Denver Broncos Hot Topics - Wed., Nov. 16

Courtney Brown, Michael Myers, Ebenezer Ekuban and Gerard Warren, acquired by the Denver Broncos from Cleveland this off-season, had big games against Oakland. Read about the defensive line and other "Hot Topics" about the Broncos.

DENVER BRONCOS

HOT TOPIC

The Denver Broncos are blitzing a lot this season, but against the Oakland Raiders they mostly let their defensive line hassle Kerry Collins.

The Broncos threw some blitzes at Collins, but they knew that they couldn't do it the entire game like they did against Philadelphia and Donovan McNabb because the Raiders' receivers are tough to handle in man coverage. But the defensive line had a great game, pressuring Collins the entire day.

Denver had four sacks and forced Collins into bad decisions all game long. Courtney Brown, Michael Myers and Ebenezer Ekuban, acquired by the Broncos from Cleveland this off-season, each had a sack. The fourth ex-Browns lineman, Gerard Warren, had a quarterback pressure that led to an interception.

"A lot of people ask what's the difference between the team this year and the team last year, and it's that D-line," safety Nick Ferguson said.

Collins threw three interceptions because he was under pressure all day. Even when the Broncos didn't sack Collins, they usually got pressure on him and knocked him down.

"If the guy gets hit and has guys in his face, you want to get that ball out of your hands and you may throw a little early," Broncos linebacker Al Wilson said. "In this league, if you throw a little early or a little late, there's going to be someone on the opposing team that's going to get it."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jake Plummer is getting some buzz as a candidate for the NFL's MVP award. That might be premature, but Plummer is playing pretty well. Plummer and his coaches are seeing how good the Broncos can be if Plummer is playing an efficient game while not making mistakes.

--QB Bradlee Van Pelt didn't play against Oakland and hasn't played all season.

--RB Mike Anderson has helped the Broncos improve inside the red zone this season. He is a pretty good back around the goal line, something the Broncos didn't have last season. Anderson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run against Oakland.

--RB Tatum Bell is coming off his quietest game in weeks. The Raiders played the run game very well and neither Bell nor Mike Anderson had a great game. They should each bounce back against the Jets this week.

--WR Rod Smith passed Terrell Davis for the top spot on Denver's all-time touchdown list. Smith's 66th total touchdown, which moved him ahead of Davis, came in the second quarter against the Raiders.

--WR Ashley Lelie had a couple of long catches against the Raiders. If the Broncos can get Lelie going in the second half of the season, he'll give the team another big-play threat on offense.

--WR Charlie Adams was used a few times on end-around plays against Oakland. Adams doesn't have great speed but he can make people miss to get extra yards and get in the open field.

--TE Jeb Putzier didn't play much against Oakland because the Broncos went with a lot of three-receiver sets. Putzier still had 33 yards and a catch on a two-point conversion. He is a dangerous receiver and will be a factor down the stretch.

--K Jason Elam hit all three of his field-goal attempts against Oakland. Jake Plummer is Elam's new holder this year, and the two seem to be pretty comfortable with each other at this point in the season.

--CB Darrent Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the Broncos on defense. On draft day, the team thought he would be a return man as a rookie and compete for the nickel cornerback job. But Williams has been a starter at cornerback most of the season and had a huge 80-yard interception return for a touchdown against Oakland.

--DT Michael Myers had a sack against Oakland. Myers doesn't get much recognition but he is solid. Myers was the lesser-known former Cleveland Browns lineman that came to Denver in the off-season but he is making an impact on a much-improved defensive line.

--DE Trevor Pryce has been healthy all season. He sat out most of last year with a back injury but hasn't had any problems with it this year and is playing very well.

AROUND THE LEAGUE:

How close was Green Bay rookie running back Samkon Gado to being known as just another replacement starter in an injury-riddled backfield, rather than the instant hero he became Sunday?

Head coach Mike Sherman, who has next-to-zero tolerance for fumbles, acknowledged Monday that Gado's pair of near-fatal miscues almost cut short his first NFL start and could have cost the Packers the 33-25 upset victory they scored at Atlanta.

"If those weren't recovered by our guys, we wouldn't necessarily be talking about him right now," Sherman said. "That could have been the turning point in the ballgame. So, we're fortunate that that wasn't the turning point in the ballgame and we were able to jump on those balls. ... He needs to hang on to the football better."

A week earlier, in a home loss to Pittsburgh, ReShard Lee got the start at halfback but was promptly yanked by Sherman after turning the ball over on just his second carry of the game. Thus began the improbable emergence of Gado, who took over the lead role in that game and ran 26 times for 62 yards.

Incidentally, Gado mishandled his second carry Sunday but was spared the quick hook from Sherman when fullback Vonta Leach recovered the ball.

"In fairness, I'm not going to let them turn the ball over," Sherman said. "It wasn't a turnover, so I didn't (bench Gado). But, he knows how I feel about that. He told me it wouldn't happen again. He did get hit pretty solidly on that first fumble. (But) not to make excuses for him, he has to hang on to the football."

Gado made amends in short order, completing that same possession with a 9-yard touchdown run. He then scored on a 1-yard shovel pass from Brett Favre, following a fumble by Falcons counterpart Warrick Dunn, to put the Packers up 14-0.

He later atoned for another fumble, which was recovered by receiver Andrae Thurman, by running in a 2-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

It also capped a monster day by the unknown Gado, who went undrafted out of Division I-AA Liberty and was signed to Green Bay's practice squad only four weeks earlier. He gained 103 yards in 25 carries, becoming the first Packer to reach the century mark this season.

Although there's a chance Tony Fisher will be ready to return to action after being out the last two games with a broken rib, indications are Gado will remain the starter for the game Monday night against Minnesota.

"There's a lot of good things about Sam that make him a good first-down back, and Fisher has really established himself as a third-down back," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "I think we would probably let the backs do what they do best."



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