It was fairly quiet in the locker room at Dove Valley on Thursday. Though many players did speak with reporters, just as many sat at their lockers, staring straight ahead as if in a trance. Why? Because they’re focused.
And with good reason.
At this time last year, the Broncos sat at 2-0 after two thrilling late field goals gave them victories over the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders. Yet when the season came to a close, they weren’t where they wanted to be — the playoffs.
So now in 2008, the Broncos sit at 2-0 once again, and they want to make sure that they reach their final destination this time.
Photo: Eric Lars Bakke
“We were 2-0 last year, and we still didn’t make the playoffs,” Elvis Dumervil told reporters before Thursday’s practice. “It’s a long season, and we’ve just got to continue finding ways to win and it will keep things better for us. 2-0 is nothing. We’ve just got to take it a week at a time and iron out the things that we need to correct and get ready for New Orleans.”
Things are different inside the locker room this year.
Everyone has had another year to mature, another year to work together. That seems to have bred a level of confidence and pride in each other which the players believe will translate into more on-field success than they saw a year ago.
“Every guy has to be accountable,” Brandon Marshall said in his press conference Thursday. “It is everybody; it is peer pressure from the players and the coaches. We are all on the same page and it is going to take, not just the guys on the field, but the coaches. I’ve said it before. We are a fairly young team. I think we have a bunch of intelligent guys and that helps out a lot.”
They have already reaped the benefits of that chemistry in the first two games. A look at the offense displays that quickly enough. Through two games last year, the Broncos offense scored 38 points. This year? 80.
A big part of that offensive improvement has been the chemistry between Jay Cutler and Marshall. His 18 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown led the team against the Chargers.
Photo: Eric Lars Bakke
“I guess it hasn’t hit me yet,” Marshall said. “It is definitely an accomplishment, and it was a blessing to go out there and catch 18 balls and contribute to a win, a great win at that. I can’t get complacent. I just have to build off of that and go forward.”
Marshall too remembers how things got started last year, and off to a hot start this year, he wants to keep it going. But next up is New Orleans, and the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver said that one of the reasons everyone is so focused on the Saints is because Head Coach Mike Shanahan has done such an excellent job of keeping their heads level.
“We realize that it is a long season,” Marshall said. “Coach Shanahan brought that to our attention this week. We started off 2-0 last year, and we didn’t end up good. He broke down a bunch of teams that started 2-0 and didn’t get to the playoffs. We have a great coach and a great organization. The direction we are heading now, I don’t see anybody getting a big head or anybody letting all this stuff overwhelm us.”
With their sights locked on the Saints, the defense realizes that much of the pressure will be on them to slow down the potent New Orleans offense, led by Drew Brees.
The general consensus seems to be that if they can limit the big plays, whether on the ground or through the air, that everything else will fall into place nicely.
“You look at what the Chargers did,” Dre’ Bly said. “They made adjustments to what we were doing and had three big pass plays for over 60 yards. That was the difference maker in them coming back. They had that one kick return by Sproles, that jump started everything and got those guys going, but other than those three plays, we played sound.”
Combine that with the fact that the defense held Oakland scoreless for three quarters in the season opener, it’s sign that the unit has improved since 2007.
Photo: Eric Lars Bakke
“Every week is going to be a task for us, trying to hold the opposition to a limited amount of points,” Bly said. “It’s something that we look forward to. Last week was one of the shootout games, but we look forward to building off what we did well and just keeping this thing going.”
But whether on offense or defense, the Broncos look forward to proving all the doubters wrong.
“None of y’all believed that we’d be 2-0. Nobody was picking us to be in the position we’re in today,” Bly said. “We believed we were going to be 2-0 this year. The confidence is much higher. We felt like we’d be where we are today.”
“I like for nobody to expect us to win, cause that’s when you shock the world.”
– Adam Zinser, DenverBroncos.com