Hot Topics: Problems to Overcome

The Denver Broncos have to overcome some problems to get back on track in the AFC playoff race. They took a chance by starting rookie quarterback Jay Cutler with five games left in the season, and there were some uneasy moments in his debut. Read more about Cutler's debut and all the latest personnel news in today's "Hot Topics."

The Denver Broncos were taking a chance by starting rookie quarterback Jay Cutler with five games left in the season, and there were some uneasy moments in his debut.

Cutler completed 10 of 21 passes for 143 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 23-20 loss to Seattle. Cutler had 71 yards on one touchdown pass to rookie receiver Brandon Marshall, and Cutler admitted he didn't have much to do with the touchdown. Marshall took a short pass and made an amazing run.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he never thought about pulling Cutler, even when the rookie first-round pick was struggling. He said he didn't regret the decision to change quarterbacks.

"Even though at times, at least tonight, it may not appear to be the right decision, I think it is," Shanahan said.

Cutler didn't have a storybook start to his career. He didn't complete a pass in the first quarter. He made a couple of nice throws in the second quarter, including a strong throw on a third down pass to tight end Stephen Alexander.

Cutler's first career touchdown came later on that drive. He fired a pass over the middle to Alexander, but it was a bit high. Alexander tipped it to himself and had a seven-yard touchdown.

Cutler also had a mistake that made all Broncos fans cringe. He was being sacked by Seahawks end Chuck Darby but tried to get rid of the ball anyway. The ball floated straight up in the air and was intercepted by linebacker Darryl Tapp. Tapp returned the interception 25 yards for a touchdown.

That mistake was Seattle's only score of the first half. Denver led 13-7 at halftime.

Shanahan said he thought he made the game plan too complicated for Cutler, and pointed to that play. It was a quarterback keeper, and Cutler tried to make a play when Seattle blitzed right to it.

Cutler also had an interception in the fourth quarter after Seattle took a four-point lead. The pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and picked off.

"We had a lot of mistakes," Cutler said. "I kind of blame myself though. Those turnovers really hurt us."

The Broncos are 7-5 and have lost three straight games. They go to San Diego next week, and the Chargers already beat Denver at Invesco Field at Mile High this season. Denver needs to play well down the stretch to get in the playoffs, and that won't be easy as they break in a rookie quarterback.

The Broncos did some good things against Seattle despite the loss. The running game was rejuvenated with Tatum Bell back in the starting lineup. Bell had 133 yards on 23 carries. He was inactive three of the past four games. An effective running game could help take pressure off Cutler the rest of the season.

The Broncos defense also played well until the fourth quarter. Denver played most of the fourth quarter without Al Wilson, who sprained his neck and was carted off the field. He was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons, but the Broncos said he could move his arms and legs.

Denver has to overcome some problems to get back on track in the AFC playoff race.

"We've got to dig deep inside and decide what direction we want to go," Bell said.

PLAYER NOTES --K Jason Elam injured his left hamstring on a trick play near the end of the first half. Elam ran for two yards for a first down, then limped off the field after kicking a 41-yard field goal on the next play.

--OT Adam Meadows was inactive against Seattle. Meadows has a hamstring injury. George Foster replaced Meadows and played better than he did against Kansas City, when he struggled after Meadows went out of the game.

--RB Mike Bell had a rough game against Seattle. He had a costly holding penalty in the third quarter while trying to pick up a blitz, then fumbled a handoff on the next play.

--FB Cecil Sapp had a 20-yard gain on an inside run against Seattle. Sapp, a tailback in college, gives Denver's offense some extra versatility because of his running ability.

--CB Domonique Foxworth played safety most of the game against Seattle, despite having only a few plays of experience at safety in either his college or pro career. Curome Cox also took some plays at safety.

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