|09-08-2007, 09:31 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Broncos hope reverse trend, open season with road victory
ENGLEWOOD -- Every year the Denver Broncos enter their first game thinking big, confident about the season ahead. For the past two openers, optimism would have been tough to find on the flight home.
In the past two years the Broncos traveled east for their first game and lost. They were blown out by Miami in 2005 and were sloppy at St. Louis last year.
The Broncos try again this year, going to Buffalo to start the season against the Bills today. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he didn’t prepare differently because of the losing streak.
“Hopefully the result is a little different,” Shanahan said. “But no, we don’t do anything different.”
Shanahan’s is 10-4 in season openers, the top record among active NFL coaches with at least five years experience.
Linebacker Ian Gold said the team is more relaxed this year. He said a change from defensive coordinator Larry Coyer to assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates might be a reason.
“Years past I feel we’ve been really tight going into the first game,” Gold said. “I couldn’t pinpoint one thing, but I think this coaching staff is a little more relaxed. I think Jim Bates is a little more of a players’ coach and I think that’s helping us out.”
Against Miami, the Broncos lost 34-10 in Nick Saban’s first game as Dolphins coach. That was Denver’s worst opening day loss since 1966. The Dolphins finished 9-7, didn’t make the playoffs, and Saban bolted to the University of Alabama after another disappointing season last year.
St. Louis went 8-8 after beating Denver last year. The Rams won 18-10 and controlled the game. The Broncos’ defense made the score close by holding St. Louis to six field goals.
Fortunately for the Broncos they played well after those losses. In 2005, they won 13 of their last 15 games. In 2006, they won five straight games after losing to the Rams.
In Miami, the Broncos trailed 6-3 late in the third quarter when the defense wore out in the heat and humidity. The Dolphins poured it on in the final 20 minutes.
Last year the Broncos didn’t have many excuses. Quarterback Jake Plummer had four of Denver’s five turnovers against the Rams. Plummer since retired, and Jay Cutler is now the starter. Denver also added Travis Henry at tailback and Daniel Graham at tight end.
“Hopefully we’ll be a lot better offensively than we were a year ago,” Shanahan said. “That was one of the poorest years we’ve had in a long time.”
The Weather Channel predicts a high of 73 degrees today in Buffalo, with rain possible.
“Typically if you travel to Buffalo in December it’s rather cold,” safety Nick Ferguson said. “You’d rather go ahead and get that game out of the way.”
The Broncos have challenges going into their first game. There’s a new defensive scheme, and the starting defense didn’t play well in the preseason while it learned Bates’ scheme.
Denver also will likely have eight different offensive starters from last year’s opener.
“A lot of these guys haven’t played as a Bronco and some guys haven’t started as a Bronco, so you’re just hoping all the preparation that you’ve done works out well,” Shanahan said. “But there is that question mark. When you have a number of changes, how cohesive are you going to be? I believe we will be. We’ll find out on Sunday.”
Signing and release
The Broncos signed offensive tackle Chad Mustard and released offensive tackle Adam Meadows on Saturday. Mustard was moved from tight end to tackle during training camp. Meadows missed three preseason games with a calf injury.
Players with four or more seasons have their base salary guaranteed if they are on the roster the first week. Veterans are often released before the first game and re-signed afterward to avoid guaranteeing their base salary. Meadows’ base salary was scheduled to be $1 million this year.