Broncos Update Insider - 10/20

Eddie Royal didn't have a catch against San Diego, but for once nobody was asking why the Denver Broncos receiver was not involved in the offense.

Royal became the sixth player since 1970 and the first player in Broncos history to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game. His heroics led the Broncos to a 34-23 win against the Chargers, which improved their record to 6-0.

Royal was drafted to bring some life to Denver's special teams, although that has been mostly forgotten after his record-breaking rookie season as a receiver. The Broncos are using Royal on returns because he has the best ball security of any of Denver's candidates.

"He can make some big plays," coach Josh McDaniels said. "He made two huge ones for us (against the Chargers)."

Royal got a lot of help on his big plays, thanks to Denver's improved special teams. Each time he got up a head of steam and ran through the Chargers untouched, through some great blocking in front of him.

"Eddie definitely has the skills to take it to the house every time, but it's the guys up front blocking for him," cornerback Champ Bailey said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos needed to make a statement to the Chargers after losing five of six to their division rival, including four losses by at least 20 points. By beating the Chargers 34-23, the Broncos have a stranglehold on the AFC West. They lead by 3 1/2 games.

"We're a different team," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "They didn't know what to expect.

--A major challenge for the Broncos will be maintaining their hunger and focus despite a 6-0 start and huge lead in the AFC West. The fact that Denver blew a three-game lead with three to play last year might help. After beating San Diego, the Broncos were excited but realistic that they had a long season ahead of them after their Week 7 bye.

"It's as good as we can be right now," quarterback Kyle Orton said.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--S Brian Dawkins missed most of the first half against the Chargers with a hamstring injury, but he returned for the second half. That's a pretty good reason the Broncos allowed 20 points in the first half and only three after halftime.

--CB Jack Williams had a tough night against the Chargers, giving up a touchdown to Vincent Jackson before leaving with a shoulder injury. Williams was replaced as the nickel cornerback by rookie Alphonso Smith.

--LB Mario Haggan left Denver's game against San Diego briefly with a knee injury but returned. Haggan has turned into a valuable starter for a defense that is playing well.

--TE Tony Scheffler had a great game against San Diego with six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. He can't be counted on for consistent production because of Denver's offensive philosophy to spread it around, but he has the talent to have big games like that.

--RB Correll Buckhalter returned to the lineup after missing a game with an ankle injury but did not start. Still, Buckhalter had 10 carries to Knowshon Moreno's 18. A similar split should be the norm going forward.



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