The Broncos hope that this month will go down in franchise annals as the one in which they shed a shackling four-game losing streak to rally for a playoff appearance.
But win or lose against San Francisco, this juncture may also go down in club lore as the time where a new generation of Broncos skill-position players took its first collective steps into stardom.
While it’s far too early to fete the accomplishments of Jay Cutler, Tony Scheffler, Mike Bell and Brandon Marshall, their contributions this month — and particularly in the last two weeks — are impressive. To wit:
GROUND: In the last two wins, Denver’s tailbacks have amassed 209 yards on 62 carries with three touchdowns. Mike Bell has just over half of those totes — 32 of them — but the bulk of the yardage, with 130 yards on those carries, as well as all three touchdowns accounted for by the position.
TIGHT ENDS: Players at the position have collectively gained 91 yards on six receptions with one score in the last two weeks. Second-rounder Scheffler has five of those catches (Nate Jackson has the other) for all but seven of the yards, along with the touchdown in the second quarter of Sunday’s 24-23 win over the Bengals.
WIDE RECEIVERS: The percentage isn’t as high here, but the last two weeks have witnessed the emergence of fourth-round pick Brandon Marshall as a go-to target. Marshall has nine catches for 123 yards in the past two weeks — giving him 39.1 percent of the receptions and 40.7 percent of the yardage amassed by the group.
And of course, Jay Cutler is back there slinging all the passes and accounting for all the aerial yardage and touchdowns. His eight scoring passes are the most for any Broncos rookie since the AFL-NFL merger (Marlin Briscoe tossed for 14 scores in 1968).
Where the rookies stood out most was on the Broncos’ signature drive of Sunday — and perhaps the entire season, the 99-yard, third-quarter march that put them in front for good. Bell had the touchdown — his eighth of the season — but he and Scheffler combined for 57 yards on the possession.
“Not only is that a good sign for the here and now, but it’s also a good sign for the future, knowing that the guys can step in now and do things,” Jackson said. “Hopefully they just keep learning as the games go on, and hopefully we make the playoffs, and they keep improving.”
And the more chances they get, the better the Broncos’ future looks — both for this year, and those yet to come.