ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos' first-year players not only got their first taste of overtime football in the NFL this past Sunday night, but they got it in a playoff setting, in a game played in frigid conditions, oozing with pressure on all sides in New England's 34-31 comeback win.
So, with that in mind here is our weekly look at the Broncos' rookie class:
Running back Montee Ball: The game proved to be a rather full glimpse into his season thus far. On a night when the Broncos clearly decided to run the ball as a primary option on offense, and with Ball clearly in those plans coming into the game, he lost another fumble -- his third of the season. For a player trying to earn the trust of the coaches, not only did he lose the ball, he lost it deep in Broncos’ territory and helped fuel the Patriots' comeback when they turned the turnover into a touchdown six plays later. As the games get tighter, those mistakes loom larger, and his chances of carrying to ball when it matters most decrease a little bit with each bouncing ball. Overall, though, he played 16 plays on offense, finishing with 40 yards rushing on seven carries. If Knowshon Moreno's ankle injury keeps him out of Sunday’s game or limits Moreno in any way, the Broncos are going to need a big effort from Ball, the kind they selected him in the second round to have.
Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was again a gameday inactive against the Patriots. But the routine is the routine, no matter the weather. And with a howling wind -- gusts of almost 30 miles per hour -- and a wind chill hovering at about 6 degrees, there was a heavily bundled Dysert with an equally bundled quarterbacks coach in Greg Knapp still going through their usual gameday work several hours before kickoff. Dysert showed some quality arm strength in the drills with several tight spirals in the conditions.
Running back C.J. Anderson: Like Ball, Anderson just can’t seem to take full advantage of the fact the Broncos would like to run the ball more at this point in the season and would like to do it at times with somebody other than Moreno taking the pounding. Anderson played 10 snaps on offense against the Patriots and fumbled once -- he recovered it -- and dropped a pass in those 10 plays. He gained 16 yards on his three carries, including a 6-yard run. The opportunity is there for some additional playing time, but ball security continues to be an issue, frigid conditions or not.
Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: He played a season-high 36 snaps on defense against the Patriots and it was evident early, even before Kevin Vickerson left the game with a right hip injury, that Williams was a bigger part of the rotation than he had been in recent weeks. His previous high this season had been 19 snaps on defense against the Giants and Colts. With Vickerson now out, Williams will be in the mix, and the Broncos need him to be ready for those quality snaps in both the base defense and in the nickel (five defensive backs) at times. He finished with one tackle against New England, and did force the issue in one pass-rush situation late in the game.
Cornerback Kayvon Webster: With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie having left the game at halftime with a shoulder injury and Champ Bailey having missed his ninth game of the season, Webster played in a wide variety of situations against the Patriots. He finished with a season-high 54 snaps (he played 53 against the Colts last month) to go with 14 more snaps on special teams. He had five tackles -– a game-high among the cornerbacks -- and knocked away one pass. With the Broncos playing a heavy dose of man coverage in the game, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did zero in on Webster at times, with some success, particularly in the second half. But Webster battled hard throughout and continued to show he will bounce back from any mistakes to play the the next play.
Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, was waived in the final cutdown, and defensive end John Youboty, an undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Broncos, continue to work toward keeping themselves in the plan moving forward. All of the practice squad players have worked in an on-field workout of their own on Mondays as well as some extra time following practice each day.