USA TODAY Sports Weekly
Miller, Broncos embrace spotlight
Team will use week to relax after three practices in Denver
Coach Gary Kubiak said the Denver Broncos did all of their game-planning and installation during three practice sessions in Denver.
Therefore, this week’s practice sessions held at Stanford University were expected to be shorter than normal and intended to sharpen and reinforce what the team worked on at home.
“It’s really hard when the game is two weeks away to ask your players, your organization to say, ‘No, no, no, we’re playing this week, we’re going to focus this week.’ That’s hard on them, but they’ve all done a really good job,” Kubiak said.
“We’ll continue our meetings and that stuff, and how we prepare to play (this week), but I want them relaxed. They’ve done the work. I want them to enjoy themselves and get ready to go.”
That’s a change from the way the Bron- cos handled their preparation before the Super Bowl two years ago, and it was different for defensive end Antonio Smith, who played in the Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals after the 2008 season.
The Broncos, then coached by John Fox, lost Super Bowl XLVIII 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals, under Ken Whisenhunt, were edged 27-23 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
“We believe in him,” Smith said. “He believes us getting the bulk of our work (ahead of time) will help us (this) week, with all the things that are going to be going on, all the distractions. You already have a good baseline, where you won’t be trying to take in knowledge and at the same time, you got all this other kind of stuff going on.”
Another change for the Broncos practice routine from their Super Bowl preparation two years ago was practicing with crowd noise, as they don’t want to get caught unprepared if they find themselves needing to use a silent count on offense.
That happened on their first series in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks, when they opened the game near their goal line. Quarterback Peyton Manning and former center Manny Ramirez miscommunicated on the opening snap, and the ball whizzed past Manning’s head for a safety.
Brock Osweiler, who led the team to four wins while Manning was sidelined with a foot injury in November and December, is again playing a key role. He’s spending practices pretending to be Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
That means a big change from his job over the previous two weeks, when as the scout team quarterback he imitated pocket passers Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind football player, so I’m not going to say I’m going to be Cam,” Osweiler said. “But I’m going to do my absolute best to simulate what he does during games and give our defense the best look possible so that they’re prepared.”
That means plenty of running, on the directive of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, certainly far more than he or No. 3 quarterback Trevor Siemian was asked to do while preparing to face the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots.
“But (Phillips) wants us to make plays in the pocket, because that’s what makes Cam so dangerous. He can run, he can throw, he can throw inside the pocket, outside the pocket,” Osweiler said.
Osweiler said the closest comparison of this scout team work as Newton could be when he simulated Andrew Luck while the Broncos prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts in November. Just don’t ask for one of Newton’s touchdown celebrations.
“I don’t think I have that club in my bag,” Siemian said, laughing.