Hillman is testing the Broncos' confidence

DENVER -- Folks may not know for sure until the regular-season opener if second-year running back Ronnie Hillman has lost his hold on the starting job, but after his second fumble in two games was returned for a touchdown Saturday night, Denver Broncos coach John Fox said Hillman had not lost any status.

Just that it all was another teaching moment. The 27-26 Broncos win over the Rams is likely Hillman's and the rest of the starters' last work of the preseason. Few, if any, of the regulars are expected to play in the preseason finale Thursday against Arizona.

“I still have great confidence,’’ Fox said of Hillman. “It’s something we worked very hard on last week, something we’ll work very hard on this week.

“I think the one this week was altogether different,’’ Fox added. “I personally think his progress was stopped otherwise he’s got to get on the ground faster or do a better job hanging on to the ball when a guy’s yanking on it late in the down.’’

Hillman fumbled into the end zone in Seattle last week and the Seahawks' Brandon Browner returned it 106 yards for a touchdown. Saturday night, Hillman took a pass from Peyton Manning for 3 yards, but then in an effort to get a little more real estate turned his back to the defenders. As a result, when he fell to the ground the ball was exposed and Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree tore it loose. Ogletree then scooped up the ball and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown.

“It seemed like I was stopped for like 30 seconds,’’ Hillman said. “But I still fumbled it … I can’t do that.’’

“Every one of these things in a learning experience for these guys,’’ Fox said. “I have not lost confidence in him whatsoever.’’

Hillman finished with 34 yards on six carries – a 5.7-yard average – as the Broncos finished with 133 yards rushing overall. Rookie Montee Ball and Lance Ball each had a rushing touchdown in the game.