No Miracles In Mile High This Week

Even Tim Tebow's magic wasn't enough to help the Broncos come back from a huge deficit the Patriots held throughout the second half. New England kept the pressure on Denver till the gun sounded. Final: Patriots 41 - Broncos 23

No miracle for Broncos against New England

   There hasn't been a December to remember in recent memory for the Denver Broncos.

   They're trying to avert a similar fate this month. The club went 1-4 last year; 1-4 in '09, 1-3 in '08, 2-3 in '07 and 2-3 in '06. That adds up to a putrid 7-17 overall mark in the final month of the calendar year.

   Heading into Buffalo for a Saturday game this weekend, coming off a loss to New England at home, things aren't dire yet this December. Consecutive wins over Minnesota and Chicago from Dec. 4-11 saw to that and produced a margin for error in the AFC West race.

   But no slip-ups can occur now, beginning with the Bills.

   And after giving up 41 points and coughing up three turnovers vs. the Patriots, there is some cause for concern.

   "We need to concentrate on getting better," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "We showed (last Sunday) that we're not ready to go to the playoffs and make a push. We've got to get better and we only have two or three weeks to do it. If we don't, then we'll be sitting home in the playoffs."

   At 8-6, the Broncos are one game atop both Oakland (7-7) and San Diego (7-7). Win out, and Denver clinches the division, obviously, with a better overall record.

   If the Broncos beat the Bills and both the Chargers and Raiders lose this weekend, that also does the same trick.

   But one loss - especially in the final game at home vs. Kansas City - and things get tricky.

   Denver does have some wild-card advantages, even if things go awry. The Broncos have won head-to-head meetings with both the New York Jets (8-6) and Cincinnati (8-6) but lost to Tennessee (7-7). Yet the team doesn't want to consider a fallback option.

   "We're just worried about winning (Saturday). Buffalo is a tough team," defensive end Robert Ayers said. "We're thinking about going up there and winning. It's going to be tough. Christmas weekend. A lot of distractions. We just want to get a win. We're not really worried about the division, all this and all that. We just want to handle business (Saturday)."

   TRENDING: The Broncos turned the ball over three times in a 81/2-minute span last Sunday. All three were fumbles - one each by quarterback Tim Tebow, running back Lance Ball and punt returner Quan Cosby. Denver had won the previous six games prior to that New England loss. And in that span of a half-dozen contests they had only turned the ball over a total of five times. Buffalo has 16 interceptions (10th in the NFL) and eight fumble recoveries (12th) this season, despite a swoon that's seen the Bills lose seven straight games.

   BY THE NUMBERS: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has two 100-yard receiving games in the last three weeks. The second-year pro caught four balls for 144 yards vs. Minnesota to open December, then followed it up with a pair of seven-catch efforts in games against Chicago (for 78 yards, touchdown) and New England (116 yards). Those three performances represent three of the top four yardage games in Thomas' career. He's averaged 18.7 yards per reception during that span.

   --RB Willis McGahee suffered a left hamstring injury during Sunday's loss to New England. McGahee stretched out on the sideline for most of the second quarter and through halftime and returned for the third quarter, but departed after only two carries. Coach John Fox said after the game no players were injured seriously, but the team has a short turnaround time to the Buffalo game.
   --SS Brian Dawkins missed the Patriots game with a neck issue sustained in the victory over Chicago on Dec. 11. Dawkins' participation in practice leading up to the New England game was sparse, leaving rookies Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore to patrol safety. Dawkins' presence is needed in the lineup to aid in communication particularly but also for his sure tackling.
   --DE Elvis Dumervil carries a seven-game streak with at least a half-sack into Saturday's game in Buffalo. Dumervil since Denver's bye week has all 8.5 of his sacks this season.
   --RB Lance Ball had a 32-yard TD run against New England, representing his first career rushing score and the second overall touchdown of his career. Ball also lost a fumble. He will take on added responsibilities if Willis McGahee's hamstring is slow to heal.
   --QB Tim Tebow scored two rushing TDs vs. New England for his first career game with multiple rushing TDs. Tebow didn't throw a scoring pass for only the second time in his nine games as a starter vs. the Patriots.

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