The Broncos had a solid game against Pittsburgh, holding Steelers running back Willie Parker to less than 100 yards. In the four games before Pittsburgh, the Broncos allowed 200 rushing yards three times.
The Broncos did have a tough schedule to start the season. They faced Jacksonville, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, who all rank in the top six of the NFL in rushing offense. The Broncos have also already faced San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson.
The tough stretch of running offenses gets a bit easier this week when Denver plays Green Bay. The Packers are last in the NFL in rushing offense.
No matter the opponent, the Broncos were just happy to turn a corner with their rushing defense.
"We made some strides," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
Denver schemed to stop the run against Pittsburgh. The Broncos walked a safety up in the box on many plays, and usually someone came through unblocked to make a play. Parker had 1 yard or less on 11 of his 21 carries against Denver.
The Broncos did give up 290 passing yards to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but they will usually take their chances on a team's quarterback beating their secondary. Roethlisberger noted after the game how aggressive the Broncos were, often lining up an extra defender or two near the line of scrimmage. Denver used the bye week to tweak some things in its defensive approach.
"We had a couple weeks to kind of review a few things, put a few things in," Shanahan said.
The other part of the equation was simply playing better. The Broncos missed too many tackles and were out of position on many plays in the first five weeks. Led by middle linebacker D.J. Williams, who himself was adjusting to a new position, the Broncos weren't out of position too often.
"I think everyone was more sound, just held their responsibilities," Williams said. "It's nothing new that we haven't done. It's just if you have this gap, stay in that gap."
The Broncos hope they are on the right track defensively. The Packers, although they haven't run the ball much, will probably try to establish some ground game against Denver considering the Broncos might be making some strides but are still ranked last in run defense.
With 10 games to go, the Broncos know their ability to play the run will be a key to whether they are in the playoff race. "If you don't stop the run, I don't care what level you're at, you're going to have a hard time having success," Shanahan said.
SERIES HISTORY: 11th meeting. Broncos lead the regular-season series, 5-4-1. Denver is also coming up on the 10th anniversary of its biggest win, a 31-24 triumph over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII at the end of the 1997 season.
Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall has a lot of talent, but has also found trouble off the field. Marshall was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in downtown Denver only a few hours after the Broncos beat the Steelers last Sunday night. Marshall was issued a summons and released.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan spoke with Marshall and wanted him to learn from his latest incident.
"He's a grown man and he understands the severity of something like that," Shanahan said. "He's a role model and hopefully presented with the same situation for the rest of his life, he'll use better judgment."
It wasn't Shanahan's first long talk with Marshall, who leads the Broncos in receiving. Marshall was arrested in March on suspicion of domestic violence and false imprisonment. According to court records he had an argument with his girlfriend and then blocked the taxi she was in from leaving his apartment complex. The charges were later dropped.
Marshall didn't answer questions about his arrest on Monday but gave a short statement about it.
"Basically, I know the seriousness of it and it was a terrible mistake," Marshall said. "I have my lawyer on it now and hopefully everything gets situated soon and I can talk more about it then."
--Unless WR Rod Smith makes a very fast comeback from a hip injury, K Jason Elam will be the only Broncos player who played in Super Bowl XXXII against Green Bay who will also play on Monday against the Packers. Smith, who started in that Super Bowl, returned to practice for the first time all season this week. C Tom Nalen also started in the Super Bowl, but he is on injured reserve with a biceps injury.
"When I came in the league, I never thought I'd be going into my 15th year," Elam said about his longevity. "I was just hoping to play three or four years, maybe bounce around from team to team. I don't think you ever expect anything like this to happen."
--The Broncos haven't hosted Packers QB Brett Favre at Invesco Field at Mile High. Favre played in Denver once, but that was in 1999 at old Mile High Stadium.
Denver is one of three NFL cities in which Favre hasn't thrown a touchdown. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are the other two.
--WR Rod Smith's return to practice for the first time since last season was a welcome sight to the Broncos. Smith had hip surgery in February, and he has been on the physically unable to perform list. The Broncos were happy that one of their captains was back.
"He's one of our leaders," CB Dre Bly said. "He's been working tremendously hard to get back to this point where he can participate in practice, run routes and do what he's been doing his whole career."
BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Starting quarterbacks for the Denver Broncos since Brett Favre's consecutive-games streak began in 1992.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It seems like he's having fun, enjoying the game. He can still throw the heck out of the football." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan on Brett Favre.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
WR Rod Smith returned to practice on Oct. 24, starting a three-week window in which Smith can practice without being put on the active roster. The Broncos have until Nov. 14 to activate Smith or lose him for the season.
With WR Javon Walker out for perhaps another five weeks, the Broncos could use Smith. They will monitor him in practice before deciding when he might return.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--CB Domonique Foxworth will go back to the nickel cornerback position if Champ Bailey returns. But he has a lot of value in that spot, especially this week against a Green Bay team that likes to spread the field.
--TE Chad Mustard is behind Tony Scheffler on the depth chart. But Mustard isn't the same type of player as Scheffler, who has a lower leg injury. Scheffler can stretch the field with his speed, and Mustard is more of a blocker, so if Scheffler can't play, it would affect Denver's game plan.
--RB Selvin Young could get an extra workload, whether Travis Henry (ribs) plays or not. Even if Henry plays, he is still in pain and unlikely to be ready for a full workload. The Broncos have confidence in Young, who would add a big-play element at halfback.
--CB Dre Bly used to play Green Bay twice a year as a member of the Lions, and he has five interceptions off Brett Favre, his most against any quarterback.
--WR Brian Clark saw some action on offense with Javon Walker out last week. Clark showed some big-play ability in the preseason, and the Broncos are hoping he develops into a consistent playmaker.
--RB Andre Hall would likely see a lot of action on offense if
Travis Henry is limited or doesn't play because of bruised ribs. Hall might
get his chance later in the season, too, if Henry's appeal of a
one-year suspension by the NFL is unsuccessful.
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