Broncos Update Insider - Tuesday, Nov. 2

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said defensive end Trevor Pryce could return for Denver's Nov. 21 game after the team's bye week, but there's a chance Pryce could end up missing a little more time than that. Also in today's Broncos Update Insiders - what grade did Jake Plummer's performance rate?

The Broncos will be without safety John Lynch for at least their next 1-3 games while he recovers from a stress fracture in his sacrum in his lower back.

Lynch was hit by an Atlanta receiver late in a running play well away from the action, which knocked Lynch out of Sunday's game. Broncos safety Nick Ferguson, who replaced Lynch in the lineup, said Brian Finneran was the player who hit Lynch.

"It was a wide receiver blocking, it wasn't below the waist or anything, it was a legal shot," coach Mike Shanahan said. "It was a blind side shot that catches you off guard, but it's a legal shot."

Lynch will be out 2-4 weeks, according Shanahan, but because the Broncos have a bye it could lessen the blow of the injury.

Shanahan said he thought Ferguson played well in Lynch's place on Sunday considering Ferguson didn't have many reps during the week in practice. Although Lynch has taken on a leadership role in his first season with the Broncos, Denver has plenty of depth at safety.

Ferguson was a starter last year and the Broncos liked him enough to sign him to a four-year contract extension after the season. Ferguson, a smart player who is known for his hitting ability, would have been a starter this season but graciously stepped aside when the Broncos signed Lynch. The Broncos also have Sam Brandon, who began last season as a starting safety, in reserve.

"Nick made a couple of nice hits, and you got to be ready to play, especially when you don't get many reps during the week," Shanahan said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said defensive end Trevor Pryce could return for Denver's Nov. 21 game after the team's bye week, but there's a chance Pryce could end up missing a little more time than that. Shanahan said Pryce will see a doctor this week for an update on his progress, then the Broncos will have a better idea when Pryce can return.

"Some people said (Pryce would return for) the Atlanta game (Sunday), I think realistically it would be New Orleans, but maybe I'm optimistic there too," Shanahan said.

Denver's pass rush has suffered without Pryce, by far the Broncos' best defensive lineman.

"Trevor is a difference maker," Shanahan said. "If he could come back, he's obviously going to help us big time."

--In the Broncos' two-game losing streak they are minus-four in turnover ratio. The Broncos pulled down a paltry nine interceptions in each of the past two years, and even with the additions of Champ Bailey and John Lynch to the secondary in the offseason, Denver has only three picks this season.

"I think right now we're going to quit talking about it, because that's not working," Shanahan said. "We've been talking about it, stressing about it, working in the offseason, and we still haven't come up with any."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB Garrison Hearst was active for Denver's game on Sunday as the No. 2 tailback, but he didn't play. The Broncos haven't handed off to a backup running back in either of their last two games.

--DE Anton Palepoi was active ahead of veteran Raylee Johnson on Sunday. The Broncos have struggled to rush the passer in recent weeks without Trevor Pryce, and Palepoi has shown an ability to get to the quarterback. Coach Mike Shanahan also said he didn't think Johnson would play much against Atlanta because the Broncos wanted to use faster defensive linemen against Michael Vick.

--WR Darius Watts was praised by Mike Shanahan after Watts had seven catches for 86 yards Sunday, both career highs. The rookie second-round pick dropped two passes, including a big one in the end zone, but he has proven himself to be a big-play threat as Denver's third receiver.

--RB Tatum Bell was inactive for Sunday's game because of a hamstring injury. Bell has been dinged with injuries for much of the season, and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said that has set back Bell's development. It also raises questions about Bell's durability.

--TE Patrick Hape continues to be a target in the red zone. Hape has caught four passes this year and three have been for touchdowns. Hape has 10 touchdowns in 47 career catches. Jake Plummer has confidence in Hape making the catch, and defenses generally don't pay a lot of attention to him in the passing game.

REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS

PASSING OFFENSE
C
-- Jake Plummer had the most yards in his career and in Broncos history on Sunday, but his mistakes were a key to the game. Plummer threw three interceptions, including two in the second quarter when the game turned in Atlanta's favor and a third in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE
D-plus
-- Denver didn't have much success running the ball against an Atlanta defense that allowed 271 rushing yards in its previous game, then the Broncos had to ditch the running game because they fell behind.

PASS DEFENSE
D-minus
-- Atlanta's receivers hadn't done much until Sunday, when they got some big plays against the Broncos. Michael Vick was able to make some plays in the passing game by buying time and putting pressure on Denver's defensive backs to maintain their coverage, but on some plays the Broncos corners just got beat.

RUSH DEFENSE
D
-- Michael Vick had his way, running on the perimeter of the Broncos defense often. Denver couldn't contain him, and allowed Vick to rush for 115 yards. The Broncos also gave up a touchdown each to Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett.

SPECIAL TEAMS
D
-- The Broncos let Atlanta get good field position a few times when they let Allen Rossum get loose on kickoff and punt returns. Denver didn't pick up many yards against the Falcons' solid coverage units.

COACHING
F
-- The Broncos hadn't played against Vick before, and didn't do much to stop him. They weren't overly aggressive, as Kansas City had been against Vick in Atlanta's previous game, and Vick dictated the entire game. Bad penalties also killed the Broncos, something they have to address this week.

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