An examination of four hot issues from the Denver Broncos’ 34-31 overtime loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Working overtime: Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno tore an ACL in 2011 and had another knee procedure this past offseason, and the Broncos have consistently talked about watching his workload. But then their other running backs kept fumbling the ball -- both C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball lost the handle against the Patriots on Sunday night -- so Moreno has been left as Mr. Reliable or the one, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said, who has "that trust factor." And after 37 carries as the piece of the team’s offense that could function in the cold Sunday night, Moreno left Gillette Stadium in a walking boot on his right leg. With his 27 carries the week before against the Chiefs, Moreno’s 64 carries in the past two games are more than he had in the previous four games combined before the win over Kansas City. Somebody else in that running backs meeting room must now step forward.
Thinning out: The Broncos kept 11 defensive backs on the roster when they exited the preseason, and at the time it looked like a healthy surplus. But then Champ Bailey aggravated his left foot injury in Indianapolis, and he has played in just two games this season. Then Rahim Moore had surgery on his lower left leg, and on Sunday, two other defensive backs left the game. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a freakish shoulder injury trying to make a diving catch on a Hail Mary play to end the first half Sunday night, and Omar Bolden suffered a concussion in the second half. It means Quentin Jammer will have to play more on the outside and rookie Kayvon Webster is going to act and play like a starter.
Cold as ice: The Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning continue to say the cold isn’t an issue on offense, that Manning practices in it all the time. But all the rest of the world has to go on is the past two games the team has played in below-freezing temperatures. Against the Ravens in the playoff loss in January when kickoff temperature was 13 degrees (and wind chill was 2 degrees), Manning was 28-of-43 with two interceptions and didn’t push the ball down the field. Sunday night, with a kickoff temperature of 22 degrees (and a 22 mph wind made the wind chill 6 degrees), Manning was 19-of-36 for 150 yards and an interception. For many, the Broncos’ cold-weather postseason prospects will continue to be a question mark until they all show, including Manning, that it isn’t.
It’s time: Broncos interim head coach Jack Del Rio has said recently he liked rookie defensive tackle Sylvester Williams’ progress this season, that Williams was ready for far more in the defense. He said that even as Williams was a game-day inactive three times this season, twice in the past four games. Now Williams will have to lift his game with Kevin Vickerson’s right hip injury. Williams will have to play more and be an early-down force, especially in run defense, if the Broncos are to get some momentum going defensively down the stretch.