Hot Topics: Broncos gain confidence in Cutler

The Denver Broncos might have gained some confidence in quarterback Jay Cutler after watching him make some fantastic throws in the third quarter against a very good San Diego defense.

Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said what quarterback Jay Cutler did in the third quarter against San Diego is exactly what he sees from the rookie first-round pick every day in practice.

Cutler caught fire in the third quarter, completing 10 of 12 passes for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns to tight end Tony Scheffler. The first six quarters of Cutler's pro career weren't as smooth.

He struggled most of his first start against Seattle and completed four of 11 passes in the first half against San Diego. All of a sudden in the second half, he started to look comfortable.

"We did the same things, the same game plan we had in the first half, we just executed, especially on my end," Cutler said. "I made some better throws, some better decisions."

The Broncos trailed 28-3 at halftime, but that deficit was cut to 28-20 during the third quarter. Cutler couldn't bring the Broncos all the way back, succumbing to San Diego's pass rush in the fourth quarter.

However, the Broncos might have gained some confidence in Cutler after watching him make some fantastic throws in the third quarter against a very good San Diego defense.

"I've been watching this guy do it in practice for a long time," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "The guy has a little adversity in his first game and people forget what they've been seeing all the way through training camp. Nothing he did (Sunday) surprised me."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jay Cutler looked comfortable performing in the shotgun formation against San Diego. The Broncos had to spread it out and throw a lot after falling behind early to the Chargers. The Broncos could continue to use the shotgun to give Cutler extra moments to scan the field.

--RB Tatum Bell should get a 1,000-yard season, despite missing a lot of time earlier this season with turf toe injuries. Bell has 898 yards and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

--RB Mike Bell has had some ups and downs but has had a solid rookie season. He has 481 yards, five touchdowns and is averaging 4.2 yards per carry with three games to go. He had 46 yards on 10 carries off the bench against San Diego last week.

--WR Rod Smith had three catches for 20 yards against the Chargers. Smith is having by far the worst season of his career since becoming a starter in 1997.

--WR Javon Walker had a chance to make the Pro Bowl, but those chances might be fading with rookie Jay Cutler at quarterback. Walker hasn't scored a touchdown or had a reception longer than 17 yards in Cutler's two games as starter.

--WR Brandon Marshall has a good connection with Jay Cutler. He is finishing the season very well and gives the Broncos a lot to look forward to in the future.

--TE Tony Scheffler said his confidence was shaken during a spell when he was inactive. But he has made some plays the last couple of weeks, and not coincidentally it has been with Jay Cutler at quarterback. Scheffler and Cutler connected often during the preseason.

--K Jason Elam didn't miss a kick, despite a left hamstring injury. He didn't have to attempt any long kicks, and said he didn't have any setbacks to his injury.

--S Curome Cox didn't start on defense but got in the game against San Diego in nickel situations. Domonique Foxworth, who started at safety, would move up to cornerback and Cox would take his spot at safety in passing situations.

--CB Darrent Williams gave up some big plays against San Diego. That will happen, but the Broncos need playmakers like Williams to make some big plays. With the team struggling, there haven't been too many huge plays from the defense.

--DE Elvis Dumervil has one sack in his last five games. The Broncos need a better pass rush from the front four over the last three weeks of the season, and Dumervil is just one of the linemen that could help.



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