Then the Broncos found out that linebacker Boss Bailey and backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey will miss the rest of the season with injuries, and cornerback Champ Bailey is out at least a month with a groin injury.
Boss Bailey needs microfracture surgery on his knee, although he said he should return full strength before training camp next year. Ramsey has an elbow injury. He doesn't anticipate needing surgery, but admitted there is a small chance of it.
That wasn't the news the Broncos were hoping for heading into the second half of the season.
"You're hoping you don't have injuries, but sometimes you do," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Some younger players get some opportunities, or some veteran players get some opportunities."
The injury to Champ Bailey is a major one for the defense. The pass defense was struggling with Bailey, who was rarely being thrown at. His value was evident against New England. He held Randy Moss to one catch for nine yards before he was injured. Moss caught two touchdowns after Bailey left the game.
Bailey will miss four-to-six weeks. Karl Paymah is his replacement. Paymah began the season as the nickel cornerback but was benched after three games for rookie Jack Williams. The Broncos will leave Williams in the nickel role for now.
"It's going to be a tremendous loss. Champ is obviously the best player on the defense, but it's an opportunity for me," Paymah said. "I'm definitely ready to do what I can to keep the ball moving forward."
Boss Bailey will likely be replaced by Jamie Winborn, but losing Bailey could affect Denver's ability to run its 3-4 defense. The Broncos used 3-4 most of the time against the patriots.
Ramsey will be replaced on the roster by Darrell Hackney, who will be promoted from the practice squad.
The Broncos were already a team in a downward spiral after the embarrassing loss at New England, and that was before they found out about the severity of the injuries incurred in the game.
"The bye is going to play a big part, as far as mentally," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "I think we need some time to get away and decide what kind of team we want to be. We can be good, and we can be sorry, as we saw (Monday night)."
--The Broncos had only one practice on their bye week, a quick Wednesday workout before the team was excused. Denver played on Monday night at New England before its bye week.
--Broncos coach Mike Shanahan didn't say whether the team would look into adding a veteran backup quarterback with Patrick Ramsey out for the rest of the season because of an elbow injury. He did show confidence in Darrell Hackney, who will likely be promoted from the practice squad.
"Hackney will come up and get the job done," Shanahan said.
Hackney has been with the Broncos since last year. He spent most of the last two months on the active roster last season after being promoted from the practice squad.
Running back Michael Pittman suffered a stinger and badly bruised ribs against New England, but stayed in the game and said he would be ready after the bye.
"I'll be ready for the game against Miami," Pittman said, referring to Denver's Nov. 2 game against the Dolphins.
Rookie Ryan Torain could be ready to make his NFL debut after the bye, which could take some pressure off Pittman. Selvin Young, who has missed two games with a groin injury, might also return after the bye.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Interceptions for the Broncos this season. One was by cornerback Champ Bailey, who will miss the next four-to-six weeks with a groin injury.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Fortunately we have a bye week, so we have time to work out some kinks." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, on the team's injury situation.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos had to make some changes after a difficult start to the season on defense, and safety Marlon McCree was benched before Denver's Week 7 game against New England. McCree was coming off a game against Jacksonville in which he didn't make plays on two long touchdowns by the Jaguars.
Calvin Lowry was inserted in the starting lineup. Lowry had been a starter with the Titans, but struggled in his first start with the Broncos against the Patriots.
--OT Erik Pears was put on the reserve/non-football injury list after having an appendectomy. Pears, a starter at right tackle, was inactive all season.
--DT Steven Harris was released off the Broncos' practice squad. --LB Wesley Woodyard, a rookie who played well in the preseason, could see some playing time in Denver's 3-4 defensive package. The Broncos say they haven't switched to the 3-4 exclusively but used it a lot against New England. A spot opened up because of Boss Bailey's injury.
--LB Louis Green entered the lineup when the Broncos used a 3-4 look against New England after Boss Bailey suffered a knee injury against New England. Green has mostly been a special-teams player in his career.
--WR Brandon Stokley said he feels better after missing Denver's game against New England with a concussion. He could return after the bye.
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