Note to NFL: The Broncos are 5-0 and Not Going Anywhere

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A Good Time to Be a Denver Sports Fan

SBN’s Denver Nuggets blog chimes in this morning to echo all of the positive energy in the wake of yesterday’s big win. In short, life is good in Denver:

In other words, the 2007-08 Nuggets just weren’t a team worth rooting for. And the same could be said of the last three Broncos teams, most of the Rockies teams in the post-Blake Street Bombers Era up to 2007 and most of the Nuggets teams in the post-Dikembe Mutombo / pre-Carmelo Anthony Era.

You see, unlike our counterparts in larger markets like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas or Boston, Denver sports fans have always been rooted (somewhat) in reality. We don’t expect to win every game and recognize that our franchises, being located in one of the countries smaller markets by professional sports standards, are unlikely to outspend in order to win. And thus, we live by a simple credo: as long as the players and coaches we root for care more about the outcome of the games they play than we do, we will support them with our dollars, time and emotions. […]

Since the Rockies arrival in 1993, I can’t remember a time when we could honestly say that the personnel running, coaching and playing for all three of our favorite teams – the Broncos, Rockies and Nuggets (sorry, I regard the Avalanche like an adopted fourth child and don’t know enough about hockey to comment on it intelligently) – genuinely cared more about winning as much, if not more, than we the fans did.

Just months after the Nuggets completed their best season in NBA franchise history, we find the Broncos off to a stunningly wonderful 5-0 start, the Rockies in the playoffs for only their third time in team history (even though they’re down 2-1 to Philadelphia) and a possible third straight 50-win Nuggets season that could see them make another Western Conference Finals.

But again, it’s not about the wins but the guys producing these wins. Doesn’t it feel better rooting for the young, energetic, workaholic Josh McDaniels than the arrogant, how-dare-you-question-my-authority, resting on the laurels of past glory Mike Shanahan? Shanahan became so entrenched as the Broncos “coach for life” that he had the chutzpah to build a 34,927-square-foot home that includes a bowling alley, a racquetball court (I didn’t know people still played racquetball) and a shuffleboard table. I hope he has time to enjoy it when he’s commuting to Denver from Dallas next year. And on the field, it’s certainly more enjoyable rooting for the humble, team-first Kyle Orton than the cocky, me-first Jay Cutler.

A fantastic read, and really, it’s true: as fans, our biggest request isn’t that teams be dominant—that’s always appreciated—but at the very least, that we can root for them. Right now, if not dominant, the Nuggets, Rockies, and Broncos are all comprised of players and coaches that care, and for sports fans in any city, that’s about as good as it gets.

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VIDEO: Denver Coach Josh McDaniels Celebrates the Big Win

Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson loved the emotions he saw from Josh McDaniels after yesterday’s victory:

First came the hugging. Then came the four screaming fist-pumps and the always crowd-pleasing double-fist shake. Then Josh McDaniels jumped into the arms of defensive end Kenny Peterson(notes) the way a 4-year old kid dives into a pile of leaves.

Time-permitting, the Denver Broncos head coach might have ripped off his shirt Hulk Hogan-style and proclaimed he was going to Disneyland.

It was one of the rarest sights you’ll ever see in an NFL October – a Super Bowl-style celebration after a Week 5 victory. To some, McDaniels’ pure merriment after Sunday’s 20-17 overtime win over New England might have seemed a tad disrespectful. Maybe even a little amateur. But I think it’s exactly what this league needs. And the fact that it came after cameras showed Bill Belichick sour-mugging his way off the field only made it more refreshing.

And below, we have video of McDaniels’ fist-pumping, hand-shaking, and bear-hugging display of elation. Good stuff:

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Sky's the Limit for Orton and the Broncos

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King checks in this morning with some pretty lofty discussion of Denver and QB Kyle Orton’s prospects for the future:

As impressed as I am with Josh McDaniels in the wake of his 20-17 overtime victory over his mentor, Bill Belichick (I detailed much of that in last week’s column), I’m just as impressed with Orton. Will it last? I don’t know. Will the bubble burst? I don’t know. But right now, he’s every bit the surprising find to McDaniels’ Denver team as Tom Brady was to the Patriots in 2001.

Underline this and put it in your mental bold print: I’m not saying Orton is as good as Brady or ever will be; what I am saying is that he’s doing for the Broncos in 2009 what Brady did when Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury in 2001. Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win no one saw coming. Can you sit there right now and say Orton might not do the same thing?

Could it really shake out like that? Yesterday afternoon I was discussing the Bengals on here, and mentioned that when a team has “it”—an intangible quality that obviously needs a better name—there’s no telling how far they can go. When a team wins a few games they’re not supposed to, the momentum tends to snowball, and suddenly the collective is far greater than the sum of the individual talents, and you’re talking about a group of average players that have the potential to beat just about anybody. The ultimate example, of course, is the 2001 Patriots team that Peter King compares the Broncos to this morning.

Could it be? Are we looking at a potential Super Bowl contender? It’s unclear, so far, and I think the skepticism of Kyle Orton and Josh McDaniels is still pervasive enough—if momentarily latent—so that most in the NFL don’t take the Broncos seriously as a title contender. Yet.

Because again, there’s no telling who a team can beat when they have that intangible quality working for them. And if the Broncos can keep winning, stay healthy, get home field advantage… Who knows where this run might take them? When a team has “it,” look out.

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Reaction from SBN's Mile High Report

SBN's Broncos blog, Mile High Report, had top-to-bottom coverage in the wake of yesterday's win over the Patriots. First, some post-game quotes from the stars of the day. First, from Denver head coach Josh McDaniels:

On post game interaction with Bill Belichick

"We agreed before the game that we would wave. We shook hands before the game and we knew that there has been so much made of him and hand shakes that we agreed to just go ahead and do that but I talked to him before the game."

On how he beat the Patriots

"They don't beat themselves, so one thing we had to do was play smart and try not to hurt ourselves as much as possible. Because if you get into a game with a team that doesn't make those type of mistakes and you do, that's the quickest way to a defeat. We tried to do that for the most part, we made some mistakes, obviously. We used a little bit of the quarterback out of the backfield to try to simplify some of the things they were trying to do defensively whether that worked a whole lot or not I think we made some plays out of it. We knew we couldn't give up big plays to [New England WR] Randy Moss. For the most part I think we did a decent job.  We were trying to take away [Randy] Moss, we were trying to take away [New England WR Wes] Welker and trying to stop the run. It's a hard team to play against and it requires you to do a lot of things well. We got through the week and discovered we just need to be ourselves, play good football, try not to make big mistakes against this team because we knew they would capitalize on it."

On the importance of winning the coin flip in overtime

"Huge. It's my first one. If you can take it down the field and score with it or at least change field position you're punting in their end so they don't have field position. I think that's really critical. We wanted to be aggressive. We weren't going to sit there and try to be careful in overtime. We wanted to throw the ball at them and try to move it down there and not let them have the ball. I think that's the best formula to use against Tom Brady and the Patriots."

And then from QB Kyle Orton who's quietly putting together a dazzling season in Denver:

On his performance

"I am happy that we won, and (my performance) was a great part of it. I feel like I played well. You beat a team like New England, a good team like this, it takes all 53 guys in the locker room and it takes all 60 minutes of the game to do it. Coming in down 10 points at halftime, we had had some drives that stalled: fumble, missed field goal, some missed opportunities. To rally and battle back the way we did in the second half is a testament to all the guys in the locker room, for sure."

On his joke to the offense before the 98-yard touchdown drive

"I think the drive before when we went 98 yards, we had gone 95 (the previous drive), so I just looked over to people and said, ‘We have already done 95, so we might as well go do 98.' Those are two big-time drives in the second half. Then the drive in overtime was great, and (K Matt) Prater nailed a great kick."

On WR Brandon Marshall's touchdown to end the 98-yard touchdown drive

"We knew that he had one-on-one coverage on the backside, and we figured that (New England's cornerback) had to respect his vertical, the fade. We thought that he could get off, so I was going to come back and get the ball to him as quick as possible. The corner didn't really have a lot of help at all for the tackle, and we thought that we would have a good chance to catch and run. That is exactly what we got, and he made a great move after the catch and scored."

For more quotes from the players and coaches, check out their full recap here.

And then, on the morning after, they had this to say:

That was a "Wow" win and an eye-opener, even for me. There were so many points during yesterday's game at which prior Broncos teams would have folded. After those ST penalties, after letting Brady get the ball back late in the 4th quarter of a tied game, after trailing by 10 points at halftime - those were all moments where I thought the Broncos were toast. But this team is different. They are the best-coached Broncos team I have ever seen. No, of course they don't have the talent of the '97 and '98 teams; but this team is so well-prepared and they get better after halftime, every week. Mike Nolan's defense has allowed 7 second-half points all year - the late TD to Cincy. That's it. Anyone want to tell me Kyle Orton doesn't have what it takes? Guy is 5-0 with a 97.4 QB rating. The glove came off yesterday, and how many throws did you see him miss yesterday? Folks, the Denver Broncos are 5-0 with a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Yes, it'd be fair to say that spirits are high in Denver, and with the Broncos undefeated and looking better than ever, who could blame them?

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Denver is Too Cold For Baseball, But Not Football: Broncos Host Patriots

Denver, CO (Sports Network) - Matt Prater's 41-yard field goal less than five minutes into overtime sent the Denver Broncos past the New England Patriots, 20-17, in an AFC clash from Invesco Field at Mile High.

Kyle Orton finished 35-of-48 for 330 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Broncos, (5-0), who hadn't started a season with five consecutive victories since beginning the 1998 campaign at 13-0 before finishing 14-2 and winning Super Bowl XXXIII.

Brandon Marshall caught eight balls for 64 yards and a pair of scores, including an 11-yarder with 5:21 left to tie the game, capping an incredible 12-play, 98-yard drive.

Eddie Royal added 10 receptions for 90 yards and Knowshon Moreno rolled for 88 yards on 21 carries in his first pro start.

It was also a monumental win for Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, who was part of three Super Bowl wins as an assistant under Bill Belichick with the Patriots from 2001-08. During his three years as offensive coordinator (2006-08), the Patriots scored an NFL-best 1,384 points.

Tom Brady went 19-of-33 for 215 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots (3-2), who had posted home wins over Atlanta and Baltimore the previous two weeks.

Wes Welker recorded eight receptions for 86 yards and a score, Ben Watson added a TD catch and Sammy Morris rushed for 68 yards on 17 touches in defeat.

Denver got first crack with the football in the extra session and moved the ball consistently on the way to the winning score.

The Broncos were pinned at their two following a punt with 9:59 remaining. The big drive got rolling when Moreno rumbled 27 yards after a catch to the Pats' 42. Later in the series, a taunting penalty against Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather on an incompletion gave Denver the ball 1st-and-10 on the 11. On the next play Orton hit Marshall on the left side for the game-tying score with 5:21 on the clock.

Both sides traded three-and-outs, then the Patriots got the ball on their own 30 with 2:27 to go.

Morris gained 19 yards on the first play, but fumbled to teammate Nick Kaczur the next down after the two-minute warning. On second down, Brady was hit by Vonnie Holliday and lost the ball, with Elvis Dumervil coming up with it at the New England 45.

The Broncos failed to convert with Tully Banta-Cain bringing down Orton on 3rd-and-9 from the 44 with 15 seconds left for a six-yard loss. Following a punt, Brady took a knee to send the game to overtime.

Orton hit Marshall on the first play for 11 yards to the Broncos' 31, then connected with Royal for eight yards on 3rd-and-1 from the 48. Moreno followed with an 11-yard rush on first down to the Patriots 29. LaMont Jordan ran for two yards on 1st-and-10 then two incompletions and a five-yard offside penalty made it 3rd-and-3 from the 22. Orton's attempt in the end zone to Marshall was nearly picked off, and Prater was called on for a 41-yarder.

After a New England timeout, Prater split the uprights to close out the contest.

Prater pulled a 48-yard field goal wide right on Denver's opening possession, and New England turned that into the game's first touchdown.

Brady hit Welker for an eight-yard TD pass on the seventh play of the series, which was set up three plays earlier when Morris rumbled 35 yards on a screen pass to the Broncos' 15.

After hauling in an Orton pass, Moreno fumbled at his own 42. Brandon McGowan recovered at the 43, then a replay upheld the original call on the field after a Broncos challenge. Stephen Gostkowski nailed a career-best 53-yard field goal for a 10-0 contest to cap the set.

The Broncos finally got on track with 4:31 left in the half as Orton hit Marshall for an 11-yard score, but the Pats responded on a 74-yard drive ending on Watson's seven-yard TD catch with five seconds remaining to take a 17-7 lead to halftime.

Prater hit a 24-yarder to cap a 66-yard, 6 1/2 minute drive early in the third to bring Denver within 17-10, but the Patriots reached the Broncos' 22 on the ensuing drive. Gostkowski could have provided a 10-point edge to the visitors, but his 40-yard try was blown just wide of the left upright.

Denver has won 25 of the 41 all-time matchups, including 17 of 25 in the Mile High city, and five of the last seven overall against New England since 2001...Brady suffered his first career overtime loss, falling to 7-1...Broncos running back Correll Buckhalter was inactive for the contest...Patriots wide receiver Joey Galloway was also inactive as a healthy scratch.

-- Via The Sports Network

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