In Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, Champ Bailey held Dwayne Bowe — the league’s hottest receiver after scoring in seven straight games coming in — without a single catch. Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale called it “one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.”
Bailey’s reward for the effort? The nine-time Pro Bowler gets a Week 14 matchup with Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald — a four-time Pro Bowler who is one catch away from being the team’s all-time receptions leader.
“It is more of a challenge this week,” Bailey said. “He is more of a polished receiver. He is more experienced. So, my hands will be a little full this week.”
Bailey’s work in Kansas City showed why he’s still one of the most respected cornerbacks in the game.
Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel passed for Bowe three times without success. In the fourth quarter, Bailey drew an offensive pass interference penalty when Bowe pushed off while making a 22-yard catch. He finished the game with four tackles, including a sack, and one pass defended.
“It was just his day,” fellow cornerback Nate Jones said. “He won that battle.”
In Arizona, Bailey will likely be battling the more veteran Fitzgerald attempting to catch passes from an inexperienced quarterback. With injuries to the Cardinals’ top two quarterbacks, it’s possible that rookie John Skelton will make his first career start.
Arizona starter Derek Anderson has not practiced this week, and the defense, which held Kansas City to just 10 points last week, has spent the week preparing for Skelton. Martindale said the team has watched tape of him playing in preseason and in Sunday’s loss to the Rams and called him “a big stationary target back there.”
“I wish I knew more about this guy, but it is what it is,” Bailey said. “I know No. 11 (Fitzgerald) is going to run his routes just the same.”
For his part, Fitzgerald said he’s watched tape of each Broncos game and understands he’s in for a tough Sunday afternoon. The only time the pair have played in the same regular season game, Fitzgerald had five catches for 77 yards but Bailey finished with a pair of interceptions in a 37-20 Denver win back in 2006.
“He’s a competitor and every time you play against him, you know exactly what type of matchup you’re going to be in,” Fitzgerald said in a Wednesday conference call. “It’ll be a competitive fight and it’s always fun to compete against people you respect and admire.”
While it might be hard for Bailey to play up to the incredible standard he set last week, Martindale said Bailey’s consistency remains one of his best attributes. The defensive coordinator knows Bailey will be ready to step up again on Sunday.
“I always joke around with (Jets Head Coach) Rex (Ryan),” Martindale said. “I say he’s got his guy, that’s ‘Revis Island’ and I say, ‘Champ’s island is Honolulu, because he’s over there at the Pro Bowl all the time.’ That’s how I feel about him and he goes about it every day.”
MCCOY MAKES THE CALLS
In his first media session since Josh McDaniels was relieved of his head coaching duties, Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy echoed Interim Head Coach Eric Studesville’s message this week.
McCoy, who will assume McDaniels’ play-calling duties, said the move means plenty of small changes around Dove Valley but nothing drastic as the team heads into its final four games of the season.
“I just have a bigger role now, but we are not changing the way we game plan or anything,” McCoy said. “Everyone is still involved, (and) we are going it the exact same way as it was before on a day-to-day basis getting ready for our opponent.”
McCoy said he has a little bit of play-calling experience from his time in Carolina when then-offensive coordinator Dan Henning would give him the responsibility in certain situations. The second-year coordinator gave credit to the offensive system in place and vowed to avoid changes to a scheme that has served him well since his days as the Panthers quarterbacks coach.
In his weekly press conference yesterday, Kyle Orton said he’s “comfortable” with the coordinator. He appreciates the communication that he’s had with McCoy, a former quarterback himself, during games. While Orton said it will be different having a new voice talking to him in his helmet during games, he’s confident in McCoy’s ability to handle the new duty.
McCoy, who called the coaching change “an unfortunate part of the business,” said he’s ready for the new challenges he’ll face down the stretch.
“I have been very fortunate since the day I got in this business back in 2000 to work with some great coaches, and they have prepared me for this opportunity that I have now,” McCoy said. “From the very first day to the last day Josh was here, I have been very fortunate and they have all prepared me for how to plan for games.”
Matt Prater made his first appearance on the injury report this season as he was limited in Thursday’s session with a right groin injury. Andre Goodman (quadricep) and Darcel McBath (quadricep/ankle) also had limited participation in the session.
Brian Dawkins (knee), Spencer Larsen (hamstring) and Demaryius Thomas (ankle) missed their second straight workout and Studesville said previously that all three will miss Sunday’s game.
For the Cardinals, Anderson (head) was the lone player to miss Thursday’s practice. WR Steve Breaston (knee), DE Calais Campbell (ankle), K Jay Feeley (right groin), LB Clark Haggans (groin) and LB Joey Porter (knee) practiced with limited participation. CB Michael Adams (shoulder), DT Darnell Dockett (shoulder) and CB Greg Toler (foot) had full participation in the session.
- Eric Detweiler, DenverBroncos.com