Broncos Update Insider - 11/9

With a win at Kansas City on Sunday, the Denver Broncos might be leading the AFC West despite their recent struggles.

As crazy as it may sound after a 44-7 loss at Detroit that dropped the Broncos to 3-5 on the season, they are not out of the AFC West race.

On the contrary, with a win at Kansas City, they might be leading it. The Chargers and Chiefs lead the division with 4-4 records. San Diego plays Indianapolis on Sunday.

The Broncos are surprised at how poor the division is this season but grateful their season isn't over yet.

"It went from the best division in the AFC to the worst this year," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "It's a good thing for us it's like that."

The Broncos' proximity to the top of the division standings is one reason coach Mike Shanahan has said his team is not rebuilding. He said after Sunday's loss to Detroit, a 37-point pummeling that wasn't even Denver's worst loss of the year (the Broncos lost by 38 to the Chargers on Oct. 7) that he wasn't playing for next year. Moreover, he said he would never play for next year.

He scoffed when the term "rebuilding" was brought up to him later.

"If you ever say that you're rebuilding, I think that you're trying to give yourself an excuse for not having the success right now," Shanahan said. "That's my definition of people using the term rebuilding."

The Broncos are playing a lot of young players, many because of injuries on the roster. That hasn't helped the team, but Shanahan refused to place the blame on that.

"We've got some young players, but that doesn't mean that you have to rebuild with young players," Shanahan said. "There's a standard here and there's a standard everywhere else in National Football League. We've got some new people playing different positions, but that surely doesn't mean that we're rebuilding."

If the Broncos are to get back in the AFC West race, they'll need a healthy Jay Cutler. The quarterback was injured against Detroit and was nursing a badly bruised left leg early in the week.

Cutler practiced Wednesday, and Shanahan said he should be ready to play this week. That's good news for a Broncos team that hasn't had much of it. The Broncos have only had one losing season in Shanahan's 13 years as head coach. Denver had hopes of winning the AFC West this season, and perhaps some success beyond that in the playoffs, but massive turnover on the roster has hindered the team.

Cutler said everyone in the organization has the urgency to turn it around.

"Mr. (Pat) Bowlen's not used to it," Cutler said, referring to the Broncos owner. "Coach Shanahan, I mean, it's never happened to him before in his career. So, everyone's a little embarrassed, everyone's a little bit in a state of panic. But we've got a lot of football left."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Home teams have dominated the series between the Chiefs and Broncos. The home team has won the last nine games in the series, including a home-and-home split last year. The nine straight wins by the home team in the series is the longest in Broncos history against one opponent.

Denver has never played well at Arrowhead Stadium, even when it had the better team. The Broncos won in overtime in 2002 at Kansas City, and in 1998 when they won their second of two Super Bowl titles. Those are the only regular-season wins for the Broncos at Kansas City under Mike Shanahan, who has been Denver's coach since 1995.

--QB Jay Cutler never missed a start in college at Vanderbilt, where he started all four years. He is coming off a bruised lower left leg that knocked him out of a game against Detroit. He said he took a lot of pride in playing through injuries.

"I take a lot in it, especially being a quarterback and one of the leaders on this team, being out there week in and week out," Cutler said. "Obviously injuries are going to happen, but if it's not something major, I want to be out there."

--One concern for Shanahan after Denver's 44-7 loss to Detroit was the team's 12 penalties for 84 yards.

"We led the league last year with the fewest penalties, so I'd say that's a little bit unusual," Shanahan said. "Crowd noise did have something to do with it, but we've practiced with crowd noise. It's something we'll definitely work on."

Shanahan was also concerned about the Broncos' four turnovers. Denver can't afford similar mistakes at Kansas City this week.

BY THE NUMBERS: 19 of 34 -- Broncos-Chiefs games that have been decided by seven points or fewer since 1990.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously it's tough. It's not over with yet." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan on the current state of the team.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos shook up the bottom of their roster, adding three defensive ends and receiver Taylor Jacobs. They purged three players and put defensive end Jarvis Moss (fractured fibula) on injured reserve.

DT Amon Gordon was the biggest name among the cuts, only because he began the season as a starter. He started four games and was inactive for four others, and he didn't become a factor for the Broncos' defense.

The other cuts were safety Curome Cox, a backup and special teams player, and receiver Brian Clark, who was expendable because Glenn Martinez has had a good year returning kicks and punts.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--DE Larry Birdine was signed off of Tennessee's practice squad. He is a rookie from Oklahoma who is a stout 265 pounds and could help the Broncos this season. He also had 14.5 career sacks in college.

--DE Paul Carrington is in his second year and was out of football since the Falcons released him before the season. The Broncos picked him up, hoping the tall Carrington can contribute on the line.

--DE Josh Mallard was picked up by the Broncos after Atlanta released him on Aug. 13. He had four sacks in limited duty last season, so the Broncos hope he can help rush the quarterback.

--WR Taylor Jacobs, who was signed by the Broncos this week, could help Denver on special teams as a returner. Jacobs is in his fifth season and has 37 career receptions. It will be a challenge for him to learn the offense quickly enough to contribute as a receiver.

--DE Simeon Rice has been a disappointment for the Broncos, which is one reason the team signed three defensive ends this week. Rice does not have a sack in the first half of the season.



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