Broncos Update Insider - 12/2

The last time the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos squared off on Nov. 14, the Invesco Field at Mile High crowd got a double dose of what it coveted: a blowout win, and the most significant performance of rookie Tim Tebow's career.

Tebow both threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score in a thorough, and rare, dominant Denver performance, 49-29.

As the rematch Sunday beckons, it's too much to expect one repeat performance much less two. Denver's record against the Chiefs at Arrowhead in the last five games in December is 1-4, notwithstanding a 44-13 win last year in Josh McDaniels' inaugural season as coach.

Overall, the Broncos are 3-8 in Kansas City since 1999.

As for Tebow, he may make another token appearance. He could even score again this week. But for all the talk of timing when it comes to an enhanced role for the 25th pick in April's draft, this wouldn't appear to be it -- despite calls from many fans disillusioned by Denver's 3-8 start.

From a locker-room perspective, McDaniels would be making a mistake by inserting Tebow into an expanded situation where the Broncos, at least on paper, are mathematically in the running for the playoffs. Many veterans would view it as a desperation move that punishes a player having a career year.

Kyle Orton, that player, is on a record pace for passing yards and, he too, wouldn't be happy handing over the offensive keys given that backdrop and his competitive drive to play to the end.

The third reason is harder to gauge. But whispers around the Denver locker room are that Tebow simply isn't ready to be given the starting gig on a trial basis based on practice performances. Tebow's key role has been to mimic opposing quarterbacks with the scout team. That responsibility and the stage of a NFL Sunday are far removed from getting in the huddle, rallying teammates and successfully navigating complicated NFL defenses.

Tebow is caught in the middle but handling the situation with deference and class.

"I'm a competitor. I play football and I want to be out there and compete," he said this week. "But Kyle's having a very good season and my No. 1 goal and job here is to be a leader, have a great attitude and be a supporter of whatever goes on, whatever my role is or whatever I'm asked to do."

Tebow acknowledges there are some around him who can't believe he truly believes that, based on his itch to play.

"But I'm not thinking about that," he said, instead, he added concerning himself with playing a supporting role to the best of his ability until told otherwise.

"I tried to learn my freshman year in college at Florida to only try to control what I can control," he said, alluding to calls for him to play more when Chris Leak was the expected incumbent in 2006. "That was a lesson I really tried to learn and practice. Coach (Urban) Meyer did a great job helping me do that. So I try not to listen to fans or reporters or read papers. ... If I worry about that, it's only going to bring me down and weigh more on me. If I keep my mind clear and go to work every day, I get a much better perspective."

If there's a best-case scenario where perhaps Tebow could play, it may be the Dec. 26 home game vs. Houston. The Texans have had the league's worst pass defense. And after a three-game road trip, Denver -- and possibly Houston, too -- should be out of the postseason mix.

Tebow said he understands both the politics of his playing and questions about whether he's ready, particularly since there are certain aspects of Denver's offense he hasn't done physically in practice, only through mental repetitions.

"I'll continue to get better and I'm not close to where I could be in the future," he said of where his game currently stands. "But hopefully I would be able to go in there and compete and help the team."

SERIES HISTORY: 101st regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 54-46. Kansas City's victory total vs. Denver ties for the most against any individual opponent (Oakland, 54). The teams have swapped blowouts in the last two meetings, with Denver losing in last season's finale 44-24 and defeating the Chiefs 49-29 on Nov. 14. Both those games were at Invesco Field at Mile High.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Owner Pat Bowlen has always been a straight shooter in interviews. It's that quality, along with the undeniable effort and money he's put into trying to return the Broncos to glory, that satiates reporters while making him beloved by the majority who have been in his employ.

Bowlen has been mostly quiet over the last year, deferring to COO Joe Ellis, even with the franchise struggling on the field (5-16 in the last 21 games) and off it with a recent videotaping scandal.

But AOL Fanhouse caught Bowlen in one of his unguarded moments, and the owner spoke from the heart, saying that McDaniels had no culpability in "Spygate II" but more importantly said to Broncos fans that the embattled coach "will" return for 2011 since he's "not interested in making a coaching change."

Only hours later, at the behest of media that have been shot down in their efforts to speak candidly with Bowlen in recent months, the Broncos released a statement that had a completely different tone.

It read in part, "Josh McDaniels is the head coach of the Broncos and you always strive for stability at that position. However, with five games left in the 2010 season, we will continue to monitor the progress of the team and evaluate what's in the best interest of this franchise."

What likely happened in between the two divergent messages is that guaranteeing McDaniels a return gig with more than a month to play may not sit well with fans, particularly if the season goes off a cliff.

McDaniels now is answering questions about his job security and saying it's something out of his control. But he's also not oblivious to the criticism he's receiving, and with rematches still slated with San Diego and Oakland as well as Kansas City, the team can't afford a string of blowout losses -- no matter the message.

--McDaniels right now may wish for quieter times, like when Chiefs coach Todd Haley refused to shake his hand and instead wagged a finger his direction after the first meeting.

Haley did apologize for breaching etiquette but still hasn't come out with a specific reason for his anger towards the Broncos' coach. Some believe it was the action of Denver's players on the sideline late in the route. Others think it has to do with continuing an aggressive approach in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. "I'm very much in the present tense right now," Haley said, averting the question about the incident from Denver media.

McDaniels has repeatedly said it's much adieu about nothing, adding Wednesday that he expects nothing more than a competitive game Sunday without any sideshows.

"I plan on shaking hands and all that stuff. It's not a big deal to me. I plan on doing that no matter what the outcome of the game is," he maintained.

McDaniels added that the Chiefs were playing "the whole game and so were we." The score bears that out, with Kansas City rallying to 49-29 after Denver surged to a 35-point lead.

"There's really no other way to play," McDaniels said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Decades since the Broncos held a 3-8 record after 11 games. Denver, fresh off Super Bowl XXIV, came back to finish 5-11, which is the team's worst record since the advent of the 16-game schedule. QUOTE TO NOTE: "We definitely have a lot to play for. We're playing for jobs, contracts. You definitely want to go out there and play these last five games strong and show people that you love what you do and appreciate what you do." -- OLB Jason Hunter, on the Broncos likely playing out the string.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos will have yet another shakeup to its defensive backfield Sunday against a suddenly efficient Matt Cassel and Co. Safety Brian Dawkins (knee) and cornerback Andre Goodman (hip) have already been ruled out. So while the Kansas City running game remains an emphasis -- the huge deficit in the first meeting held its numbers down significantly -- there's got to be concern too about how they'll hold up with the Chiefs' resurgent passing attack. One option in Denver's possession is shadowing Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe (14 TD catches) with cornerback Champ Bailey. The Broncos still are playing rookie Perrish Cox in Goodman's place and Bowe's size and physicality may be too much for Cox to handle on a down-to-down basis. Either Nate Jones or Darcel McBath are the likely starters in Goodman's place, if McBath can get through the week unscathed after a slew of injuries to open his 2010 season.

PLAYER NOTES

--S Darcel McBath (quadriceps) was somewhat of a surprise non-participant Wednesday, since on a couple of occasions coach Josh McDaniels has ruled out S Brian Dawkins, CB Andre Goodman and WR Demaryius Thomas (ankle) but indicated that the remainder of the roster should be OK to play. More will be known at Thursday's practice whether McBath, a bigger hitter but slightly more limited in coverage than Jones, will be able to suit up.

--OLB Elvis Dumervil was in Denver's locker room during the open media period. On injured reserve with a chest muscle tear, Dumervil won't discuss his current rehabilitation until the 2010 season ends, but he appears fit.

--LB Wesley Woodyard has missed five games this season but still leads the Broncos with 10 special-teams stops. His 1.67 per-game average ranks second in the NFL for players who have taken part in at least five contests.

--TE Daniel Graham's increased role in max protection has resulted in a downturn in his receiving opportunities. In fact, all Denver's tight ends combined have caught just 22 passes.

--PK Matt Prater already has matched his 2009 season total with 28 touchbacks. Last season's performance already was the best by a Broncos' kicker since at least 1994.

GAME PLAN: The Broncos have gotten off to fast starts the last three games, scoring on the opening drive each time. But after the initial "feeling out" phase and adjustments made, Denver has played uninspired -- save for a late, unsuccessful fourth-quarter comeback vs. St. Louis. Denver has to be able to run the ball effectively to set up play action at the very least. Long-distance situations created mainly by penalties have prevented that as well as the team's 2-for-21 mark on third down over the last two games. Denver ran for a season-best 153 yards three weeks ago against Kansas City and that balance will go a long way towards being successful, especially playing in a loud Arrowhead environment that makes executing the cadence difficult.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chiefs ROLB Tamba Hali vs. Broncos LT Ryan Clady: Hali has not registered a sack in three straight weeks. But the Broncos have seen Orton go down 16 times in the last five weeks. Clady has shown flashes of his All-Pro form but has been inconsistent. And Hali's speed could give Denver problems, as it has in the past. The key for the Broncos is being able to maintain balance offensively and not let Hali just run to the quarterback without the threat of a rush.

Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson vs. Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno: Johnson already has over 100 tackles and while Moreno remains a threat running the ball, Johnson's task will be equally important shadowing Moreno as a target out of the backfield. As Moreno has regained his health after months with balky hamstrings, Denver has targeted him more and more as an outlet receiver as teams try to protect against the deep pass. Moreno has 13 of his 28 receptions over the last two weeks, gaining 124 yards in the process.

INJURY IMPACT: The absence of WR Demaryius Thomas (ankle) will give more offensive snaps to fellow rookie Eric Decker, who nearly scored off a 38-yard reception vs. the Rams. Decker may spell Eddie Royal as a slot receiver in three wides but mainly will take part in four-wide formations as a dual slot with Royal.

CB Perrish Cox will start in Goodman's place and has been picked on by opposing quarterbacks. But if McBath is unavailable, it will trickle down to the rest of Denver's nickel and dime packages, meaning more snaps for David Bruton and rookie Syd'Quan Thompson.



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