Broncos Update Insider - 11/13/09

The Broncos were pretty even keeled during their six-game winning streak, and they'll need that same attitude after an ugly two-game losing streak.

Denver has lost back-to-back games to Baltimore and Pittsburgh by a combined 58-17 score. The Broncos get to play reeling Washington this week, but they have plenty of issues that need to be fixed to get back to playing at the level that earned them a 6-0 start.

Denver has struggled mightily on offense for two straight weeks and opponents are finding some holes in the defense.

"We're disappointed with the two losses but we're not down," receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "We're still in first place, have a chance to do some good things. There's a long season to go. We all know that, we're not going to panic; we're going to keep playing. Just try to get it fixed."

The good news for the Broncos is it appears they haven't been too shaken up by two losses. Although some critics have started to wonder if the Broncos' start was a mirage - despite wins against Cincinnati, New England, Dallas and San Diego - the Broncos are resolute that they are still a good team.

"We know what we have in this room," defensive end Kenny Peterson. "We're not going to panic. We'll be fine."

The most glaring issue is the offense. After being fairly effective the first six weeks, nothing has worked lately. The Broncos don't have 100 rushing yards in the last two games combined. Against the Steelers, Denver didn't have a gain longer than 7 yards.

That has put a lot of pressure on Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who finally seemed to press a little bit against Pittsburgh. After throwing one interception over the first seven weeks of the season, Orton had three against the Steelers. Because the Broncos have rarely thrown deep downfield, teams are playing safeties up and slowing down the short passing game.

When the offense can't sustain drives, it has kept the defense on the field too long and that has worn on that unit in the second halves of each of the past two games. The Steelers had 321 yards after halftime, including 130 rushing yards by Rashard Mendenhall.

Being on the field too long can't be the only problem for the Broncos' defense, however. They've given up some long passes after giving up virtually none the first six weeks of the season. And the run defense, which started so well, has been gashed a bit the past two weeks.

After such a good start, there hasn't been too much to be positive about the past two weeks.

"They played much better than we did for 60 minutes," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said after the Steelers loss.


--Teams could continue to use no-huddle looks against the Broncos' defense. Denver likes to substitute often, especially in the front seven, depending on the situation. A no-huddle attack limits the Broncos' ability to do that.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh each had some success with no-huddle. If other teams follow suit, the Broncos will have to figure out how to adjust without their typical substitution patterns.

"Just the fact that if that is something that teams are going to do, we just have to prepare for it and stop it," safety Brian Dawkins said. "It's kind of point blank, to tell you the truth."

--Quarterback Kyle Orton quit shaving when the season started, but cut off his beard after the Broncos' second straight loss.

"Lost two games in a row; might as well change it up," Orton said.

--The Redskins are 2-6, with their two wins coming against St. Louis and Tampa Bay, but the Broncos don't want to judge them on the record. The Broncos had problems going to the East coast two weeks ago for a game against the Ravens, and don't want to get trapped again.

"It's a team that if you take them lightly, you can go down there and get your tail beat," running back Correll Buckhalter said. "We'll prepare through the week to go there and have a good game."

BY THE NUMBERS: 28.4 -- Percent of the team's starts made by players signed during the first week of free agency. The Broncos signed 12 unrestricted free agents from other teams in the first week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've moved on from Pittsburgh." -- Quarterback Kyle Orton, referring to Denver's last game, a loss to the Steelers.


The Broncos appear to be ready to make a change at left guard. In the open portion of Wednesday's practice, Russ Hochstein took repetitions with the first team. Ben Hamilton worked with the second team. The Broncos didn't announce a move and the depth chart still lists Hamilton as the starter.

The Broncos have been struggling on offense the past two weeks. Hamilton is the longest tenured Broncos player. He has been with the team since 2001 - no other player has been with the Broncos since before 2004. Hamilton has started all 103 games he has played in his NFL career.


--S David Bruton, who was dealing with a hamstring injury, was inactive last week. The Broncos' special teams were thin, between Bruton's injury, Peyton Hillis' deactivation and Jack Williams' release. The Broncos special teams will be helped if Bruton can return.

--TE Tony Scheffler had 3 yards on one catch against Pittsburgh. Despite a 101-yard day against San Diego two games ago, that hasn't meant more looks for Scheffler in the passing game.

--WR Kenny McKinley returned two kickoffs for the Broncos against the Steelers, and Eddie Royal returned only one. The Broncos won't wear out Royal with special teams work, even though he is their best return option.

--LB Spencer Larsen had two more special teams tackles against Pittsburgh, giving him four in two games. Despite missing six games with a shoulder injury, Larsen's four special teams tackles are tied for seventh on the team.

--G Russ Hochstein was brought to Denver for his versatility. He can play both guard spots, center, and even tackle in a pinch. He appears set to take over as the Broncos' starting left guard in place of struggling Ben Hamilton. Hochstein started one game at left guard earlier this season when Hamilton was out with a hamstring injury.

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