Broncos Gain Respect

In the offseason, the Denver Broncos were mostly an afterthought. After two weeks, however, the perception of the Broncos has changed.

In the offseason, the Denver Broncos were mostly an afterthought. Expectations were low after a 7-9 season in 2007 and a quiet offseason. The Chargers were the consensus favorite in the AFC West.

After two weeks, the perception of the Broncos has changed. A season-opening 41-14 win was met with some skepticism, because the Raiders played so poorly. But after a 39-38 victory over San Diego in Week 2, the Broncos have to be taken seriously.

"It's huge for us," quarterback Jay Cutler said.

The Broncos offense is on a torrid pace after two games. They have gained 927 yards in two games and scored 80 points. Cutler has been especially sharp, passing for 650 yards in two games. Even when he made mistakes against San Diego, he bounced back.

Cutler threw an interception in the fourth quarter against San Diego with Denver nursing a one-point lead.

"It was a key interception and it made me sick," Cutler said.

San Diego scored right after the interception to take a 38-31 lead with a little more than four minutes left, but Cutler was undaunted.

"Jay came in the huddle and said 'We got a long drive, but when we score we're going to go for two,'" receiver Brandon Marshall said.

Cutler drove 79 yards to San Diego's 1-yard line, then got a fortuitous call. He lost the ball as he wound up to throw but officials blew the whistle and called an incomplete pass. After looking at the replay, officials judged it was a fumble, but couldn't give San Diego possession because the whistle blew.

Given a second chance, Cutler completed a fourth-down touchdown to Eddie Royal with 24 seconds left, then Broncos coach Mike Shanahan made a call that showed the confidence he has in his team and his young quarterback, going for the two-point conversion.

"You get a gut (feeling) sometimes, you go with your gut," Shanahan said.

Cutler hit Royal again for the game-winning score on the two-point conversion.

"We didn't want to go into overtime and I like the call," Cutler said.

The Broncos' next two games are a home game against New Orleans and a road game at Kansas City, so a 4-0 September is not out of the question.

The win against San Diego was huge for the Broncos' psyche. They had been pounded by the Chargers in the last two meetings, losing by a combined 64-6 score last year. They were swept in 2006 as well, the final loss coming by 28 points.

Now the Broncos have a two-game lead over the Chargers in the AFC West with a head-to-head win, which could be very important later in the year. The next time Denver plays San Diego is Dec. 28, which is the last game of the regular season.

"Now they have to think about this loss until the last game of the season," Marshall said.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Brandon Marshall caught 18 passes in his return from suspension, which is tied for the second most in NFL history for one game. Marshall leads the NFL in catches despite playing only one game.

--DE Jarvis Moss was inactive for a second straight week and might not be in Denver's plans soon. Moss is a one-dimensional pass rusher who hasn't shown much to get on the field.

--WR Darrell Jackson was inactive with a calf injury he sustained late in the week. If the Broncos continue to spread the field, Jackson will see some time when he is healthy.

--TE Tony Scheffler re-emerged on Sunday with six catches and a pair of touchdowns. He had been behind Nate Jackson since the start of camp but should get a majority of the playing time as the second tight end going forward.

--S Hamza Abdullah was a healthy scratch for the Broncos. Calvin Lowry, acquired a week before the season started, was active and played safety in passing situations.



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