|09-09-2008, 07:42 PM||#1|
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Join Date: May 2001
How about them Broncos! LOL!
LINCICOME: Broncos a case of no ands, ifs or buts
By Bernie Lincicome, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Originally published 06:26 p.m., September 9, 2008
Updated 06:30 p.m., September 9, 2008
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn 169; Getty Images
Denver’s Jamie Winborn dances after stopping the Raiders on fourth down in the fourth quarter Monday night in the Broncos’ convincing 41-14 victory.
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What is this?
Honesty seems so . . . well, so day-before-yesterday. But let's try.
Of all the modifiers for the Broncos against Oakland, any of these would have been entirely satisfactory. Squeaker. Struggle.
At the most optimistic? Promising. Encouraging. Routine.
Nowhere on the list would have been romp, rout, crush, thrash, smash. Humiliate. Annihilate. Anything that ends in Â?ate, including ate itself.
Of all the marks of punctuation, a comma preceding the word "but" would have been wholly sufficient.
In the opening game of the season, the Broncos managed to defeat the Raiders but . . .
And there would follow a whole list of concerns. Poor pass protection. No pass rush. Shoddy tackling. Dropped passes.
Missed field goals. Ineffective running game. You know, all of those worries that have now just magically evaporated.
No buts, no ands, no ifs, just an unmarked view of the horizon.
How could we have been so worried, just because the Broncos are too young, too unproven, too recently mediocre, too dubious?
Now it is almost impossible to examine what happened late Monday night without using the exclamation point. Wow!
Eddie Royal! Jay Cutler! Nate Webster! The defense! The running game! The kicking game! The football game! All of this without Brandon! Marshall!
The hated Raiders!
Not only is the sky not falling, it is soaring above on the sweet scent of surprise.
The town is a-bubble with certainty, every step has a spring in it, citizens are humming to themselves in elevators. Woodland creatures are smiling. No one is a stranger.
Ah, yes. There is nothing like winning. And nothing better than winning big. Nothing like starting off the season as if the rest of the season is just table scraps.
Better than the worries raised with a last micro-second field goal that began last season, worries that proved entirely justified.
Nothing is more stirring than being astonished.
Still, we are left to consider if this is a good thing, if scoring more points than any other NFL team the first week isn't just a shout too loud, that expectations are now too high.
Even those doubts seem out of place, as if we knew this all along, as if to hesitate is to mistrust what we witnessed.
Where's the Super Bowl again? Tampa. Nice town, great paella.
Let us now scoff at the general consensus for the Broncos this season, from all those so-called experts, from yours truly. What was it, again? Subdued competence, and that being a nod to Mike Shanahan and tradition, maybe 10 wins at the most and two of those would be flukes.
This was no fluke. This was the anti-fluke. This was the future.
Do not consider that the Raiders might very well be as awful as they seemed, granted, that is a very bad football team in Oakland, and not just bad but muddled and aimless, like one of those playground pick-up crews in it for the exercise.
To think that 33-year-old coach Lane Kiffin is going to pull it altogether is to believe that Tinker Bell is a teamster.
But that's the Raiders' problem, securely as awful as they were supposed to be. The only way from here is up.
The Broncos are looking down from the top of the standings, the only undefeated team in the division, while San Diego, everybody's darling, found a way to lose its opener to Carolina, all the more painful because it came in the final seconds.
Kansas City managed to lose and shake up all of football, delivering New England quarterback Tom Brady to the infirmary, to next year, thereby making the NFL playing field not only even but tilting it a bit away from Foxborough.
Many of the darlings of the AFC, not just the Chargers, took it on the chin. The Indianapolis Colts anointed their new home with the humiliation of losing to the Bears, while Jacksonville and Cleveland lost as well.
Only the Steelers were nearly as impressive as the Broncos, and they were supposed to be.
But no team has a player with a stronger arm than Cutler, better moves than Royal, a better end-zone instinct than Michael Pittman, more awareness than Webster, a sense of purpose more pronounced than Elvis Dumervil, a coach with greater leadership than Shanahan, a kicker with greater leg than . . .
. . . Uh, what's that? There's another game to play. And 14 more after that? There would be, wouldn't there?
|09-09-2008, 07:49 PM||#3|
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Join Date: May 2001
KRIEGER: Rookie Royal needed no time to nurture with Broncos
By Dave Krieger, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Broncos wide receiver Eddie Royal catches a touchdown pass over the Raiders' Gibril Wilson in the first quarter Monday night.
PollWhat was the best aspect of the Broncos' victory?
Play of Jay Cutler
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Watching the Raiders embarrass themselves
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What is this?
Brandon Marshall better hurry back. Not so much for the Broncos as for Brandon Marshall.
For one week, anyway, Jay Cutler has a new favorite receiver.
Opening nights are notoriously unreliable indicators of the long run, but watching rookie Eddie Royal on Monday night, the Broncos debut that came to mind was that of Rick Upchurch 33 years ago.
It was Sept. 21, 1975, when the 23-year-old Upchurch put up 284 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard pass reception from Charley Johnson, as the Broncos beat the Chiefs 37-33.
Monday night, the 22-year-old Royal carried the ball on an end-around the first play from scrimmage, which was a pretty good indication of the game plan. For the Raiders, it was a Royal pain.
He had seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown by halftime. Unofficially, he finished with 185 all-purpose yards, not enough to surpass Upchurch, but more than enough to make a grand entrance onto the NFL stage.
Early in the third quarter, on an end-around going nowhere, he wisely threw the ball away, giving him something even Upchurch didn't have in his debut - a pass attempt.
Royal was the Broncos' second-round pick in this year's draft, the 42nd player selected overall. By comparison, the fourth overall pick, the Raiders' Darren McFadden, carried the ball nine times for 46 yards. These rookies need to be brought along slowly, you know.
To make matters worse for beleaguered Raiders owner Al Davis, Royal repeatedly torched cornerback DeAngelo Hall, recent recipient of a seven-year, $70 million contract.
Royal's splashy introduction overshadowed an equally spectacular season debut by Cutler, who was virtually flawless in leading the Broncos to a 41-14 laugher. When Marshall joins them, the trio has the potential to put up numbers in the passing game the Broncos haven't seen since the days of Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.
Before you make your reservations for Tampa and Super Bowl XLIII, keep one thing in mind: The Broncos did all this against the Raiders, football's most pitiable team for the last five years. They didn't look like they've made a lot of progress.
In fact, you can start the Lane Kiffin countdown right now. The only question is whether he will last as long as Mike Shanahan did as Raiders coach.
The over/under, of course, is 20 games. Kiffin has three to go. At 4-13, he has no chance of matching the 8-12 that got Shanahan fired 19 years ago.
Davis doesn't like losing to anybody, although he's had no choice but to get used to it lately, having lost 62 of his last 81 games. But he hates losing to Shanahan, especially in a home opener before the whole country, or at least the part of it that can stay up on a weeknight to watch the second half of a twi-night doubleheader.
The Raiders faithful, decked out in their usual apocalyptic attire, many of them tailgating all day, were booing the home team by halftime.
Judging the Broncos defense off this one is difficult because the Raiders offense was thoroughly incompetent.
Second-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell looked like the rookie he might as well be for all the playing time he got last year. By the end, he had respectable numbers, but the enduring memory was his impression of Dave Krieg - the ball slipping from his hand as he pulled it back - when the Raiders were still in the game, driving for a tying score in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, on a second-and-12 deep in his own territory, the Broncos showed blitz. Russell tried to audible and ended up taking a penalty for delay of game. On third-and-17, Kiffin thought discretion the better part of valor and ran the ball.
This does not mean that Russell, McFadden & Co. won't form the core of a formidable offense once they get used to this whole NFL thing. But I wouldn't recommend wading into the Black Hole and counseling patience while Royal is tearing up perhaps the highest-priced secondary in the league.
At least some things about the Raiders never change. Once the tide started going against them, they committed five personal fouls. This is what Davis' vaunted tradition has come to - no pride, no poise.
Thanks to first-week losses by the Chargers and Chiefs, this was a game for sole possession of first place in the AFC West, though it may be a little early to be mentioning such things.
Tom Brady is out for the year. San Diego, Indianapolis and Jacksonville all lost their openers. Brett Favre switched conferences. In other words, the AFC may be more wide open this year than anybody anticipated. The two most impressive performances of Week 1 were authored by the Steelers and Broncos.
The Chargers should present a better test Sunday. But once Marshall returns, they may be up against a Royal flush.
|09-09-2008, 07:54 PM||#5|
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Join Date: May 2001
America, his name is Eddie Royal.
For he is now, after all he did on a nationally televised appearance Monday night in the Broncos' regular-season opener in McAfee Coliseum, the smiling and rather photogenic face of the Broncos' youth movement.
See Eddie run, see Eddie catch, see Eddie return punts, see him do whatever the Broncos needed him to do in what became a 41-14 victory against the Oakland Raiders at McAfee Coliseum.
"You never know how a rookie is going to react," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "We had a great feeling of how he'd react going into the game - just the way he did. . . . He handled himself like a five-year vet."
Royal had the Broncos' first carry of the night out of the backfield and he caught the first pass Jay Cutler threw.
After that, Royal did a little more of this, a lot more of that and is now Exhibit A that, however the rest of the season goes for the local franchise, Mike Shanahan has dialed back the team's experience meter in search of athleticism and some explosiveness.
At one point, Royal, who found himself selected behind 41 other players in April's draft, had frustrated Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall - a Pro Bowl selection in his time with the Atlanta Falcons now with a $70 million contract - enough that Hall took two personal-foul penalties for taking a run at Royal after catches.
On the second, Royal had sold his route well enough that Hall ended up prone, face down, on the turf before he got up to arrive late to hit Royal and bring the flag.
"He's very competitive individual with a lot of talent," Shanahan said. "Many DBs are going to have a hard time covering him one-on-one."
By halftime, Royal had nine rushing yards and had caught seven passes for 99 yards, and the Broncos had the game firmly in hand. By the time he caught his ninth pass to conclude his night, his 146 receiving yards were the most in the league's opening weekend.
This is how it will be for this Broncos team - good or bad, they will sink or swim in the AFC's postseason pool with this large collection of young players.
This is the youngest team in Shanahan's tenure as coach, one that has almost 50 percent of its roster entering their first, second or third seasons in the league.
One with a third-year quarterback in Jay Cutler, who finished with 299 passing yards and two touchdowns.
One that no longer is one of the oldest teams in the league, as it has been for much of Shanahan's time in Denver.
It was such a seamless effort that it would have been difficult to notice they had started another rookie at left tackle in Ryan Clady, a player at right tackle in Ryan Harris who had no previous NFL starts, and a rookie at fullback in Peyton Hillis.
Seamless enough that their best offensive player in the eyes of many of the league's scouts, receiver Brandon Marshall, was back in Denver because of a suspension.
All in a night where youth was not wasted on the young.
Royal has shown himself to be wise beyond his years in plenty of other things as well.
He already has been smart enough to ask some fairly accomplished defensive backs about what they're thinking in certain situations against receivers.
"I went right to Champ and Dre," Royal said. "I figured it would be good to see what thought when they're going against receivers."
And why not? Champ Bailey has been selected to eight Pro Bowls in his career while Dre Bly has been named to two. Both cornerbacks are entering their 10th seasons in the league, so they have plenty of wisdom to impart.
"I had to know, you play DBs now, and their knowledge of the game, the way they can read routes and break you down," Royal said. "Whether it's what the offense is doing or what you're doing to give away the route. Just definitely the knowledge. You didn't see that kind of thing in college.
"The main thing, as a receiver, is you want to make every route look the same so they can't read anything you're doing.
"You want to play with low pad level and I try to talk to the DBs, to Champ and Dre, to see what they're thinking, to see what I've done on that particular route."
Run it down
The Broncos offense did its part by putting the game out of reach in the third quarter, but the Broncos defense showed that it intends to be more difficult to run the ball against than it was in the first month of the 2007 season.
It also showed it still has some work to do before the Broncos take on a balanced offense in position to stress them for four quarters.
But last season, the Broncos saw their postseason aspirations get buried under opposing running backs. Three of the Broncos first five opponents rushed for at least 200 yards, while four of the first five finished with at least 186 yards.
The Raiders did try to see for themselves early if the Broncos had improved at all, running on the first eight plays from scrimmage Monday night. And they likely would have continued that theme had the Broncos not tipped the scoreboard so heavily away from them so quickly.
"We played much better than we have played last year," Shanahan said. "By no means did we play perfect . . . but stepped up and did some things."
The Raiders finished with 150 rushing yards, but 42 of those came on a Justin Fargas run in the final minutes with the Broncos leading by 34 points.
The other guys
No receivers were selected in the first round of the April draft, but four were picked before the Broncos took Royal at No. 42.
No. 33 Donnie Avery, by St. Louis; No. 34 Devin Thomas, by Washington; No. 36 Jordy Nelson, by Green Bay; No. 41 James Hardy, by Buffalo.
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|09-09-2008, 09:07 PM||#8|
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Join Date: May 2001
OAKLAND, Calif. — Mike Shanahan has a new toy. It came packaged on draft day, a small, electrifying receiver named Eddie Royal.
The first time Broncos coach Shanahan got to play (call) with Royal was in the season opener Monday night against the Oakland Raiders at McAfee Coliseum. The Broncos whipped the Raiders 41-14, and perhaps no player had a bigger impact than the 5-foot-10, 182-pound Royal.
Royal, a second-round pick from Virginia Tech, had nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. He caught three passes and drew two unnecessary roughness penalties to set up the Broncos' second touchdown. He had long receptions in the Broncos' third and fourth touchdown drives.
"We've got a lot of confidence in Eddie," Shanahan
said. "I can't say he surprised me. He plays like he's a five-year veteran. DBs are going to have a tough time covering him one-on-one."
Be humble, Brandon Marshall. The Broncos missed their star receiver not a bit against the Raiders. Having served his one-game suspension, Marshall will return to the Broncos' roster today. He will be joining a team that not only holds sole possession of the AFC West lead with a 1-0 record, but the Broncos played as though they may have the goods to develop into — dare it be said so early? — Super Bowl contenders.
To review Week 1 of the NFL season, San Diego, Indianapolis and Jacksonville all lost, New England lost quarterback Tom Brady to a season-ending knee injury and the Broncos thoroughly defeated their biggest rival.
The Broncos open their home schedule at Invesco Field at Mile High on Sunday against the defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers.
How long has it been since such a meaningful game was played in Denver? Only a year or so? It just seems longer. The Black Hole here promised to be a hostile environment for the Broncos, but the atmosphere softened with every Royal play.
Shanahan, football's No. 1 Raider Hater, couldn't stop showing off his
Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler (6) passes in front of Raiders defensive end Jay Richardson in the first quarter Monday. Cutler completed five of seven passes for 64 yards and a TD in the first quarter. (Paul Sakuma, The Associated Press)prized possession. The coach started out having Royal run a reverse, just to get the nerves out. Then he had Royal catching deep passes. He had Royal catching the ball short. On one play, Royal ran a pitch play from halfback. On another, Royal came around on a reverse to throw a pass early in the third quarter, only to have the play break down. Cool veteran of exactly one NFL half, Royal wisely threw the ball away.
"I tried telling people about this guy," Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley said. "He plays bigger than he is. He's real strong for his size, he runs great routes and he has great hands."
On the next play, Jay Cutler hit Darrell Jackson for a 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown and a 24-0 lead.
Mostly, Shanahan used Royal
Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell (2) is sacked by Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams in the second quarter Monday. (Paul Sakuma, The Associated Press)whenever he was guarded one-on-one by Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall. After signing a seven-year, $66.28 million contract this offseason, it was Hall who was supposed to be some big prize for the Raiders. Royal toyed with him. It was Hall who got burned on Royal's 26-yard touchdown reception from Cutler, who played a terrific game.
"Eddie Royal beat DeAngelo Hall time after time after time," Cutler said.
On the Broncos' second touchdown, Royal got open again, running a sophisticated route that had Hall spinning and Cutler completing a 15-yard pass. Royal appeared to get inside Hall's head, and he frustrated the veteran. Hall compounded getting beat by getting back-to-back personal foul penalties on late hits against Royal.
An Oakland fan walks around the stadium before the Broncos-Raiders game at McAfee Coliseum on Monday. (Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images)"Sometimes things like that happen when you're going full-speed out there," Royal said of his encounters with Hall. "He's a great athlete."
Royal's catches, and Hall's penalties, set up Michael Pittman's short touchdown plunge that gave the Broncos a 17-0 halftime lead.
And Royal could have been responsible for a third touchdown, too. After Cutler hit tight end Tony Scheffler for a 72-yard gain early in the second quarter, Royal caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Cutler on the next play, only to have it nullified by a penalty for an illegal formation. The Broncos settled for a 26-yard Matt Prater field goal.
Cutler has played like one of the NFL's top quarterback through the preseason and again in the regular-season opener.
Post Poll - 2008 Broncos
How will the Broncos fare this season?
Playoffs: Quarterback Jay Cutler has come into his own to lead Denver to the AFC championship — and beyond?
Playoff wild card: The Broncos will show glimmers of their old dominance, but defensive weaknesses mean its team won't go far.
Outside looking in: Coach Mike Shanahan is slipping, big-time. Broncos will be left out of postseason for the third year in a row.
He completed 16-of-24 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns.
And Shanahan unwrapped a dynamic, new receiver for a Monday night audience to see.
Come Sunday, the Broncos will team Royal with Marshall. Just in time for the home opener. Just in time for the Chargers.
Mike Klis: 303-954-1055 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Last edited by Sassy; 09-09-2008 at 09:10 PM..