Broncos Update Insider - Thursday, Dec. 9

Already struggling with a two-game losing streak and fading playoff hopes, the Denver Broncos probably didn't need to be ripped by one of the greatest players in franchise history, but that's what happened this week.

Former Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe criticized the Broncos on his show on Sirius satellite radio, questioning Jake Plummer's ability and Mike Shanahan's decision to stick with him. He also said that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen should at least consider making a coaching change after the season is over.

The Broncos addressed the criticism by Sharpe by basically saying that they didn't take it too seriously.

"Blah, blah, blah," Broncos defensive end Trevor Pryce. "At some point it goes in everybody's ear and out another. There's nothing to it.

"He's a grown man. He has his own opinion. It has nothing to do with us."

Sharpe's two main targets were Shanahan and Plummer, and both of them refused to attack Sharpe back. Sharpe called Plummer "mediocre, average at best," on his radio show.

"If he doesn't think I'm a good quarterback, it doesn't mean that I'm going to be less of a friend to him," Plummer said. "We never hung out much, anyway."

Shanahan said he didn't mind any of the criticism from Sharpe that was directed at him.

The criticism of Plummer was what got Shanahan most upset.

"I don't like anybody talking bad about our players. I don't care who it is," said Shanahan, who said he spoke to Sharpe after Sharpe's comments. "I think the world of Jake. He's given me everything he's got. All quarterbacks will have a good game, great game or a bad game, but he's a special guy. I think the world of him, and for (Sharpe's comments) I was disappointed."

Sharpe touched on the two main points that have been conversation fodder for Broncos fans during a stretch when the team has lost four of six. Some believe Shanahan, who has been the Broncos coach since 1995, should not be back for an 11th season. And with every interception Plummer throws, he is greeted by criticism about his decision making.

Shanahan said he doesn't concern himself much with what others are saying about him.

"If it really bothers you as a quarterback or as a coach, you don't last very long because the thing that matters is the end of the season," Shanahan said. "You know, how did you do? You're either successful or you're not. That's the bottom line."

SERIES HISTORY -- 13th meeting. Miami leads the series 9-2-1, but Denver has a win in the only postseason meeting between the teams. The last time Denver beat Miami in a regular-season game was 1968. The schedule hasn't matched up Denver much. The two teams didn't play once from 1985 to 1998.

NOTES AND QUOTES

The Broncos are still lamenting a loss from the last time Miami was in Denver. On a Sunday-night game in 2002, the Broncos and Dolphins played in a thriller that was decided in the final seconds.

Broncos fans still remember a possible interception going through linebacker John Mobley's hands, which kept Miami's final drive alive and allowed Olindo Mare to hit a 53-yard field goal to give the Dolphins a 24-22 win. That loss helped keep Denver out of the playoffs that season.

"The Miami game a few years back was devastating," coach Mike Shanahan said.

--For the first time since early in the season, defensive end Trevor Pryce was able to take a few reps in practice. Pryce, who had back surgery on Sept. 22, hasn't played since the first game of the season. Although he was back on the practice field, Pryce said he is still a long way away from playing in a game.

"I'm not close at all right now," Pryce said. "I don't have much balance. I get pushed around more than I should be. But this was first day. So tomorrow I could feel a lot better. It could be better by the end of the week, the end of next week."

Shanahan said it was encouraging to see Pryce on the practice field.

"I'm hoping he keeps on improving," Shanahan said.

--Quarterback Jake Plummer said with the team needing wins to stay in the playoff race and scrutiny increasing after a two-game losing streak, the players are settling into a bunker mentality.

"The guys are focused and know what we have in front of us and what we can accomplish," Plummer said. "Outside opinions mean nothing to any of us right now. It's words. It's nothing we can control. All we can do is go win a game."

BY THE NUMBERS
3 -- It has been three seasons since either Denver or Miami won a playoff game. The Broncos haven't won a playoff game since their second Super Bowl title at the end of the 1998 season, Miami's last playoff win came in the 2000 playoffs.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"I don't want to give the opinion we are out there jumping around and happy and clicking our heels and buying each other Christmas presents. We are (ticked) off." -- QB Jake Plummer, when asked about the team's mood after two straight losses.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos signed wide receiver Charlie Adams to replace injured Nate Jackson on the roster. Adams knows the offense, having spent almost two full seasons on the practice squad and some time on the active roster in Denver. Adams was on the roster this season before he was released three games into the season.

Adams played in four regular-season games last season. He had two catches for 18 yards in Denver's playoff loss at Indianapolis last year.

Adams or Triandos Luke will be Denver's fourth receiver behind Rod Smith, Ashley Lelie and Darius Watts. Jackson was a solid contributor this season before fracturing his left ankle last week at San Diego. Jackson had eight catches for 73 yards this season and was a special-teams contributor.

-- S Chris Young could be back on the field Sunday. Young, a special-teams player, has been inactive the past two weeks but with Sam Brandon questionable on the injury report, Young could get back in the lineup.

-- LB Louis Green was active in his first game after being signed from the practice squad, ahead of Jashon Sykes, a starter last year. Sykes is not a special-teams player so the Broncos would only activate him if they needed him to play defense.

-- S John Lynch is coming off one of his best games as a Bronco. He was a very effective blitzer against San Diego, forcing a late Drew Brees fumble, and he had one of the biggest hits of the year, knocking Chargers running back Jesse Chatman's helmet off and forcing another fumble.

-- TE Jeb Putzier had a couple of drops on Sunday. He also had a fantastic 39-yard over the shoulder catch in the fourth quarter. Putzier has had a solid year, but he needs to be consistent on every play, whether it is blocking or catching the ball.

-- RB Reuben Droughns said he feels good heading into the final weeks of the season. Droughns showed up on the injury report with thigh and neck injuries, but insisted that he's as fresh now as he was earlier in the season. Last week the Broncos decided to give rookie Tatum Bell some more carries to take the pressure off of Droughns.

GAME PLAN
The Broncos can't let the Dolphins get their passing game going on Sunday. Miami hasn't been able to run the ball effectively all season, but the Broncos have shown that they will give up big passing plays on occasion.

Denver did not have many problems last week at San Diego, however. The Broncos took Chargers tight end Antonio Gates out of the game, which is a good sign for them against Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael. Champ Bailey will have the assignment of slowing down Chris Chambers, and the Dolphins don't have many solid weapons besides Chambers and McMichael.

Offensively, the Broncos will probably test the middle of Miami's run defense. Middle linebacker Zach Thomas is out, so Miami will have a tough task slowing down Denver's running game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Broncos LT Matt Lepsis vs. Dolphins DE Jason Taylor. This matchup is suited for Lepsis' strengths. Lepsis moved from right tackle to left tackle this season because his athleticism fit the left side better. Lepsis was never comfortable battling bigger ends on the right side. Against Taylor, a lean, quick end, Lepsis matches up well. Whether he controls Taylor, one of the best pass-rushing ends in the league, is another story. But Lepsis himself has been solid all season, having good success against ends like Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice and Carolina's Mike Rucker.

Broncos interior OL vs. Dolphins MLB Derrick Pope. With Zach Thomas out of the lineup for Sunday's game, the Broncos should be able to get their running game going again. The Broncos struggled again against San Diego's tough 3-4 defense, but they should be comfortable this week. Pope will have his hands full against Denver's tough zone blocking scheme, especially when Pro Bowl center Tom Nalen is chasing him down.

INJURY IMPACT

--DT Luther Elliss tried to practice last week with a calf injury, but Broncos coach Mike Shanahan admitted Elliss set himself back. Shanahan didn't sound optimistic that Elliss would be ready for Sunday's game against Miami.

--S Sam Brandon didn't practice on Wednesday and was unsure if he would be able to practice at all this week. Brandon is listed as questionable with an ankle injury he suffered at San Diego. Brandon plays on almost all of Denver's special teams.

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