The Walter show?

Andrew Walter, although pulled from the game in the fourth quarter of a loss to the 49ers after a hail of turnovers, could be settling for the long haul.

Aaron Brooks, the Raiders' starting quarterback, is making gradual process on a torn pectoral muscle that doesn't enable him to throw well enough to play. The plan all along was for Brooks to start until the Raiders deemed it time to move ahead with their quarterback of the future.

With an 0-4 record a quarter of the way through the season and with no other team below .500 in the division, the Raiders are already building for next season, whether they admit it or not.

When reviewing the loss against the 49ers, Walter has tried to learn from both the good (10-for-15, 138 yards and a TD in the first half) as well as the bad (4-for-8, 26 yards, two interceptions and a fumbled lateral) in the second half.

"There were positives in the first half, so there's something to put in the bank, but you don't get any credit for it because it's a loss," Walter said. "Certainly there were a lot of negatives in the second half. In the second I had three or four bad throws. If I have six bad throws in a game, and they're not critical errors, that's not bad. I felt pretty good about the way I played. I need to eliminate the turnovers."

Walter was removed from the game, coach Art Shell said, because he was pressing and compounding his errors. Knowing that Walter has a lot of football still to play this season, Shell didn't want Walter's confidence shattered by making even more mistakes.

"It didn't hurt my confidence," Walter said. "The coach makes the decision, and as a player you have to roll with it. It's always a learning process for me. Even if we were undefeated right now, it would be a learning process."

The Raiders, of course, are the opposite of undefeated, but center Jake Grove can see a difference in the way Walter carries himself.

"I can remember one of our first two-minute drives in training camp, when he came in with the first unit," Grove said. "He was rushing things and not talking loud enough. The second half against the 49ers didn't go his way, but he was confident, loud in the huddle. Loud at the line. He definitely had poise in there.

"He had some throws get away from him, but I told him, 'We still believe in you, and we need you to win.' He's going to bounce back."

Broncos:

After giving up one touchdown in four games, the Broncos feel pretty good about where their defense ranks in the NFL.

Denver and the 2000 Dolphins are the only teams since 1940 to start a season by allowing only one touchdown in the first four games.

Denver is behind Chicago, San Diego and Baltimore -- the other obvious candidates for the top defense in the league -- in yards allowed. In fact, the Broncos rank a pedestrian 12th in total defense. However, Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams wasn't worried about that ranking.

"I know the numbers don't have us No. 1 right now," Williams said. "But we've only allowed one touchdown. Teams have got some yards on us, but at the same time we feel like when it really counts, we're the best defense and we can stop anyone at any time."

Denver's streak is even more impressive because many of the field goals it has allowed have come after turnovers by the offense. The Rams got six field goals in the season opener and often started with a short field. One of Kansas City's two field goals was on a 4-yard drive. Baltimore's lone field goal was set up by a fumble in Broncos territory.

The Broncos are playing a much more basic scheme this season. They are blitzing less and letting the line get after the quarterback. The line has played well, which has allowed the talented linebackers and defensive backs to do their jobs. After a 3-1 start, the Broncos are feeling confident.

"I think we're the best team in the league, not just defense," defensive tackle Gerard Warren said. "If you don't feel that way, what are you playing the game for?"


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