By Arnie Stapleton
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. _ By midweek, teams have seen the film, made the corrections and installed the new game plan. All of that did nothing to ease John Fox’s irritability or Peyton Manning’s sense of culpability Wednesday.
Both are still smarting from Denver’s 22-7 loss at St. Louis in which the Broncos’ NFL-record streak of 30 consecutive 20-plus-point games was snapped in stunning fashion.
Manning stuck to the theme that he was the primary culprit and Fox remained testy over unrelenting criticism of his leaky offensive line.
The Broncos’ league-high 87 penalties include 15 false starts and 14 holds on their O-line, where they’ve made four changes already and flirted with signing Richie Incognito.
“I’d remind everybody, we’re like the No. 2 offence in the National Football League,” Fox said. “We lead the league _ we’re No. 1 in (fewest) sacks allowed. I think sometimes we lose sight of kind of where we are. We’re 7-3. That’s the O-line that’s 7-3 as well as the rest of the team.”
Manning also stood up for the front five that was jumbled two weeks ago with nine-year veteran Will Montgomery going in at centre, Manny Ramirez sliding over to right guard and Louis Vasquez moving to right tackle.
“I mean, it’s not easy forming chemistry in just two weeks in the middle of the season, right? What is that, just a handful of practices they’ve had together?” Manning said. “You’d like for an offensive line to have a minicamp and a training camp to go through together, but due to the changes that were made, we’re having to form that chemistry on the run.”
Montgomery’s “head is probably spinning at times. I think he’s done a heck of a job and I think Lou has done a heck of a job out there at right tackle and Manny’s been really versatile,” Manning said. “When you do have new players at new spots, everybody else has to play a little better to help those guys. That’s how I feel, and it starts with me.”
It hasn’t helped that left tackle Ryan Clady is dealing with a groin injury.
Running back C.J. Anderson said he’s tired of his O-line getting ripped.
“Of course, I take it personally,” Anderson said, “because I feel like they’re attacking me, also.”
All those critics “don’t know what’s going on,” he added. “All they know is what they see on Sunday.”
It hasn’t been pretty.
Thirty-eight runs so far have resulted in no gain or negative yardage, an indication that the group’s footwork is tipping the Broncos’ hand, and Manning keeps getting sacked on stunts where pass-rushers swoop around untouched.
“There are good players on the other side of the ball, too,” Anderson said. “And it’s not like they’re facing any cupcakes over there. … We’re talking about people who have been good on the other side of the ball for years. So, I’m tired of it. The only way you can shut them up is to go out and execute this weekend.”
The task gets no easier Sunday when the Miami Dolphins (6-4) visit Denver with another stout pass rush led by Cameron Wake.
“Yeah, it seems like every week we’ve got dialed-up challenges,” Montgomery said. “We feel we’re a really good team also, so we feel like we weren’t executing at our best last week and we’ve got to change that. I feel like when we execute well, we’re hard to beat.”
A glimmer of hope came Wednesday when tight end Virgil Green (calf) returned to practice. Denver’s slide has coincided with his three-game absence and the Broncos have sorely missed his physicality in their blocking schemes.
“Virg, he loves what he does. He’s just so strong and so physical. So, bringing him back is a big help,” Anderson said.
Champ Bailey, who retired Tuesday, said he believes the Broncos will figure things out up front and find a way to get back on the Super Bowl Express.
“It’s happened at the right time, not in the playoffs,” Bailey said. “This league, it’s about as tight as it gets. I swear, six or seven weeks ago, you’re talking about Seattle is the best thing you’ve ever seen. Now, what do you think?”
Notes: Dolphins coach Joe Philbin artfully dodged a question about whether Incognito, who was suspended last year for bullying a teammate in Miami, deserves another chance to play in the NFL. “I think Denver has a great front office and a great personnel staff and they have to certainly make decisions that are best for their football team,” Philbin said.
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