Denver Broncos Hot Topics - Wed., Sept. 27

The stress is off the Denver Broncos, for at least one week. Denver, which started 1-1 and had a tough road game at New England before the bye week, startled the Patriots with a convincing 17-7 win. As a reward, the Broncos had only one practice in their bye week, on Tuesday.

The rest of the week they could spend relaxing on vacation, not worried about a season slipping away.

"You never want to go into a bye week with a loss," Broncos safety John Lynch said. "Because all you think about is getting that next win."

The Broncos had a bad start to the season but somehow escaped only a half game back in the AFC West. They lost a disastrous season opener at St. Louis, turning the ball over five times. They didn't look very good against Kansas City, but backup Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard couldn't get the team in the end zone and the Broncos got an overtime win.

Denver salvaged the start of their season with the New England win. The Broncos have a tough matchup after the bye against 3-0 Baltimore, so the second win this season gives them a little more breathing room.

"It's nice to be going into the bye 2-1 instead of 1-2, obviously," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jake Plummer had a big third game and made Broncos coach Mike Shanahan look smart for supporting him. Plummer got off to a slow start last year as well, as Shanahan pointed out, and he wasn't worried about Plummer bouncing back. Plummer should be solid the rest of the season.

--RB Tatum Bell is now the Broncos' main tailback. Unless Mike Shanahan wasn't impressed with a 123-yard outing against New England, Bell should continue to carry most of the load.

--RB Mike Bell had his role severely reduced against New England, and Tatum Bell took advantage of his opportunity. Mike Bell should still get a few carries in relief but not enough to have a big impact.

--WR Rod Smith was limited against New England, one week after suffering a concussion. Smith should be back to normal after the Broncos' bye week.

--WR Javon Walker may have already taken Rod Smith's throne as Denver's top receiver. Smith is still reliable and will be targeted often, but Walker is the all-around threat that could have a huge season in Denver. He had two long touchdowns against New England and should continue to be a favorite target of Jake Plummer.

--WR David Kircus continues to make big catches for the Broncos. He should get more playing time in three-receiver sets, at least until rookie Brandon Marshall makes some plays in a game.

--TE Tony Scheffler was split out often against New England. The Broncos think they can create matchup problems with the athletic rookie, but Scheffler has to produce. He has only one catch this season.

--K Jason Elam is off to a good start. He has hit five of his first six attempts, and is four of four inside 40 yards.

--CB Darrent Williams returned to practice Tuesday and should be ready to go after the bye. He suffered a strained neck against the Patriots.

--DT Gerard Warren is playing well despite not being 100 percent. Warren is still hobbled a bit by a toe he dislocated in training camp, but he is clogging the middle and is a big reason Denver is off to a fantastic start on defense.

--LB D.J. Williams had a big game against New England. He appears to be over a sophomore slump last year. He was taken out a lot in nickel situations last year and that hurt his productivity. Against the Patriots he played a lot and was a big reason Denver shut down New England running back Laurence Maroney.



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