Denver appears set to turn to rookie quarterback Jay Cutler as its starter, replacing ineffective Jake Plummer. Plummer has played poorly most of this season, but the Broncos' Thanksgiving loss to Kansas City showed many flaws, not just Plummer.
Left tackle Erik Pears and right tackle George Foster were playing because of injuries to Matt Lepsis and Adam Meadows. Plummer rarely had time to throw because one or both offensive tackles were giving up pressure to Kansas City's ends. Plummer's first interception came after Jared Allen beat Pears, who hadn't played a game on offense before the middle of this season, and immediately rushed Plummer.
Plummer also had a few dropped passes, a couple in key situations. And Denver's running game has been a problem the past few weeks. It bottomed out with a season-low 38 yards at Kansas City.
All of those problems were a reason why many players refused to blame Plummer after the 19-10 loss.
"You guys want to make a big deal about Jake Plummer and what he's not doing, but this is not a one-man team," tight end Stephen Alexander said. "A lot of guys need to go out and play better."
The Broncos' offense hasn't been effective all season. Denver has scored 17 or fewer points in eight of its 11 games. Part of that is the quarterback play, but the Broncos also need better offensive line play and to get starting tailback Tatum Bell healthy again.
"There's a whole slough of things," Alexander said. "You can't pin it on one guy. We know what everybody's responsibility is. We watch the film together. Unfortunately, he takes all the blame. That's not fair."
The Broncos also have to wonder if Cutler will be the answer to their passing game problems. He had a good preseason, but that's hardly an indicator of regular-season success. He has had limited practice time behind Plummer and hasn't played a snap in the regular season, so there's some question of how good he will be right away.
"I don't get many (repetitions) in practice and I haven't played since the preseason, so if I do get in there I'll have to knock the rust off," Cutler said. "It'll slow down as the game goes on."
The Broncos don't have much margin for error. They've slipped behind the Chargers in the AFC West and are holding on to a wild-card spot. A two-game losing streak to San Diego and Kansas City has come at a bad time.
"Obviously it's a concern," receiver Javon Walker said. "In this division you got to win a lot of games because the teams are so good. Right now, there's a sense of urgency. We got to run the table. We have to get some wins so we can be put back into contention and have teams be scared of the Denver Broncos."
--RB Tatum Bell will be evaluated again this week. He has been able to practice but he's not at full speed because of two injured big toes. The Broncos running game is struggling and needs him back.
--WR Javon Walker might get a few more deep balls because of Denver's quarterback change. Walker is Denver's best deep threat, and rookie Jay Cutler has a tremendous arm.
--OT George Foster looked sluggish during his return to the lineup against Kansas City. Foster, a starter the first eight games, didn't fare well against Chiefs end Tamba Hali. If Adam Meadows is healthy, he'll resume as the starter.
--CB Darrent Williams had a big interception against Kansas City. He vowed to be more aggressive after a tough day against the Colts. That has resulted in some receptions given up, but he also has the ability to make big plays.
--WR Brian Clark returned kickoffs for the Broncos against Kansas City. He had one long return brought back because of a penalty. He has good speed and seems to find holes well, and could provide a few big plays down the stretch.