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Broncos-Patriots Notebook

Posted Jan 15, 2006

Over a month after suffering a pulled groin, Darrent Williams was back in the lineup for the Broncos as they took the field against the Patriots.

***UPDATED 4:25 A.M. MST ***


CB Williams Returns to Action


Darrent Williams returned and took time to get the crowd pumped up during Saturday night's game. PHOTO: DOUG PENSINGER / GETTY IMAGES

DENVER -- Darrent Williams delivered on his promise. He returned for the playoffs.

After missing the last three games of the regular season with a pulled groin suffered early in the Dec. 11 win over Baltimore, Williams returned, though he admitted that the groin was "hurting a little bit" following the game.

"It's feeling so-so," Williams said. "It's not going to be 100 percent, but I'm feeling all right. I feel like I could come out and I'd be able to play the whole game next week. I would have been able this week, but we were up and it was kind of hurting me a little bit, so (Head) Coach (Mike Shanahan) sat me out in the fourth quarter."

Williams did not start, but entered the game on the second play as he replaced linebacker D.J. Williams when the Broncos went to a nickel package.  Fellow rookie Domonique Foxworth got the start at the cornerback slot opposite All-Pro Champ Bailey.

Williams did not practice throughout the last three weeks of December as he rehabilitated from his injury, but returned to the field for full-scale work earlier this week as the Broncos returned from the bye week. After the Monday practice, Williams said he was at "about 60 percent." A day later, he said that he had improved to "about 67 percent."

A few extra days boosted Williams' self-assessment upward.

"I was about 80 percent," he said. "I felt pretty good. I did all right. I've got to get back in the feel of the game. I was a little rusty out there, but for the most part, I feel like I did all right.

"Next week, I think I'll do better."

Having an extra off-day on Sunday can only help.

"I'm going to need it," he said. "I'll be getting extra treatment so I'll be ready next week for whoever we play."

-- Andrew Mason

Return of the Magic

The 76,238 fans who filled INVESCO Field at Mile High to watch the Broncos' first home playoff win since 1999 did not go home disappointed.

The 27-13 victory over the New England Patriots secured a spot in the AFC Championship for the Broncos. With a little luck, the same fans could see that game in the Mile High City.

That would be icing on the cake for Broncos coaches and players who praised the fans for their role in knocking off the defending Super Bowl Champions.

"They're the best," Shanahan said. "You talk about having an advantage with the 12th man... the pressure we got on (Patriots quarterback Tom) Brady and to get as many penalties as we did is a reflection on our fans."

Shanahan said he had trouble talking with players and coaches on the sideline -- something he welcomed because of the issues it gave to his opponent.

The Patriots jumped off sides several times because of the noise.

The victory, the first playoff win since the team left Mile High Stadium, also appeared to bring some heat and passion to the new stadium.

"I think we just changed the course of INVESCO Field being a wine and cheese crowd," safety John Lynch said. "There was something special out there. It was a lot of fun."

- J. Michael Moore


Sauerbrun Joins the Hit Parade

Todd Sauerbrun's chinstrap was unbuckled as he prepared to take down New England kickoff returner Ellis Hobbs late in the second quarter. A jarring hit could have sent the headgear flying towards the sideline, leaving the Broncos' punter and kickoff specialist unprotected.

But Sauerbrun fearlessly dove into the fray, using a well-placed helmet to jar the football loose from Hobbs' grasp, turning in the kind of stop and forced fumble that one wouldn't expect from a player with no tackles in the 2005 season. Broncos fullback Cecil Sapp procured the loose football after a scramble, setting up the Jason Elam field goal that put the Broncos in front 10-3 at halftime.

"I'm not going to say I've been saving it, but the opportunity just has not come for me, because our special teams coverage has been great all year," Sauerbrun said. "There was an opportunity for me to get in there and make the stick."

The hit seemed to be a big deal to everyone but Sauerbrun himself. What many saw was the unlikelihood of a kicking specialist hitting another player hard enough to force a fumble. What Sauerbrun saw was a former lacrosse standout simply deciding to get physical and play the game for which he is paid.

"I like that," Shanahan said. "He's a tough son-of-a-gun. How many punters at 220 pounds are that great an athlete?"

Well, Sauerbrun insisted he actually weighed 215. But at any weight, it was a play that helped the Broncos take control of the game; it was one of five turnovers the team snared, and Shanahan was extremely appreciative.

"Mike paid me the biggest compliment; he came over here," Sauerbrun said in the locker room. "To me, that means everything in the world."

-- Andrew Mason


Another First

Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer had grown used to the questions about his team's lack of playoff wins since Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway retired.

After Saturday night's win, he won't have to answer them ever again.

"I was getting used to those (questions)," Plummer said after the victory. "It was big for this organization, for everybody. Obviously, John was a great quarterback and we had some great football teams. Hopefully we can continue on and get people to start appreciating what we have now."

Shanahan pushed the questions aside, noting team efforts were important even in the Elway years.

"To be honest with you, people forget how fortunate it is to coach great platers," Shanahan said. "John Elway was a great player. John will be there first to tell you it takes a complete team.

"That's one reason we won today. It was a group of people playing together and playing extremely hard. Hopefully we can continue that and do something special as a team."

- J. Michael Moore


Broncos Bytes

The win was Denver's first postseason triumph in a year in which the team finished 13-3. The two other seasons with that record saw divisional-round losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers (1984) and Jacksonville Jaguars (1996) ...

... Adam Vinatieri's 40-yard field goal in the second quarter allowed the Patriots to notch the game's first score for the first time in their last eight playoff games ...

... Jason Elam's nine-point night allowed him to become the Broncos' all-time leading postseason scorer with 79 points, passing Terrell Davis (74 points) ...

... Denver took a while to get its initial first down of each half, taking 10:06 at the start of the game and 7:30 coming out of halftime ...

... Mike Vrabel's sack of Jake Plummer nine and a half minutes into the third quarter was the first of the game for either team ...

... After picking up just 39 rushing yards through the game's first three quarters, the Broncos picked up 57 yards on the ground in the final frame to put the game away...

... Denver's eight inactive players included wide receivers David Terrell and Darius Watts, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Roc Alexander, guard Taylor Whitley, defensive linemen John Engelberger and Monsanto Pope and tight end Nate Jackson ...

... New England deactivated left tackle Nick Kaczur, starting Tom Ashworth in his place. The Patriots also scratched fullback Patrick Pass, leaving Kevin Faulk to draw the starting assignment.

-- Andrew Mason