Denver Broncos Team Report 12/5/07

For most of the past month, the Denver Broncos have been waiting for their tailback situation to stabilize.

For most of the past month, the Denver Broncos have been waiting for their tailback situation to stabilize.

That hasn't happened yet. For another week, the Broncos seemingly came out of one game with even more tailback questions.

Selvin Young, who was coming off a knee injury, has an upper arm injury. The Broncos said he had a bruised arm, but he missed all but a few plays of the second half.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan refused to specify what Young's injury was, saying he would wait until Wednesday to provide an update.

Andre Hall is still dealing with a high-ankle sprain and Travis Henry looked rusty in his first game back from a knee injury. The Broncos don't know who will be healthy to run the ball this week.

"Yeah, there's some concerns, but they're getting treatment," Shanahan said.

The good news is the team finally heard Tuesday that Henry won his appeal, overturning a pending one-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

In a statement, league spokesman Greg Aiello said the fact Henry had the support of coach Mike Shanahan after he passed a polygraph test did not factor into the decision.

"The defense of hair samples and lie detector tests was irrelevant and unconvincing," Aiello said in the statement. "But our substance abuse program is based on meeting the highest standards and respecting player rights in all phases of its administration."

--For the second straight week, the Broncos weren't pleased with an illegal-contact penalty that kept a crucial drive going. Against Chicago, cornerback Dre Bly was flagged on a fourth-down incompletion late in the fourth quarter, but claimed Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad ran into him.

On a third-down incompletion in the fourth quarter against Oakland, Raiders receiver Jerry Porter seemed to run right at cornerback Domonique Foxworth, but Foxworth got called.

"That's the NFL," Foxworth said. "They want points, they want passing yards, they want DBs to get the hell out of the way. My only fault on that play was I didn't get the hell out of the way."

--The Broncos have had their problems on defense for most of the year. Raiders defensive tackle Gerard Warren, who was traded from the Broncos to Oakland during the preseason, saw Denver first hand on Sunday. He said it seemed like Denver was still trying to grasp assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates' system.

"I know coach (Mike) Shanahan is trying to rebuild and kind of has a young team, new system," Warren said. "It's going to take a minute for the guys to get a grasp on it."

--LB Ian Gold left Sunday's game with a jammed neck, but he returned later in the game. He should be fine to play this week.

--LB Jamie Winborn got a chance to play on defense when Gold was temporarily out. Winborn is valuable because he can play both outside positions, and he has been solid on special teams.

--RB Cecil Sapp could be in line to take some carries at tailback. He has been playing fullback but the Broncos can move him to tailback because of injuries.

--CB Dre Bly was beaten for a 15-yard touchdown by Tim Dwight in Oakland. Bly has made some plays this season but he has also given up his share, which reflects his gambling style at cornerback.

--FB Paul Smith has recovered from a calf injury and could see some time on offense if the Broncos are short at tailback because of injuries. Smith has been mostly a special-teams player in Denver.


PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Jay Cutler took a step back against Oakland. He threw two bad interceptions in the second half that helped put the Broncos in a big hole. Cutler helped pull Denver back in the game by playing well for the latter part of the third quarter, but his fourth-quarter interception ended Denver's last good hope to pull off the win.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- Travis Henry had two touchdowns, but that was about the only positive sign for the running game. Henry had to play more than expected because of Selvin Young's arm injury. He showed his inactivity. He fumbled twice, although one was a botched handoff that Cutler deserves a part of the blame for, and never got going running the ball. Nobody on the Broncos had a run longer than nine yards. The reason that was so disappointing for the Broncos was the matchup -- Oakland's run defense was ranked last in the NFL.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Broncos didn't give up many yards, but the Raiders were efficient. Josh McCown replaced injured Daunte Culpepper and had three touchdowns and no interceptions. Rookie JaMarcus Russell also came in and had a few nice passes. Denver also couldn't get any pressure on McCown or Russell. The Broncos had no sacks.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- After making progress for a few weeks, the Broncos run defense struggled again. The performance was reminiscent of their early-season woes. Justin Fargas got yards in big chunks and had 146 overall. The Broncos didn't change much in their scheme against the Raiders, they just didn't execute well.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The Broncos could have used a boost from the special teams but didn't get much. Kickoff returner Andre Hall and punt returner Glenn Martinez were out, which didn't help. The coverage teams didn't give up any back-breaking gains, but Oakland had a few good returns to help in the field-position battle.

COACHING: D -- Denver seemed flat a week after losing to the Bears in stunning fashion. The Broncos didn't execute well in any phase, and only a myriad of Raiders mistakes kept them in the game as long as they were. Denver is still mathematically alive with four games to go, but its playoff chances do not look good.

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