McDaniels faces former team

Josh McDaniels will be able to test out his Patriot way of doing things against the authentic version this week.

McDaniels, New England's former offensive coordinator, brought some of the same core values he learned under Bill Belichick to Denver, and it's paying off. The Broncos are off to a surprising 4-0 start and lead the AFC West. They'll try to improve to 5-0 against the Patriots this week.

One thing that McDaniels brought with him from New England was the desire to build his team around tough players. He wanted players that weren't just tough physically, but mentally as well. That has been the formula for a great start.

"I'm not surprised with anything that's happened here," running back LaMont Jordan said. "We have a great core group of guys and I know this formula works. I played against it my first four years with the Jets, I played for Coach Belichick in this formula last year, so I know it works."

The Broncos' mettle was tested against Dallas in a thrilling Week 4 win. They fell behind 10-0 early against a team that had the top-ranked rushing offense in the NFL. But Denver's defense buckled down and held Dallas to only 38 yards rushing over the last three quarters, and the Broncos held the Cowboys out of the end zone.

Denver even bounced back from its one breakdown in the fourth quarter. Tony Romo completed a 53-yard pass to Sam Hurd on fourth down in the final minute. But with Dallas at the 2-yard line, cornerback Champ Bailey knocked away passes into the end zone to Hurd on third and fourth down to seal the win.

"I'm proud of our team," McDaniels said. "It's a 60-minute game against a really good football team."

The Broncos were well-prepared for the pressure situation. They outscored Dallas 10-0 in the fourth quarter and held on at the end. Denver credited McDaniels for putting them through all situations during practice, so they're not surprised by anything. And, their toughness has come through late in games.

"That's what good teams do," Bailey said. "When it's crunch time, you find a way."

LINEUP WATCH: Knowshon Moreno has gotten more carries than Correll Buckhalter in each game this year, but Moreno's workload could get a big spike starting this week. Buckhalter left the Dallas game with an ankle injury and didn't return. Although he was able to walk under his own power to the locker room for X-rays, he is no sure thing to play this week against New England. Moreno had a solid game against Dallas, with 65 yards rushing and a touchdown catch. He did lose a fumble and was stuffed twice in a key short-yardage situation, but the Broncos coaches have a lot of confidence in him. Moreno likely will split carries with LaMont Jordan and perhaps Peyton Hillis, but he will get a majority of the snaps at tailback if Buckhalter can't play.

BY THE NUMBERS: 26 -- The number of points allowed by the Broncos in their first four games. That is tied for the fifth-fewest points allowed through four games since 1970. Last year, the Broncos allowed 112 points in their last three games.

PLAYER NOTES

-- WR Brandon Marshall had an incredible 51-yard touchdown catch in the final two minutes to beat Dallas. He is getting more comfortable with the offense and looks to be back to his Pro Bowl form.

-- LB D.J. Williams is coming off a big game against Dallas. He tied for the team lead with nine tackles, had a sack, two passes broken up and a fumble recovery.

-- WR Eddie Royal still hasn't had a breakthrough game. He had his fourth quiet game in a row, with only two catches for 16 yards against Dallas. Royal has only 58 yards this season.

-- WR Kenny McKinley returned kickoffs for the Broncos, replacing Eddie Royal in that role. He averaged 24.5 yards per attempt and probably earned a chance to do it again next week.

-- G Ben Hamilton was inactive against Dallas because of a hamstring injury. Hamstring injuries can linger for a while, so the Broncos will be careful in bringing Hamilton back. Russ Hochstein started in his place.



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