Defiant defenders sport different look

For one week, the Denver Broncos could exhale a bit. The worry in Denver over a bad loss at Kansas City subsided after a 16-13 win against Tampa Bay.

The Broncos face another tough test this week against Jacksonville, but the signs were good that they are back on the right track.

The defense, which had been ridiculed after allowing 30 points three games in a row, didn't allow a touchdown until 2:02 remained. The special teams haven't been consistent either but kicker Matt Prater had a great day, hitting all three field goals and four of five kickoffs were touchbacks.

The offense didn't play too well against Tampa Bay, but that was because the Broncos wanted to play it safe against the Buccaneers' zone defense. All things considered, there were plenty of positives for the rest of the season.

"It was a big win," defensive tackle Marcus Thomas said. "Now we're going back in the same direction we were before we played Kansas City."

The performance by the defense was the most encouraging part of the Week 5 win. Liberally mixing in 3-4 formations with the typical 4-3 looks and surprising the Buccaneers with a predominantly zone defense, Denver kept the Buccaneers off balance.

Denver got after the quarterback, something it hadn't been happening during the first four games of the season. The Broncos knocked Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese out of the game after cornerback Champ Bailey hit him on the elbow.

The Broncos were confident when the defense was struggling. They defiantly said that they were better than the results had indicated and once some mistakes were fixed, they would perform better. They looked a lot different against Tampa Bay than they had in the first four games.

"One thing that was said before the game started, we have a lot of talent on the defense and we haven't been playing the way we should be," safety Marquand Manuel said. "If we go out and play every series one play at a time and play hard the whole game, let's see where we fall."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Good teams find a way to win these games." -- Broncos WR Brandon Stokley, after a 16-13 win against the Buccaneers.

LINEUP WATCH: Eddie Royal left Sunday's game in the third quarter with a sprained ankle injury. If Royal misses any time, the Broncos face a decision. They didn't want to overwork Brandon Stokley because they didn't want him wearing down, but Stokley might be their best option. Darrell Jackson would have been the first choice, but he missed his fourth straight game with a calf injury. Jackson did practice in the week leading up to the Tampa Bay game, so he has a chance to play a significant role against Jacksonville.

If the Broncos do decide to go to Stokley, he is a reliable option. He caught five of his six passes after Royal got hurt early in the third quarter against Tampa Bay and caught Denver's only touchdown. He has 13 catches the last two weeks.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--DE Tim Crowder was inactive against the Buccaneers. A second-round pick in 2007, Crowder has been slow to develop. Fellow 2007 draftee Jarvis Moss, a first-round pick, was also inactive.

--WR Darrell Jackson could find himself with a big role if he can return from a calf injury next week because Eddie Royal has a sprained ankle. In his first game with the Broncos, Jackson caught a long touchdown. Any receiver getting a lot of snaps in Denver's pass-heavy offense can put up good numbers.

--TE Tony Scheffler suffered a groin injury against Tampa Bay. He said his groin was sore most of the game and he injured it on his last catch. He was walking with crutches after the game and could miss some time.

--TE Nate Jackson would get a lot more playing time if Tony Scheffler misses any games with a groin injury. Jackson is similar to Scheffler. He is a converted receiver who can get downfield and create mismatches.

--DE Elvis Dumervil had his first sack of the season against Tampa Bay and had other pressures. He is getting healthy after dealing with a broken pinkie the first few games of the year, and should bounce back from a slow start to post good numbers this season.



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