Around the League - Tuesday, Sept. 20

Denver cornerback Champ Bailey was supposed to miss one or two games with a dislocated left shoulder. He didn't miss any games, and he had perhaps his best performance as a Bronco against the Chargers. Read about Bailey and other Hot Topics about the Denver Broncos in today's edition of "Around the League."

Two games into the season, Daunte Culpepper's MVP form of 2004 is a distant memory.

A second consecutive subpar performance in Sunday's 37-8 loss to the Bengals left Culpepper with eight interceptions and 10 turnovers this season. He will enter this week's home game against the Saints with no touchdown passes and a remarkably poor 41.6 passer rating.

Not the type of performance new owner Zygi Wilf expected when he gave Culpepper an almost $8 million bump in pay for this season.

But Culpepper, in typical fashion, remains optimistic that he and the Vikings can turn things around.

"I definitely feel we still can obtain all our goals," he said. "It's tough saying it after a loss like we had (in Cincinnati) but my confidence hasn't faded at all because I know what we've got. I'm going to be just as confident as ever when I get to work on Wednesday to get better this week and go out and play winning football on Sunday."

He certainly will have to be better than he was at Paul Brown Stadium after throwing a career-high five interceptions and registering a career-low 36.4 passer rating.

In Culpepper's defense, he no longer has standout receiver Randy Moss at his disposal and he has been under heavy pressure in the first two games.

But Culpepper said he can't afford to worry about things such as how much he misses Moss or former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who now holds the same job with the Miami Dolphins.

"The thing is they are not here, that's what is most important," Culpepper said. "That's not important because we've got the guys that can go out, make plays and get it done.

"We just have to find it within ourselves to do it. It's as simple as that. If we played like we played (in the loss to the Bengals) and Coach Linehan and Moss (were here), still the same thing would happen. There is no magic solution. You play like the way we played, you're going to lose no matter who you've got on the field."

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DENVER BRONCOS
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HOT TOPIC
Denver cornerback Champ Bailey was supposed to miss one or two games with a dislocated left shoulder. He didn't miss any games, and he had perhaps his best performance as a Bronco against the Chargers.

Bailey had a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown on the first play of the second half of Denver's 20-17 win against San Diego. Denver was struggling before that play, trailing 14-3 and facing a 0-2 record to start the season.

"I really believe Champ won that game for us," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "That one play set the tone for the rest of the game. And that put them in the tank. And in the NFL, once you go in the tank, it's hard to come out."

On the play, Bailey laid back and broke on the ball when Chargers quarterback Drew Brees passed it to Keenan McCardell. Bailey picked off the pass and had a clear path to the end zone.

"He didn't expect me to get to that ball," Bailey said. "I knew he recognized the coverage, I baited him a little and just jumped the play."

Bailey has now played in all 98 games in his NFL career. He not only made a big play on the interception, but he shut down Chargers receiver Eric Parker. Bailey was locked up against Parker most of the game, and Parker had three catches for 30 yards.

The Broncos defense was sparked by Bailey's big interception return. Denver held the Chargers to 41 yards in the second half.

"We went from 'Let's get off the field,' to 'Let's not give them an inch,'" Broncos safety John Lynch said.

REPLAY
The Broncos parlayed a great defensive performance and a solid final drive into a much-needed 20-17 win against the Chargers. Jason Elam hit a 41-yard field goal with five seconds left to give Denver a win.

Backup running back Ron Dayne was the catalyst on Denver's final drive. He had two carries for 6 yards before the final drive, but had six carries for 38 yards to set up Elam's field goal. Dayne picked up 10 yards on a critical fourth-and-1 with less than a minute to go.

Denver's defense had a great second half, with four sacks. The Broncos held San Diego to 41 yards and three points after halftime.

PLAYER NOTES
--CB Darrent Williams had a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown called back because of a penalty, when his teammates came off the sideline too soon to celebrate and they were flagged for too many men on the field. But Williams' return showed the big-play ability the Broncos touted when they drafted him.

--RB Mike Anderson played through separated rib cartilage and was ineffective against San Diego's tough run defense with 15 carries for 49 yards. But Anderson did have a key 26-yard catch that set up a fourth-quarter touchdown.

--DE Courtney Brown made his Broncos debut and had a sack against San Diego. Brown played mostly in passing situations. Brown missed the entire preseason and Denver's first game with a dislocated elbow.

--WR Ashley Lelie was used a lot on short routes against the Chargers. Lelie, one of the best deep threats in the league, didn't have a gain of more than 16 yards, but he caught six passes for 62 yards. He has rarely been used like that in his career.

--K Jason Elam missed a pair of 53-yard field goals, but it wasn't all his fault. The Broncos had trouble with their snaps and with Todd Sauerbrun, who is in his first year holding for Elam.



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