Broncos Update Insider - 10/17

There is no panic and very little concern among the Denver Broncos about their drop in offensive production.

After scoring almost 40 points per game over the first three games of the season, Denver hasn't passed 20 points for three games in a row heading into Monday night's game against New England. Against Jacksonville, Denver scored on the opening drive and only scored 10 more points the rest of the game.

To the Broncos, small things have added up. Red zone failures, untimely turnovers and a dip in third-down efficiency have been reasons for the lack of points.

"Between being good and great, it's a few things here and there," receiver Brandon Stokley said.

Quarterback Jay Cutler has been gotten some criticism for locking in on receiver Brandon Marshall too much, but against the Jaguars he didn't have much choice. Receiver Eddie Royal and tight end Tony Scheffler were inactive and receiver Brandon Stokley left the game in the second quarter with a concussion. That left Cutler without three of his four receivers who have more than 100 yards this season.

Without some help, the Broncos could continue to play beneath their capabilities. Royal is the best bet to return this week from his ankle injury. Stokley is unsure if he'll be well enough to play against the Patriots and Scheffler is still nursing a groin injury.

Not having those three players against the Jaguars hurt Denver's depth and explosiveness.

"We'll heal up, hopefully," Cutler said.

The Jaguars game was a microcosm of what has been wrong with Denver's offense the past few weeks. There were two key fumbles. Cutler fumbled right after Denver recovered a Jaguars fumble, which ruined the Broncos' momentum. Marshall later fumbled at Jacksonville's seven-yard line, which took some sure points off the board.

The Broncos also failed to convert a fourth-and-one near the end of the first half when Michael Pittman was stopped for no gain. All of the breakdowns made it tough on the Broncos offense.

"You fumble the ball on the 5-or-6-yard line, you fumble the ball on the 50-yard line, you have a fourth-and-one that you don't make and there are a number of different scenarios you can go through," Shanahan said.


--Broncos coach Mike Shanahan defended cornerback Dre Bly, who gave up a few receptions against Jacksonville. Teams are ignoring Champ Bailey's side of the field for the most part and trying to work on Bly.

"I thought Dre made a couple of plays in that game," Shanahan said, talking about last Sunday's game against Jacksonville. "He made a couple of good plays and they make some plays themselves. They were very smart not to throw at Champ."

The Broncos secondary has been struggling as a whole. Denver is allowing its opponents to complete 72.7 percent of passes this season.

--Broncos running back Michael Pittman is defying age. The 33-year-old looked quick and ran hard against Jacksonville, and will likely remain as Denver's lead back. Among the top 40 rushers in the NFL, only Tampa Bay's Warrick Dunn is older than Pittman.

"I always knew I could still run the ball," Pittman said. "I showed a lot (Sunday), I believe, I still showed the burst, the speed at 33 years old and I blocked hard."

--Rookie running back Ryan Torain returned to practice on Wednesday. He hopes to play after the bye week but will do so with a brace on his elbow. Torain had been out since early August with the elbow injury.

"I don't want to wear it in a game but it's protection," Torain said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2-9 -- New England coach Bill Belichick's career record against the Broncos.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He is the best in the business and he has proved it over last how many years." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, on Patriots coach Bill Belichick.


By giving Michael Pittman a bigger role and presumably keeping him at the starting tailback position, the Broncos are making more of a commitment to a power running game.

Denver's top two tailbacks to begin the season, Selvin Young and Andre Hall, aren't classic between-the-tackles backs like Pittman. Pittman has run hard all season and did so again when he was given 20 carries against Jacksonville. When the weather turns cold in the second half of the season the Broncos will need to be able to grind down teams with their usually strong running game.


--DE Tim Crowder got a lot of playing time against Jacksonville after being inactive the week before. He didn't make a tackle, but the fact that the 2007 second-round pick was back on the field could be a sign he's ready to become a regular part of the defensive line rotation.

--LB Niko Koutouvides led the Broncos with two special-teams tackles against Jacksonville. Koutouvides couldn't beat out Nate Webster for the starting middle linebacker job, but he has a lot of value on kick coverage for Denver.

--TE Chad Mustard is on the roster because he is reliable, especially as a blocker. Mustard can come in cold off the street and be put right in the offense, as he was last week. He was signed because of the injury to Tony Scheffler.

--OT Ryan Harris has settled in at right tackle. He came to Denver as a natural left tackle but that spot will be held by Ryan Clady for a long time. Harris is a good athlete and should also hold his position for a long time.

--FB Spencer Larsen is a hard hitter, which is why he has taken over as the team's starting fullback. He does provide less versatility than Peyton Hillis, who he replaced. Hillis was a fantastic receiver in college at Arkansas, and the Broncos haven't used Larsen much except to block.

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