Rick Jussel Column October 26, 2008

Time for the Broncos to unleash the horses

The good news for the Denver Broncos: No game today!

Yes, it’s the bye week, the built-in vacation that allows teams to lick their wounds and heal up, all the while hopefully gathering steam for and intelligence against the next opponent.

The bad news: The Broncos injury report has reached epic proportion. It is suddenly akin to reading an e-mail from your favorite stock broker. The news is ugly indeed, as if the Broncos needed more of a crash.

This bye week isn’t going to cure much.

Matter of fact, the biggest chore for coaches over the next week as the team prepares to host Miami Nov. 2 will be to retool the depth chart after three players went out for the season in last week’s fiasco in the Northeast and another, their best player in Champ Bailey, went down for the next month, maybe more.

Oh, sure, the Broncos are likely to have Selvin Young back at running back. And it’s possible tight end Tony Scheffler and slot receiver Brandon Stockley may play against the Dolphins.

But Champ isn’t going to play, suddenly making Dre’ Bly the corner other teams will ignore (briefly) as they test rookie Jack Williams or oft-torched vet Karl Paymah.

Also gone for the year are Champ’s brother, Boss, a linebacker who injured a knee, backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey, an elbow, and backup offensive tackle Eric Pears, to an appendicitis attack of all things.

There is a silver lining to losing the Baileys: Losing Champ will just mean the opponents now have one more option to move the football. Previously, they could run left, run up the gut, run right, pass left short or deep. Now, opponents will have the entire field to choose from.

Maybe, as happens on a 24/7 basis in Las Vegas casinos, opponents will become disoriented and make terrible decisions (So little time: So many ways to move the football).

That’s one hope, anyway.

So how do the Broncos survive? Do they survive?

There would seem to be two options.

The first would be to go ultraconservative, meaning run, run and run some more, hoping to chew up time, and keep the defense off the field. Imagine the Denver Broncos as the Baltimore Ravens.

Yuk!

Let’s try the opposite approach. Let those horses run, Shanahan.

We don’t want 21-17, 19-16 or 13-10.

Let’s try 52-48, or 42-39, maybe 34-32.

This is the way to go.

For one thing, there is no team out there that won’t score points — and plenty of them — against these Broncos. The Broncos have to go for broke repeatedly. Throw caution and long passes to the wind.

That being said, we should point out It is hard to believe, but the struggling Broncos are still 4-3 and in the lead in the AFC West by a game over the Chargers.

And, despite the injuries to Champ and Boss and the rest, they have a chance because of a favorable schedule over the next month-plus.

Let’s look ahead:

As mentioned, Miami comes to town on Nov. 2. The Dolphins, though improved defensively and with Chad Pennington at quarterback, are beatable, especially in Denver (this would certainly be a loss if it were in Miami).

Then, just four days later, the Broncos play at Cleveland. The Browns are one of the few teams that have been as unpredictable as Denver. They have looked terrible offensively for the most part and, yes, are a team that can be beaten if Denver can put points on the board in that hostile environment.

Following that, it’s a 10-day respite and a trip to Atlanta, another team that is improving behind rookie QB Matt Ryan, but, again, a team that is not exactly a world-beater.

Next up will be a guaranteed win with the Raiders visiting Denver, followed by another winnable road game against the Jets, then another guaranteed win with the Chiefs due up at New Mile High.

Denver closes with three of their toughest matchups, at Carolina, at home against the suddenly very good Buffalo Bills, then on the road against the Chargers.

So, yes, there is still hope. But only if Denver reverts back to its offensive onslaught of the first month of the season.

Jay Cutler is going to have to be on target constantly and the receivers are going to have to stay healthy (did you noticed the big dropoff as soon as Stokley went down?).

The Broncos are going to have to go shotgun, run only when the receivers need to catch their breath, and score touchdown after touchdown.

The defense and injuries have dictated that.


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