Broncos Update Insider - 9/17

This wasn't the offense the Denver Broncos were looking for when they hired Josh McDaniels. Thankfully for the Broncos, they got a win despite the offense struggling, and there's still plenty of time to fix some issues.

The Broncos are 1-0 going into their Week 2 game against Cleveland, but that is mostly the byproduct of a great defensive effort against Cincinnati and a one-in-a-million play that resulted in an 87-yard touchdown for Brandon Stokley with 11 seconds remaining.

The offense didn't do much to contribute to that win before the fluky final play. They had miscommunications, untimely penalties, dropped passes and some bad throws, each of which set the offense back.

"We kind of took turns offensively being the reason why we couldn't get into a good rhythm," McDaniels said.

Before Stokley's catch, Denver had 215 yards and nine first downs. No other team in the NFL had fewer than 11 first downs in Week 1. The Broncos got two field goals from Matt Prater, which was their only scoring offense for the first 59 minutes.

The biggest issue for McDaniels was his team's play on first down. Half of the team's 20 first-down plays gained 2 yards or less. That meant the team found itself in too many long situations on second and third down.

"Starting the drive off, first down, we've got to get off to a good start," receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "Not going backwards, keep going forward."

Part of the problem was the team is still getting comfortable with a complicated offense. That led to some communication issues. There were also some key components - quarterback Kyle Orton, running back Knowshon Moreno, receivers Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Marshall - that missed all, most or some of the preseason because of injuries or other issues.

Orton has to take some of the blame as well. He had only 19 yards passing before Denver's final drive of the first half, and his numbers looked much better when an 87-yard touchdown was added. Although his injured right index finger was never used as an excuse, Orton should be sharper with another week to heal. He also hopes he will be able to play without a glove, which he wore on his right hand in the opener.

Orton was praised by McDaniels for handling certain situations well, such as the final drive of the first half that resulted in a field goal, but said there are things he can correct.

"There were some throws we'd like to have back and I'm sure he would have liked to have had back," McDaniels said.


--LB Spencer Larsen will be out a few weeks with a shoulder injury suffered in a peculiar way. Walking in the locker room before the team played Cincinnati, he slipped and fell. When he braced his fall, he injured his shoulder.

"Slick surface, slipped, hit the ground - that's it," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said.

--The Broncos' improbable victory against Cincinnati will keep Denver buzzing for a while. Receiver Brandon Stokley's incredible 87-yard touchdown will go down as one of the greatest plays in franchise history.

"You'll never see it again," Broncos safety Renaldo Hill said. "That one time, that was it."

"That's a one in a million play," receiver Jabar Gaffney said.

--Broncos safety Brian Dawkins got poked in the eye in Sunday's game. That wouldn't be too odd, except that Dawkins wears a visor on his helmet.

Without providing details of the play, Dawkins said a hand somehow got far enough under his facemask to poke him in the eye. His right eye was red, but he said he didn't have any problems seeing out of it.

"This is the first time this has happened," Dawkins said. "It is football. It is a physical sport. You kind of expect everything and you play through it."

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 - Consecutive wins in home openers for the Broncos, the fourth longest streak in the NFL since 1970.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Proud of the way our guys played and stayed with it for 60 minutes, but certainly didn't do everything we wanted to do the way we wanted to do it." - Broncos coach Josh McDaniels on the win against Cincinnati.


The Broncos will use different looks throughout the season on offense, and will mix things up on defense as well. Offensively, Josh McDaniels promised very few one-back sets this year. However, in the opener, Peyton Hillis played a lot at fullback.

Part of that was likely to get the talented Hillis on the field more, although he only had two touches. But it's a sign that the Broncos will change their look from week-to-week in McDaniels' scheme.


--RB LaMont Jordan's only extended playing time in the opener came early in the fourth quarter when the Broncos held a 6-0 lead. The team could look at the powerful Jordan as a bit of a "closer" late in the game when it leads.

--RB Peyton Hillis was one of Denver's best special-teams players in the opener. He lined up deep for the first kickoff return, and finished with a team-high three special-teams tackles.

--LB D.J. Williams had 10 tackles against the Bengals. Playing weak-side inside linebacker, he could be among the league leaders in tackles this season.

--G Russ Hochstein could get another start if Chris Kuper can't go. Kuper was limited in practice Wednesday and is still recovering from a high ankle sprain.

--T Ryan Clady didn't give up a sack against Cincinnati, although the Broncos gave up three. In 17 career starts, Clady has allowed only a half a sack.

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