Broncos hope to avoid deja vu in playoffs
Finally, the Denver Broncos can get ready for some meaningful
Oh, sure, the 13 wins and all those records Peyton Manning set
will count, but the regular season was simply a warm-up act for a
team with the Super Bowl on its radar.
As former Broncos defensive end and current Denver radio host
Alfred Williams said back in July, ”This is the only team in the
NFL with 20 preseason games.”
The Broncos stormed into the playoffs last year as the No. 1
seed in the AFC, riding an 11-game winning streak and promptly lost
to Baltimore in double-overtime.
”We let that opportunity slip last year and guys are definitely
on high alert not to let that happen again this year,” Broncos
safety David Bruton said Monday. ”We’ve still got that bad taste
in our mouths.”
Denver is once again 13-3 with the AFC’s top seed after making
history by becoming the most prolific offensive team in the Super
Bowl era, scoring 606 points behind Manning’s many records, most
notably his 55 TD tosses.
”That’s in the past,” receiver Bubba Caldwell said. ”We’re
0-0 now. We’ve got a three-game season ahead of us now. That’s how
we look at it and we’ve got to make the most of every week. Start
from scratch. None of the records mean anything. We want to make
some new records in the postseason.”
The Broncos faced a lot more adversity this year than they did
in 2012, both on and off the field. It started with Elvis
Dumervil’s departure following the infamous fax fiasco and
continued with Von Miller’s troubled season that began with a drug
suspension and ended with a knee injury.
Coach John Fox needed heart surgery and while he was out, the
Broncos lost Rahim Moore, the goat of last year’s playoff pratfall,
to a rare muscle condition that required emergency leg surgery,
run-stuffer Kevin Vickerson went on IR with a dislocated hip that
created a domino effect on defense and lineman Derek Wolfe had
seizure-like symptoms on the team bus and hasn’t played in more
than a month.
Every week seemed to bring a new trial or tribulation.
”Hopefully it’s served us well,” Manning said. ”It’s made us
better that we’ve been able to handle a lot of different things
that have been thrown our way and out of our control. Hopefully,
that can help us down this whole stretch.”
The Broncos’ next game in Jan. 12 against Kansas City,
Indianapolis or San Diego, three teams that gave them fits this
Denver swept the Chiefs but both games were close. The Colts
beat Denver 39-33 in Manning’s unhappy homecoming in October and
the Chargers won in Denver 27-20 on Dec. 12, Manning’s only loss in
a dozen AFC West games since joining the Broncos.
Their other loss came when Wes Welker blew a punt return in
overtime at New England, allowing the Patriots to win in overtime
in his homecoming game in November.
”We aren’t thinking about what happened during the regular
season,” said cornerback Champ Bailey, still searching for a ring
in his 15th season. ”We’re in a position to go into the tournament
and now we’ve just got to win games.”
The Broncos wrapped up home-field advantage with a 34-14 rout of
Oakland on Sunday that was their best all-around game of the
”We still have things to work on, things to fix, things that we
could get better at,” Bruton said. ”Because the speed is going to
be a lot faster, the hits are going to be harder and there is going
to be a lot more trickery” in the playoffs.
The Broncos watched film on Monday and they’ll get two days off
before returning Thursday for three days of workouts before they
learn who their next opponent will be.
They talked about staying focused this week, about getting
better and not letting up.
After all, the Broncos, who tied the Seattle Seahawks for most
wins, are painfully aware of one of the NFL’s biggest truisms: more
often than not, the regular season is for suckers.
In each of the last nine years, the team that had the best
regular-season record – or tied for the best mark – failed to win
the Super Bowl. The last team that parlayed the best regular-season
record into the title was the 2003 Patriots.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on