Broncos Update Insider - 12/23

The Broncos were searching for answers after a shocking 20-19 loss to the Raiders on Sunday. Denver was a 14-point favorite and needed the win to clarify its playoff status. Now the Broncos are in a bind.

They need to win twice, including at Philadelphia this week, or drop back to a pack of AFC wild-card contenders and hope for the best.

One of the biggest issues the day after Sunday's upset was Denver's run defense. Although Oakland was starting rusty Charlie Frye at quarterback, the Raiders still rushed for 241 yards. They didn't do much to surprise the Broncos.

"You've got to know that's got to be part of their game plan, to make it easy on their quarterback," defensive end Vonnie Holliday said. "We didn't step up and answer the challenge."

Big plays were the problem. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels pointed out that 161 of the Raiders' rushing yards came on seven plays. Oakland was able to cut back plenty of runs into huge holes. Although the Broncos played pretty well against the run on most plays, the breakdowns cost them dearly.

"It wasn't all bad, but certainly on those plays was close to terrible," McDaniels said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos needed some good news on Monday, and coach Josh McDaniels delivered some. McDaniels said running back Correll Buckhalter and safety Renaldo Hill could return this week against Philadelphia. Both missed Sunday's game with ankle injuries.

"We're hopeful on both," McDaniels said.

--Plenty of people wondered why the Broncos called for a screen pass to left tackle Ryan Clady in the first quarter Sunday. Clady was tackled right away, and the catch was wiped out because of a penalty anyway. The play looked ugly, but McDaniels defended it.

"It was a gadget play," McDaniels said. "I wouldn't have called it if I didn't think it would work."

--The Broncos used undrafted rookie Tony Carter, signed off the practice squad Saturday, ahead of second-round pick Alphonso Smith. McDaniels said he thought Carter played well in his debut.

"I think he represented himself well," McDaniels said.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Peyton Hillis didn't play an offensive snap Sunday. With Correll Buckhalter possibly coming back and LaMont Jordan coming off a good game, Hillis might be the odd man out and go back to being inactive on Sunday.

--WR Kenny McKinley handled most of the return duties after Eddie Royal was knocked out of the game with a minor injury. McKinley, a rookie, hasn't played on offense but his quickness is intriguing for the future.

--TE Tony Scheffler caught a long pass on the final play of the game against Oakland. Before that he had one catch for nine yards, as he continues to be underutilized in the offense.

--DE Vonnie Holliday had a sack against the Raiders. Holliday has been a valuable part of Denver's defensive line all season and appears fresh after sitting out all of training camp.

--LB Mario Haggan had a huge play on a fourth and goal, stopping Darren McFadden from getting to the end zone on a pitchout. Haggan has been good against the run, playing an unglamorous role setting the edge to funnel plays to the inside linebackers.



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