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As Nuggets advance in playoffs, Broncos take note for added motivation

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Denver Nuggets rebounded from a 3-1 series deficit against the Utah Jazz to earn a 80-78 Game 7 win, the Broncos took notice.

Head Coach Vic Fangio was in team meetings and couldn't watch the game live, but he checked out the highlights and praised the "great win" for the Nuggets.

The Broncos, it seems, can take a lesson from both the Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche, who are looking to fight back in their series against the Dallas Stars.

"That's what has to happen," Fangio said of the Nuggets. "Your best players have to pull you through [in] those situations."

Phillip Lindsay said he sees similarities between the Broncos and the Nuggets, as both organizations have relatively young teams.

"They're showcasing that mentality of not giving up and staying in it with each other," Lindsay said. "We can learn from that with a lot of things. We can learn that with what the NBA is doing for Black Lives Matter and what they're doing for each other. They're setting an example."

In addition to providing lessons for the Broncos, the Nuggets and Avalanche are also providing motivation. As the other Colorado teams are thriving, Lindsay doesn't want the Broncos to be left behind.

"You don't want to be the only Colorado team not in the playoffs," Lindsay said. "That doesn't feel good to have basketball doing well and you have hockey doing well. The Rockies — they were doing well, and now they have to get back on track. You don't want to be that odd man out. You know what I mean? Studies and facts show that when Colorado does well all around, it's just a better environment. When we were at Colorado and we went to the Pac-12 Championship [Game], it was a better environment for everybody. Even the fans, it was just better. You had the Broncos shining at that time. It just makes things better for people. People, for some reason, they're happier."


The Broncos have held a weeks-long competition for the No. 3 cornerback spot, and on Wednesday, undrafted cornerback Essang Bassey received an unexpected opportunity to show what he could do with the first-team defense.

As the Broncos began their team drills Wednesday, Fangio told the Wake Forest product to sub in as the team's slot cornerback in the team's nickel defense.

Fangio said the decision was less a proclamation and more an evaluation tool.

"It was more of a test for him," Fangio said. "It wasn't a move or anything — [it was] just to see how he reacted and how he would do in there."

Fangio said the decision to tell Bassey about the move at the final second was both to replicate an unexpected game scenario and to see how Bassey would react to a new role.

"That's how it could happen in a game," Fangio said. "You could be going five, six, seven weeks as a backup and you're ready to go but you never get in there. Then it just happens that fast, so you have to be ready to go. That's part of it. Two is to give him a chance to work with the ones, put him in there, let him feel it, let the other players feel him in there. I just wanted to see how it would go and whether he would pee his pants or go out there and be like he's been."

Fangio had yet to watch the tape of Wednesday's practice when he spoke to the media, but based on his initial impressions, he thought the rookie did "pretty damn well."

The Broncos have had an undrafted rookie make their initial 53-man roster in 15 of the last 16 seasons. Outside linebacker Malik Reed and linebacker Josh Watson both made the initial 53-man roster in 2019.

If Bassey made enough of an impression in training camp, he could extend that streak.


The Broncos simulated a game day at Empower Field at Mile High on Saturday, and they'll be back at their home stadium on Friday evening for another run-through.

Fangio said the team will kick off at 7:30 p.m, and the practice will be held in a similar format to Saturday's practice. During that session, the Broncos held pre-game warmups before returning to the locker room, running out to the field and beginning the simulated game with a kickoff. The Broncos manipulated the scrimmage-like environment to ensure they would practice certain scenarios, but Fangio and Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur called plays for their respective units without a script.

The first-team offense and defense received eight series of action during the Saturday practice. 

"[It will] give our guys a chance to get down there [and] see the lights with our first game being under the lights," Fangio said, "especially for some of these receivers and guys that haven't been there — just to get a feel for that and [get] another good feel for the stadium."


With less than two weeks before the season opener, the Broncos will soon have to boil down their entire array of offensive plays into a condensed game plan for their game against the Tennessee Titans.

Fangio said he'll soon have a conversation with quarterback Drew Lock to find out which plays he's most comfortable with and then pair those plays with other needed staples of the offense.

"I think it'll become time now to where we need to talk to him, see what he's most comfortable with and what he's not comfortable with because the game is approaching, as we all know," Fangio said. "We have to tailor it to him at the same point with him pushing through stuff that we think is important that maybe he doesn't feel as comfortable with now."

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