The team righted the ship with two consecutive wins, but now there might be more panic in Colorado. The Broncos are coming off a tough 37-34 overtime loss at Chicago in which they blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead, and three touchdowns can be blamed almost entirely on special teams.
With the Raiders coming up this week and the Broncos reeling, coach Mike Shanahan said he would be pointing out some of the things the Broncos did well against the Bears.
"You better take a positive angle," Shanahan said. "You look at the positive and the negative. You don't lose and just say, 'Hey, everything was horrible.'"
However, even Shanahan admitted that he thought the Broncos -- who only trail San Diego by one game in the AFC West and have a date against the Chargers on Dec. 24 -- are in a position where they had to win out to make the playoffs.
"I would say so," Shanahan said.
But first, start with the positives. Despite the miserable outcome, the Broncos played one of their best games of the season. The defense held Chicago to fewer than 200 yards in the first 57 minutes of the game and flustered Bears quarterback Rex Grossman.
The offense also played well. Denver had more than 400 yards for the first time since the second game of the season, and the stats weren't padded in overtime because the Broncos never touched the ball.
Had the Broncos special teams been decent, Denver probably would have won its third straight and done so easily. Instead, Devin Hester returned two kicks for touchdowns, and a blocked punt set up an 18-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
"We could have overcome those two touchdowns," Shanahan said. "The thing that really hurt us was the blocked punt."
Denver has already defeated Oakland once this season, but it needed a controversial play in overtime to win. Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski hit a field goal but Shanahan called timeout a moment before the snap. Janikowski missed the second try, Denver drove for the winning score, and many coaches since have copied Shanahan's strategy.
That win, which happened in Week 2, seems like a distant memory after six losses in nine games. The Broncos have overcome tough losses already this season, bouncing back from a poor first half to get into a first-place tie with San Diego at 5-5 a week ago. With five games left in the season and a legitimate hope of beating the Chargers for the division title, the Broncos say they won't go in the tank after the tough loss to Chicago.
"Never lose your confidence," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "We have to believe in ourselves. We have great leaders in this locker room, and we know what it takes to win. We just have to go win these games."
--The Broncos, like everyone else in the NFL, were saddened to hear of Washington S Sean Taylor's death. But Denver had a unique perspective on the tragedy. On Jan. 1, Broncos CB Darrent Williams was shot and killed.
"In our locker room, it might have hit a little harder," WR Brandon Marshall said. "But it hit everywhere in the NFL."
--In the wake of Taylor's death, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen spoke with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, to share his experience with Williams' death and offer his assistance.
"It's something you never want to see happen, but at least you can be there to help them," Bowlen said.
--Denver had three former players listed among the 26 Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists. RB Terrell Davis, OT Gary Zimmerman and LB Randy Gradishar were all nominated. The Broncos' only Hall of Famer is QB John Elway.
--The Broncos decided to kick to Bears KR/PR Devin Hester, but not right to him. Special teams coach Scott O'Brien said the punt and kickoff Hester returned for a touchdown were kicked too far to the middle of the field.
"The decision was to kick one way or another, away from him," O'Brien said. "It doesn't always work that way. It's not like we're trying to give it right to him."
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Times in the series history between Oakland and Denver that the Broncos have swept the season series. Denver won the first meeting this year.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They are a much improved football team and we know what we need to get done." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, on the Raiders.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos reversed a move they made last week, releasing FB Kyle Johnson and signing G Isaac Snell. Johnson was signed last Thursday because the Broncos had injuries in the backfield.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--WR Javon Walker should get more playing time this week. He could help the Broncos' vertical passing game, which has been missing for most of the season without Walker, who has been dealing with a knee injury.
--WR Glenn Martinez will have a reduced role on offense as long as the Broncos' top three receivers are healthy. But Martinez has made some big plays on special teams and could get a long look for next season as a third receiver.
--S John Lynch seems to be fully recovered. He missed some time with a stinger, but his playing time increased last Sunday.
--RB Cecil Sapp will have to be ready for fullback or tailback duties this week. With so many injuries at tailback that could be game-time decisions, Sapp could play either position on Sunday.
--DT Marcus Thomas had a great start but hasn't had much impact
lately. It's possible Thomas is worn down a bit. He didn't play much last
season, his final one at the University of Florida, because of a
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