ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Broncos insist their first loss in 295 days offers them the rare chance to recalibrate but doesn’t bestow a blueprint upon other opponents.
“Well, if everybody goes and gets a Coleman, then they’ve got the blueprint. Good luck,” cracked cornerback Aqib Talib.
The Broncos were still in awe of Tevin Coleman on Tuesday, 48 hours after the Falcons’ backup running back with breakaway speed torched them for 132 yards on four catches in Atlanta’s not-as-close-as-it-sounds 23-16 win in Denver.
The Broncos’ usually defiant defense shut down Julio Jones a week after his 300-yard game against Carolina but got burned by Atlanta’s tailback tandem of Coleman and Devonta Freeman. They accounted for 119 yards rushing and 167 yards receiving.
“We just had a tough day on Sunday,” pass rusher Von Miller said. “Every team doesn’t have a Devonta Freeman and a Coleman. It’s just not something that’s going to happen week in and week out. That was one day out of the month, one game.
“We lost a game last year about this time to the Colts, and we lost another game right after that and we were able to rally. How we finished the season, that’s all history. It’s how you bounce back from it that defines what type of team you are.”
The Broncos (4-1) face a tough challenge in rebounding from their first loss since Dec. 20 when they visit the San Diego Chargers (1-4) Thursday night.
—a short work week,
—a head coach who’s on the couch
—and a quarterback quandary to navigate.
Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is running the team this week with Gary Kubiak heeding doctor’s orders to take a week off after heading to the hospital in an ambulance with a migraine after Sunday’s game.
“We miss him around here, Kube’s our leader,” Talib said. “But we understand that he needs to get some rest. He needs to get healthy, man. We’re grown men, we know our jobs. And we still know how to do our job whether he’s here or not.”
The pressure falls on DeCamillis to try to extend Denver’s record-breaking 15-game divisional road winning streak, and it’s the 51-year-old son-in-law of former NFL coach Dan Reeves who also gets to make the call on who to start at quarterback.
DeCamillis will confer with doctors, trainers, players and GM John Elway before naming Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch his starter shortly before kickoff Thursday.
“Yeah, I’m expecting to play,” said Siemian, who is 4-0 as a starter but missed last weekend’s game with a sprained left shoulder.
Lynch fell flat in his first NFL start through a combination of nerves, bad footwork and poor protection, especially from tackle Ty Sambrailo, who allowed three sacks before being benched.
Tight end Virgil Green and right tackle Donald Stephenson have both missed the last three games with a pulled left calf and both expect to return to action against San Diego.
Without them, the Broncos’ ground game has sputtered, and that allowed the Falcons to put too much pressure on Lynch.
Left tackle Russell Okung said the Falcons “hit us in the mouth up front … and with a young quarterback out there we’ve got a margin of error so small.” But, he added, “I trust this group. I know we’ll bounce back. I know what we have the potential to be and we can be the best in the league.”
Coaches are resisting the temptation to reach out to Kubiak this week.
“I’m not calling him,” offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. “I went over and saw him that night and he started talking about the game and I told him, ‘Just rest. Just relax. Get better.'”
Notes: It was another “hat day” for the Broncos at practice, where Siemian was the only one wearing shoulder pads at the start. … Dennison said he’ll stay in the coaching box on game day and not join DeCamillis on the sideline.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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