Broncos Look to Rebound - Again

The Denver Broncos have already bounced back from a few devastating and disappointing losses this season. Rebounding from Sunday's loss to Chicago might be their toughest challenge yet.

Denver had a 14-point lead midway through the fourth quarter but somehow lost to the Bears in overtime. The players were dazed after the game.

"This was our statement game," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We came out, we dominated and we did what we wanted to do. And we still lost. It makes no sense."

Denver is now 5-6, a game behind San Diego in the AFC West standings heading into a showdown against Oakland on Sunday. The loss to the Bears will probably linger for a while.

The worst part of the loss was that the offense and defense played well enough to win. The special teams were a major letdown. Devin Hester returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the third quarter, accounting for 14 of Chicago's first 20 points in a game the Broncos otherwise played well in.

"It shouldn't have been 14 (point lead), it should have been a 30-6 game," Lynch said. "That's what Devin Hester does for you. I don't think the league's seen anything like this guy."

Denver still led 34-20 with just under 7:30 remaining. The offense had more than 400 yards against the Bears, with Jay Cutler passing for more than 300 yards for the second time in his career, and fill-in tailback Andre Hall gaining more than 150 total yards. The game started turning on another special teams gaffe when the Bears blocked a punt. Chicago turned that into a touchdown. Denver punted and the Bears, who had gained less than 200 yards, had the ball 65 yards away with 2:57 remaining.

Denver couldn't hold. A fourth-down penalty on Dre Bly kept a drive alive. A fourth-down touchdown catch by Bears receiver Bernard Berrian against Champ Bailey tied the game with 28 seconds remaining.

The Broncos defense then let down in overtime, giving up a 39-yard catch to tight end Desmond Clark to start the extra period. A few plays later Chicago handed Denver a crushing defeat.

"There's no way," Broncos defensive tackle Alvin McKinley said. "If you told me we were going to lose that game, I wouldn't have believed you."

The Broncos still do control their own destiny. If they win out, they would beat the Chargers on a tiebreaker. They play at San Diego on Dec. 24. But the Broncos face a battle to get over their latest loss.

The Broncos' schedule the rest of the season isn't that difficult -- San Diego is the only winning team among their final five opponents with a winning record. But Denver has already lost two winnable games in overtime, against Chicago and at home against Green Bay.

The Broncos coaching staff will have to once again reach in their bag of tricks to get the team to focus on the future instead of wins that eluded them. It won't be easy.

"That's a game you have to win, when you're up like that," Lynch said. "You have to put that one away."

PLAYER NOTES
--RB Andre Hall sprained his ankle on the first play of the game. He stayed in, and to his credit he had 26 carries, but eventually came out of the game in the fourth quarter. He said he should be fine with some rest.

--RB Selvin Young was inactive against Chicago. He has a knee injury, but did practice late last week and could return against Oakland.

--RB Travis Henry should hear this week about his appeal to the NFL over a one-year suspension. Henry missed his third straight game with a knee injury.

--TE Tony Scheffler had five catches for 82 yards against the Bears, and had a circus catch for a 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Scheffler has been a big part of Denver's passing offense since coming back from a foot injury.

--CB Karl Paymah had his second interception in three games. Paymah has been playing a lot in dime and nickel packages and is playing the best of his career.



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