Broncos News Briefs - Friday, Dec. 3

Is the Denver Broncos game against the San Diego Chargers really a playoff game? Depends on who you talk to. Also - with the injury to Lenny Walls, the focus is on Broncos' backup DBs such as Willie Middlebrooks (#23 in photo). Read about the upcoming matchup between the co-leaders of the AFC West in today's news reports.

AFC West duel: So we meet again - USA Today - Jarrett Bell
Posted 12/2/2004 - These are not the same San Diego Chargers that the Denver Broncos handled way back in Week 3 of the season.When the Broncos defeated San Diego 23-13 on Sept. 26, it was absurd to suggest that quarterback Drew Brees would keep hotshot rookie Philip Rivers on the bench for the whole season. Nor was Antonio Gates being mentioned in the same sentence as the greatest tight ends in NFL history. And the Kansas City Chiefs — certainly not the Chargers — figured to be the team to beat in the AFC West.

Plummer too chummy? - Denver Post - Bill Williamson
Friday, December 03, 2004 - Is that true? I don't think that was the case as recently as '97 and '98. To this lifelong Broncos fan, nothing was more sickening than seeing Plummer all smiles, patting Raiders on the shoulder pads after Sunday night's potentially season-ruining loss to our most hated rival. Somehow, I don't see John Elway or Steve Atwater doing that. That's why those guys are champions, and this team is little more than a first-round also ran. Where's the passion?

Playoff or not, it's big - Denver Post - Patrick Saunders
Friday, December 03, 2004 - The question has lingered over Dove Valley all week. Is Sunday's AFC West showdown in San Diego between the Broncos and Chargers the equivalent of a playoff game? Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer says no. "It's a big game, but you can't make it bigger than it is," Plummer said. "It's not a playoff game, but obviously it could have a lot of playoff implications." Middle linebacker Al Wilson says yes. "The feeling for us is that it is a playoff game, and I'm pretty sure it's the same for (San Diego)," Wilson said.

Plenty of hoopla surrounds Gates - Denver Post - Patrick Saunders
Friday, December 03, 2004 - Putting together a strategy for Sunday's AFC West showdown in San Diego left Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer with a funny feeling in his gut. Watching game film of Chargers tight end Antonio Gates can do that to a coach. "It's been almost nauseating to see the number of plays he's making," Coyer said Wednesday.

Broncos' "D" gets added motivation - Denver Post - Bill Williamson
Friday, December 03, 2004 - As if the Broncos' defense needed anything else to get them up for Sunday's game in San Diego. Coming off a fourth-quarter collapse against Oakland, the Broncos' defense has been determined all week to make amends. However, there's at least one San Diego Chargers player who isn't overly concerned. San Diego receiver Eric Parker added fuel to Sunday's crucial AFC West Division game Thursday in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio. When asked about the Broncos' defense, Parker responded by saying, "Nothing really impresses me."

Middlebrooks makes change as new nickel - Denver Post - Bill Williamson
Friday, December 03, 2004 - Willie Middlebrooks has played the nickel and dime positions in the Broncos' secondary all season because of injuries to Lenny Walls. There no longer is any flux. Middlebrooks is the Broncos' nickel cornerback, without question. Walls was lost for the season after he suffered the third dislocation of his right shoulder this season. With Walls out, Middlebrooks moved up to playing nickel. The Broncos often use a five-defensive back set, so Middlebrooks, a first-round pick in 2001, will see plenty of playing time, beginning Sunday at San Diego against the Chargers.

Fans, Elway agree: New stadium too quiet - Denver Post - Joseph Sanchez
Friday, December 03, 2004 - Apparently, John Elway was half right. Broncos fans have not had their fill of Super Bowls, but their voices clearly are not as loud as they once were. In a small survey of Broncos fans conducted by The Denver Post this week, not one agreed with the legendary Hall of Fame quarterback in his suggestion Broncos fans had lost their desire for another Super Bowl championship to add to the two that Elway led in the late 1990s. But they all agreed the still-new Invesco Field at Mile High "ain't loud."

Give credit to Chargers - Rocky Mountain News - Jeff Legwold
December 3, 2004 - In the NFL's salary-cap era, there's always one. One gate-crasher who barges into the Super Bowl party, some worst- to-first lottery winner that sidles up to the well-heeled and makes itself at home. In the 1999 season, it was the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans who played in the championship game one season after not making the playoffs. In 2000, it was the Baltimore Ravens; in 2001, the New England Patriots; and, last season, the Carolina Panthers. "Confidence can mean something," Denver Broncos safety Kenoy Kennedy said. "Sometimes you just get on a roll, guys are feeling it. And things just happen." Which brings us to the San Diego Chargers as the 2004 NFL season heads down the stretch.

Rookie wants in on action - Rocky Mountain News - Lee Rasizer
December 3, 2004 - The kid gloves are coming off D.J. Williams. Williams, a Denver Broncos rookie linebacker, has been slowly working his way into a bigger role as a member of the team's nickel pass-defense package, displacing Donnie Spragan at times and, on other occasions in recent weeks, sitting. Don't expect that pattern to continue. "It's been a confidence thing from us, I think," Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said this week. "But we're going to stop that. It's a matter of getting our better players on the field, and we're going to get him out there." Williams was replaced early Sunday in a loss to the Oakland Raiders because of some errors but was reinserted into the nickel "and looked OK," Coyer said.

(Inter)National Football League - Rocky Mountain News - Lynn DeBruin
December 3, 2004 - SAN DIEGO - The words flow as easily as the indelible ink that stretches seemingly for miles across Igor Olshansky's massive shoulders. "Ya lyublyu football," he says in perfect Russian. He's not commenting on the Ukrainian presidential race that has made headlines recently, or the countless hours he has spent under the needle for those colorful tattoos. He's telling a reporter simply that he loves football. And what's not to love? He's a rookie end starting on a San Diego Chargers defense ranked No. 2 against the run, playing for a team that has gone from a perennial loser to serious contender and with an opportunity Sunday to take charge of the AFC West title race against the Denver Broncos.

Legwold: More QBs make 'comeback' plans - Rocky Mountain News - Jeff Legwold
December 3, 2004 - Spin the dial on any football weekend and you'll see it. Run the video and it won't take long to find what once was taboo for NFL quarterbacks is now almost required reading in the playbooks around the league. Because the underthrown pass has gone over big. "Damn right, it has," Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. "I know we work like hell at it. It's one of coach (Mike) Shanahan's favorite things (on offense) so for us to say we haven't had reps at it would be wrong." For years, coaches have been telling quarterbacks to get the ball over the top, to lead the receiver. They have been telling them not to throw into coverage.

NFL injury report, December 3 - Rocky Mountain News
December 2, 2004 - NFL injury report, December 3

Droughns gets call from ex-mate Portis - Daily Camera - Ryan Thorburn
December 3, 2004 - On Thanksgiving, Reuben Droughns received a lot of phone calls wishing him a happy holiday and good luck the rest of the seasons. Included on the caller ID was one Clinton Portis. "He just told me, 'Congratulations on all your success, man. You deserve it.' That's all he told me," Droughns said this week as Denver prepare for Sunday's AFC West showdown in San Diego. Droughns has started seven games for the Broncos and already has 946 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Portis has started every game for Washington (3-8) and has 945 yards and two touchdowns. "It is a strange year," said Droughns, who blocked for Portis last season as Denver's fullback during Mike Anderson's four-game suspension. "As a friend of Clinton, I want to see him perform well, too. At the same time. it's fun to be able to go out there and do what I'm able to do."

Mid-year firing takes some adjustment - Daily Camera - Ryan Thorburn
December 3, 2004 - The Broncos made headlines during the bye week this season when Mike Shanahan fired his secondary coach — David Gibbs — and replaced him with Jimmy Spencer, who is in his first year as a full-time coach after serving as a player-coach in 2003. At that time, Denver was 6-3 and tied with San Diego for the AFC West lead. With Gibbs on the staff the team had the NFL's second-ranked pass defense. Three weeks later, the Broncos are 7-4, a game behind the Chargers and have the league's 12th-ranked pass defense. Not surprisingly, Shanahan and the players in his secondary downplayed the move this week when asked about it in hindsight, focusing on the bright future Spencer has as a coach instead of the uncomfortable situation.

Different Brees to face off against Broncos - San Diego Union-Tribune - Jim Trotter
December 3, 2004 - Chargers quarterback Drew Brees ranks third in the NFL with a 108.0 passer rating. That's 40.5 points higher than his 67.5 rating last season. If he maintains his efficiency, it would mark the largest one-year increase since the NFL adopted the current passer-rating system in 1973. Currently the biggest increase is 36 points by former Oakland great Ken Stabler, who went from a 67.4 rating in 1975 to 103.4 in '76. Seventeen of Brees' 21 touchdown passes have been in the red zone. Tight end Antonio Gates has caught 11 of those, including eight in the past four games. Arguably no team has done a better job of slowing Brees and Gates than the Broncos did in a 23-13 win in Denver on Sept. 26. Gates did not score and Brees was held to a season-low 121 yards passing with no touchdowns.

Thursday Notebook: Elliss On the Field, On the Mend - - Andrew Mason
Thursday, December 2, 2004 - Luther Elliss remains doubtful for Sunday's game at San Diego, but that status didn't keep him from taking "about half" of the snaps at Thursday afternoon's practice session, Head Coach Mike Shanahan said. "Luther's doing pretty good," Shanahan said. "He practiced today. We're going to do it day by day." Elliss, who is still recovering from the calf injury suffered in practice on Nov. 15, feels as if his health is improving. "Getting better every day. That's all you can ask for," he said. "I'm doing a few things here and there. They're just working me slowly into it and we'll go for it." Elliss believes that working back into shape isn't just about the team restricting his work, but about restraining himself so he doesn't set himself back in his recovery.

Bronco Dan's Fantasy Preview - Week 13 - - Bronco Dan
Thursday, December 2, 2004 - QB JAKE PLUMMER: The Chargers boast the NFL's second-best run defense, meaning it might be tough for Denver this week on the ground. Thus, it'll be up to Plummer to move the ball through the air, just as he did in the Broncos 23-13 win over San Diego in Week 3. Mixing it up to seven different receivers that day, Denver's quarterback threw for 294 yards and tossed two touchdowns. This week could be even bigger. Plummer is highly motivated after last week's disappointing loss to the Raiders, meaning he's looking to take out his frustration on someone. Nothing settles a bitter soul like a 300-yard passing day and a few scoring passes. Look for Plummer to shine in Southern California on Sunday.

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