Broncos Update Insider - Thursday, Sept. 21

The Denver Broncos have been the exception to the New England Patriots' rule. The Broncos have had plenty of recent success against the Patriots, one of the few teams that can claim that. Coach Bill Belichick won his first game against Denver as New England's coach in 2000, and then has dropped four of the last five. Read more in today's edition of "Broncos Update Insider."

The Denver Broncos have been the exception to the New England Patriots' rule.

The Broncos have had plenty of recent success against the Patriots, one of the few teams that can claim that. Coach Bill Belichick won his first game against Denver as New England's coach in 2000, and then has dropped four of the last five.

The Patriots have dominated the NFL through this decade, but the Broncos have had their number. Denver didn't dwell on its success before this week's game at New England.

"It's a new year, it's a new team and you have to take care of business," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

The Patriots' only win against Denver in the past five years was in 2003. The Broncos had to start third-stringer Danny Kanell at quarterback because Jake Plummer and Steve Beuerlein were injured. New England still needed a touchdown in the final minute to win.

The Patriots admit that the Broncos have had their number a bit lately. That has gone mostly unnoticed because the Patriots have won three Super Bowls and the Broncos haven't won an AFC title since 1998.

"The record speaks for itself," Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. "But at the same time, we've been in the Super Bowl for the last several years."

The series can almost be described as a rivalry. Despite not playing in the same division, the two teams have played each other often. Sunday's game will be the 12th meeting in the last 12 seasons. The two teams didn't play in 2004 but played twice last year, including the playoffs.

Belichick and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan have respect for each other, going back to the days when Shanahan was an offensive coordinator and Belichick was a defensive coordinator and the two tried to outsmart each other.

"The reasons why they have had so much success are that they are very well coached and they have great players as well," Shanahan said.

The Broncos have respect for the Patriots as a team. Before last season's playoff game, their fawning over the defending Super Bowl champions was almost comical. But there is truth behind that gamesmanship, because the Broncos realize the Patriots have had the kind of success this decade that they are striving for.

"They didn't win the Super Bowl last year, but I think everyone kind of looks to the Patriots as the standard in this league right now," Broncos safety John Lynch said.

The timing of the game makes it an important one for the Broncos. They are 1-1, with a bye coming up in Week 4. They play a tough Baltimore team immediately after the bye, so a tough win against New England would give them some momentum and confidence before a week off.

The Broncos think they can go to New England and win, but not because of past history.

"We are going to be confident regardless of if they were 3-0 against us or we're 3-0 against them," Bailey said. "We can't dwell on the past. We got to feel like we're a new team, a better team, and we can go out there and get a win."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Denver's defense has clearly outplayed the offense through two weeks this season, but the defensive players say they aren't frustrated.

The Broncos defenders are confident that the offense, which has scored only 19 points through two games, will rebound.

"For whatever reason, they're struggling, but they'll get it going. There's big-time talent. I think we're better talent-wise than we were last year."

--Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer wore a glove on his left hand for most of a Week 2 game against Kansas City. He wanted to get a better grip on the ball.

"He told me the reason he had the glove on was the ball was a little slick," Shanahan said.

--Only three teams have a winning record at New England's Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002. The Broncos, Packers and Chargers all own 1-0 records. Denver's win at New England's new stadium came in 2002.

--Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who drafted Maurice Clarett in the third round of the 2005 draft, expressed concern for the troubled running back, who was sentenced to at least three-and-a-half years in prison this week.

"It's really a shame that someone puts themselves in that position," Shanahan said. "I'm just hoping that when he gets out, he's learned his lesson and comes back with a mindset that he's going to be productive."

--Any concern about receiver Rod Smith's concussion he suffered last week was short lived. Doctors gave him a clean bill of health Monday, additional tests showed no problems and Smith was back at practice this week. He should play unless there is a setback during the week.

"If he does develop something during the week I'll let you know," Shanahan said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5.0 -- Denver is tied for third in the NFL with five yards per carry this season. For all the criticism of Denver's offense, the running game ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Jake has proven he can play at a certain level, so let's get behind him and hopefully do that." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan on quarterback Jake Plummer.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he won't know until watching Quincy Morgan in practice this week if the newly signed receiver will play at New England this week. Denver will probably give Morgan the benefit of the doubt because it needs Morgan to return kickoffs. The Broncos rank 31st in the NFL in kickoff returns. Running back Cedric Cobbs, who returned kickoffs last week, is probably out with an ankle injury.

If Morgan can't play, David Kircus would probably be the top option at kickoff returner. Denver released Charlie Adams when it signed Morgan.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--RT George Foster has a big challenge against Ty Warren this week. Foster hasn't played great in Denver's first two games, but the Broncos need him to bounce back.

--C Tom Nalen will spend plenty of time blocking massive Patriots NT Vince Wilfork this week. Nalen weighs less than 300 pounds and sometimes has issues with massive nose tackles, but he is athletic and savvy and uses that to his advantage.

--WR Brandon Marshall made his debut in Week 2. The Broncos love his potential, but he hasn't played much. He missed almost all of the preseason with a knee injury, so he is learning on the fly in the regular season.

--TE Tony Scheffler was held without a catch in Week 2. He had a very promising preseason and the Broncos usually use their second tight end in the passing game, so his role should continue to grow as the season goes on.

--DE John Engelberger made a couple of big plays against Kansas City, including a forced fumble. Engelberger didn't do much last year, but if he can be productive in Denver's rotation this year it would be a big boost to the Broncos pass rush.



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