Broncos Update Insider: Losing takes toll

Losing has taken its toll on the Denver Broncos in the past month. Coach Mike Shanahan has only had two four-game losing streaks as Denver's head coach. Read how the Broncos are coping with the streak and get all the latest personnel updates.

The Denver Broncos haven't been this down in a while.

Mike Shanahan has only had two four-game losing streaks as Denver's head coach, and the first one was at the start of the 1999 season, as the team got used to life without John Elway after two straight Super Bowls. The current four-game losing streak might be even tougher, because the Broncos had high hopes for the season, started 7-2, but are now in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Losing has taken its toll on the Broncos in the past month. Cornerback Darrent Williams said he doesn't know if the team has confidence to win the final three games, starting with Sunday's game at Arizona, and stay alive for a playoff berth.

"As a team you don't know, just because some people are ready to hang it up, you can tell," Williams said. "It's hard when it's losing. It makes everything hard. It makes coming to practice hard, it makes coaches harder on you. It makes everything harder when you're losing. A few guys are probably ready to hang it up, I don't know who, but I know I'm not."

Williams expanded on his comments a bit when asked if he could see that some players had hung it up for the season.

"You don't really see guys, but you can kind of feel, it's just a feel around some people, you can kind of feel that it's just one of those seasons," Williams said.

Williams' teammates disagreed with the comments. Many players said nobody has quit and they are all ready to turn the losing streak around and make a playoff push. "I know the veterans in this locker room never lose confidence," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "We got to make sure the younger guys are in the same boat. It's tough. It's a tough season and (expletive) like this happens."

Williams said he thought the team could rebound and win out, although it won't be easy.

"It can get hard right at this time," Williams said. "It's easy to just say 'I'm going to finish these three games and take an early vacation.'

"If we get 100 percent effort from everybody, we can easily win these games."

The Broncos have had a number of problems over the losing streak. The offense is learning to adjust to new quarterback Jay Cutler, who now has two career starts. Defensively, the Broncos haven't been as effective as they were early this season, when they were rarely letting teams in the end zone. And the special teams haven't helped all season.

Shanahan said a number of things have contributed to the losing streak.

"Anytime you lose four games in a row, there's always things you feel you could have done better," Shanahan said. "That's hopefully what improves your football team as a player and a coach, you look at the things you did poorly and the things you can correct. Would I share that with you? Absolutely not. But nice try."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos will make the playoffs if they win out and Kansas City loses at least one game. If Kansas City and Denver each win out, or Denver loses a game, the tiebreaker situations become much more complicated.

Cornerback Champ Bailey said he didn't care about the different scenarios.

"What's important is us getting our (expletive) together and beating Arizona, that's it," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "That's all we should be focused on. Everything else will play itself out."

--Cornerback Champ Bailey didn't buy the premise that the Broncos' defense is worn out late in the season. The Broncos' defense carried the offense most of the season and now is struggling a bit, especially in the second halves of games.

"If guys are worn out, get someone else in there," Bailey said. "I don't like that and I don't buy into that. And I better not ever hear anyone say they're tired. Get your (expletive) in shape. That's what the offseason is for."

--Broncos linebacker Al Wilson didn't have any problems after playing last week, one week after spraining his neck against Seattle. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he thinks Wilson will be fine going forward.

"I think there is always something in the back of your mind that tells you, 'Are you going to be fine on your first hit?'" Shanahan said. "I am sure that went through his mind during the game, and I am really proud of the way he made it through."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Teams the Broncos have never lost to in the regular season. Denver hasn't lost to Arizona, Carolina and Houston.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think obviously everybody is stunned. It would be a lie not to say you're stunned. That's history now. You've got to do something about the fact that you're stunned." -- Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer on the team's four-game losing streak.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL Part of the Broncos' decision to use 180-pound Domonique Foxworth at strong safety was to get the team's best players on the field. Foxworth was Denver's third cornerback but considered a starting-caliber player by the coaches. When Nick Ferguson and Sam Brandon both suffered season-ending injuries, the Broncos didn't have many options at safety. They tried converted cornerback Curome Cox, then decided to give Foxworth a shot.

Foxworth won't be a physical presence for the Broncos, but he is smart and can make plays. The Broncos trust Foxworth to handle many roles. In nickel defense situations, he moves back to the third cornerback spot and Cox comes in the game to play safety.

PLAYER NOTES --TE Stephen Alexander lined up briefly at fullback against San Diego. The Broncos are thin at fullback after a season-ending injury to Cecil Sapp, and Alexander's versatility helps the offense.

--S Hamza Abdullah had a couple of nice special-teams plays against San Diego, including a forced fumble. He is playing more because of other injuries, and is making an impact on special teams.

--TE Chad Mustard played a lot in the middle portion of the season, but has been inactive the past couple weeks. He suffered a shoulder injury, but is healthy now. The Broncos have elevated Tony Scheffler to an active spot because he is playing and practicing well.

--OT Erik Pears is learning on the job. He replaced Matt Lepsis at left tackle, a tough spot to be in. The Broncos have tried to help Pears with running backs and tight ends. Pears has struggled in some games, and allowed pressure a few times to Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman.

--LB Nate Webster was active last week. He doesn't play special teams, but the Broncos wanted to make sure he was available if Al Wilson had any problems. Wilson was playing one week after suffering a sprained neck.



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