggan played inside throughout the offseason, with the Broncos intending to leave him at middle linebacker. But when Elvis Dumervil went down for the season, then Jarvis Moss broke his hand in camp, Haggan went back to the outside role he'd played in 2009.

He then returned to the inside until three weeks ago.

He'll likely return to the middle once Robert Ayers returns from a foot injury. But, with results like Sunday's against the Chiefs, it may be difficult to pry him away.

"I was just out there having fun. When they came, they came," Haggan said of his three sacks. "Obviously my teammates were getting pressure. They forced (Matt Cassel) to me a couple times. I worked to the other guys up front. They put pressure on him, too."

Haggan was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty in the second quarter for launching himself at Chiefs running back Jamal Charles, a play that may be scrutinized by the league. Then, on the following snap, with Kansas City having first-and-goal at the 8, Haggan notched his third sack and a fumble, and outside linebacker Jason Hunter scooped up the ball and rambled 75 yards for a touchdown.

"It was definitely fun to see a teammate get in," Haggan said of the Broncos' first defensive score this season. "I just wish I had enough wind to celebrate with him."

--Denver has talked all year about playing complementary football but didn't show the entire package until Sunday. It took a four-game losing streak, including a 59-14 thrashing by the Raiders, to finally reach that point.

"I think that a win like this shows what kind of team we can be," said receiver Brandon Lloyd, who scored two TDs Sunday.

"I think it's something that -- there's a handful of games this year where we played really well, but there hasn't been one game where we actually all played together: offense, defense is clicking, and then we're dominant on special teams. We hadn't had a game like that yet. I think that if we can continue to come into games with that kind of mindset, it'll be great for us."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Tim Tebow has three rushing touchdowns on only 12 attempts. The only other NFL players who have reached the end zone three times with 50 rushes or fewer are Indianapolis' Javarris James (17), Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (34) and Houston's Derrick Ward (27). Tebow's three TDs on just a dozen rushes are the highest output since Mark Rypien scored three times on nine attempts.

--WR Brandon Lloyd is averaging 20.17 yards on his 48 catches. The only players in team history with a higher per-catch yield with at least that many receptions is Steve Watson (20.73-yard average on 60 catches in 1981).

--RB Laurence Maroney had a chance to make a bid not only for a starting job but for a future contract after his acquisition from New England. But after amassing just 74 yards on 36 carries, Maroney was deactivated in favor of Lance Ball. It appears Maroney, acquired for a fourth-round draft pick, won't be back.

--With Andre Goodman out again due to a thigh issue and Denver staked to a big lead Sunday, the Broncos used Syd'Quan Thompson extensively as their dime back behind nickel Nate Jones.

--S Renaldo Hill left the game Sunday with a neck injury but maintained he was OK in the locker room afterward. Hill was replaced by Darcel McBath.



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