Feel­ings of deja vu boost Bron­cos

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Arnie Sta­ple­ton AP Pro Foot­ball Writer

Where oth­ers might see ma­jor flaws in Den­ver’s drive to re­peat, the Bron­cos see flash­backs.

A year ago, they were try­ing to shore up a spongy of­fen­sive line just as they are now.

They were seek­ing more pro­duc­tion from their tight ends and run­ning backs while mak­ing do with­out Pey­ton Man­ning, same as they are to­day.

“I don’t think any­one on of­fense would say that we’ve put to­gether a com­plete game,” quar­ter­back Trevor Siemian said.

“We’ve won seven games, and we know we can get bet­ter. I don’t think there are too many teams that can say that and be in this po­si­tion.”

The Bron­cos (7-3) are start­ing to get healthy on de­fense just as they did at this time last year as they be­gan surg­ing to­ward the Su­per Bowl.

And that gives them con­fi­dence they can re­cap­ture the magic and be­come the first re­peat cham­pion since the 2004 Pa­tri­ots.

“We haven’t played our best foot­ball yet, which I think is the en­cour­ag­ing thing,” gen­eral manager John El­way said last week.

So, let the Raiders (8-2) bask in their resur­gence and let the Chiefs (7-3) cel­e­brate their 17-3 mark in their past 20 reg­u­lar-sea­son games.

The Bron­cos dis­play no signs of con­cern, re­main­ing ev­ery bit as bold as last year’s bunch.

“We’re in a great po­si­tion,” corner­back Chris Har­ris Jr. said. “It’s on us. We’ve got a chance to win it. We’ve got to go and take it.”

The Bron­cos and Chiefs square off Sun­day night in Den­ver with the win­ner get­ting a head-start on the play­off race.

“With ev­ery game, the stage gets big­ger,” right guard Max Gar­cia said. “It’s not go­ing to be easy, but we’ve just got to get it done, and if we can do it we’ll be right where we need to be.”

The Bron­cos have won the AFC West five years in a row. The Chiefs haven’t won it since 2010 and the Raiders’ most re­cent di­vi­sional ti­tle was way back in 2002, when they last reached the play­offs.

“We just know this is our time,” Har­ris said. “This is the time of year where a lot of teams fall off and they can’t con­tinue to stay on that ride and con­tinue to get bet­ter. But this is a time we know we’ve got to turn it up an­other notch.”

To have an­other shot at the ti­tle, the Bron­cos know they’ll have to start stop­ping the run. They rank 29th in the league in that cat­e­gory, sec­ond against the pass and fourth over­all.

“That’s not our stan­dard here,” Har­ris said. “We know that’s some­thing that we need to tighten up and if that’s tight in these last six games, it’s go­ing to be hard for teams to beat us.”

That’s be­cause op­po­nents

would have to throw into the teeth of their “No Fly Zone” sec­ondary, which is get­ting star corner­back Aqib Talib back this week­end af­ter he missed two games with a bad back.

Also re­turn­ing to the lineup is de­fen­sive end Derek Wolfe, who missed a game with a hy­per­ex­tended right el­bow.

“I hated it,” Wolfe said. “I don’t like watch­ing the game in the first place. I like play­ing it. Stand­ing on the side­line is mis­er­able any­way. Just stand­ing there for three hours isn’t fun.”

Den­ver’s de­fense is at full strength for the first time since Septem­ber.

“They’re good across the board,” Chiefs quar­ter­back Alex Smith said. “Up front, line­backer and sec­ondary, these guys are re­ally, re­ally good.”

Also get­ting back to his early sea­son har­di­ness is Siemian, who has shown more mo­bil­ity af­ter get­ting a cor­ti­sone in­jec­tion in his

ail­ing left shoul­der dur­ing the Bron­cos’ bye last week, coach Gary Ku­biak said.

“He looks fresh,” Ku­biak said Thurs­day. “He’s throw­ing the ball well. He’s mov­ing around. One of the things with Trevor, too, if you go back to early in the sea­son, Trevor made a lot of first downs with his feet.”

Be­fore he got hurt in Week 4, Siemian reg­u­larly es­caped pres­sure in the pocket and ran for first downs when his re­ceivers were cov­ered.

“You didn’t see that the last three or four weeks,” Ku­biak said. “So, hope­fully with that fresh­ness, you’ll start to see some more of that again.”

Notes: With Casey Kre­iter deal­ing with a strained calf, fifth-year DE Billy Winn is the Bron­cos’ emer­gency long snap­per. He’s never snapped in a game, but has done so at prac­tice since he was at Boise State.

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