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Goodman Peaking Along With The Broncos

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Cornerback Andre' Goodman of the Denver Broncos celebrates as he returns an interception of a pass by quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets 26 yards for a third quarter touchdown at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 17, 201.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Cornerback Andre’ Goodman of the Denver Broncos celebrates as he returns an interception of a pass by quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets 26 yards for a third quarter touchdown at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 17, 201. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Andre Goodman’s career has hit a high point that’s coincided with the Denver Broncos’ run to the top of the AFC West.

Goodman’s first-ever interception return for a TD made quarterback Tim Tebow’s last-minute heroics against the New York Jets on Nov. 17 possible. His interception of Vikings rookie Christian Ponder in Minnesota last Sunday led to Matt Prater’s winning field goal as time expired.

Yet, it wasn’t long ago that the 10th-year veteran was wondering whether his years as a pro were over. That lingering doubt extended well into the early part of Denver’s season, which began with four losses in five games.

Coming off a 2010 season during which he was forced to miss significant time because of injury, there was reason for his skepticism. Add to that his age, 33, and a new coaching staff coming into this season, and it was clear why Goodman was wondering.

“When we reported and I walked into the building there was still uncertainty on my part whether I’d still be here or not,” Goodman said. “At any moment, they could trade for a guy, bring in a free agent. There was just so much uncertainty walking into the building and I never felt comfortable until they put out the final roster before the first regular-season game. I think that’s when I realized, `I’m going to be here.”‘

New head coach John Fox and his staff had done some housecleaning. Holdovers like Renaldo Hill, Nate Jones and Perrish Cox — all members of last year’s secondary – were cut. Goodman survived in part because of his deep resume as a cover corner and because Broncos staff went back to the 2009 tape, when he played his second straight 16-game season, to get a better read on his abilities.

“Obviously just watching him in camp, without having an offseason, I think all of our guys were a little rusty coming in initially,” Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “But I think probably about halfway through camp you realized he still had the ability to cover and he was getting his legs back under him.”

Those legs spent much of the offseason on the track, as Goodman ran countless sprints and did endurance work to try to strengthen the muscles that had failed him the previous season.

Even so, when Denver opened the season with a 1-4 start, Goodman was struggling. He wasn’t making plays that were there for the taking. Yet, again, the Broncos stood by him.

“I wasn’t sure they would have,” he said. “I was questioning that, telling myself, `Dre, you’ve got to get going because your window is closing. You’ve got to get going.’ I think what I did was stop trying to press … and I’ve been able to make a couple plays since then.”

An increase in man-to-man coverage helped him rediscover his comfort zone.

“One thing I know about him: His memory is very short,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. “He doesn’t worry about what’s happened, bad or good. He just keeps pushing to the next play.”

Goodman’s play against the Vikings demonstrated that. By his own account, he was having a poor overall game. Ponder was in the midst of setting a team record in passing yards. But with Minnesota taking over possession with a chance to win, Allen sold man coverage with the play of the safeties, but dropped Goodman in zone. The bait worked.

“There’s just a quiet confidence Goody brings to us where they might throw the ball over there, but at some point, he’s going to make them pay for that,” Denver safety Brian Dawkins said.

NOTES: Linebacker Von Miller will play Sunday, one week after he missed his first pro game due to surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb. Miller has experimented with several casts this week but said he’ll play with a club cast that won’t expose his fingers. . WR Eddie Royal (concussion) missed practice for a third straight day and is unlikely to play. . RB Willis McGahee (knee) was limited but is expected to start Sunday.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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