ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – ** The Broncos will begin their postseason with the team they kicked off the regular season against: the Colts. The Broncos' coordinators met with a large crowd on Thursday and discussed Sunday's matchup.
ROBY BACK FOR MORE
In his first game in the NFL, Bradley Roby lined up against Reggie Wayne on multiple occasions. It's no surprise that the first-round selection was picked on by the Colts during his pro debut.
But the 22-year-old held his ground and made the game-sealing play. With the Broncos leading 31-24 late in the fourth quarter, Andrew Luck led the Colts on what could have been the game-tying drive. On fourth down, he targeted Wayne but Roby closed in on the ball and knocked away the pass.
Von Miller and the Broncos were flying around the practice field on Turnover Thursday. Check out the photos here.
"It was big for me, realizing my dream of playing in the NFL and in my first game making the game-winning play versus a Hall of Fame guy (Wayne) and a great quarterback," Roby said. "Maybe a pick would have been the only thing that would have been better. But we won the game.
"It was huge for my confidence, just letting me know that I can play with these guys and I've been riding that and I've been trying to keep getting better. It's all about keeping getting better and progressing. I don't really think about it now."
Roby said he is ready for the win-or-go-home pressure of the playoffs. His teammates told him that everything is more important and the plays are faster. With starters Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. guiding him, he has embraced the burden of playing a position that requires so much mental toughness.
Last week, Head Coach John Fox said Roby should be considered for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
On Thursday, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said Roby's play this season has been "huge." Only five Broncos have played more defensive snaps than him, and he's totaled 59 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
"It's a big role for a young player to come in and embrace," Del Rio said. "I think he's done a good job throughout the year. If you go back and look at our first game that fourth down stop at the end of the game was Bradley Roby. He's been involved from the beginning throughout the whole season, he's had a good year and having that kind of depth is imperative nowadays in today's NFL. You're going to go against teams that have three, four, five really talented receivers."
"At the end of the day it's just a football game," Roby said of his first NFL playoff game. "You can't put too much on to it. Just going into our first playoff game, I'm excited."
THE CHALLENGE LUCK POSES
The chatter this week surrounding Sunday's game revolves around Peyton Manning taking on his former team and their quarterback. But the truth of the matter is that Manning and Luck won't be on the field at the same time.
The man charged with containing the playmaker is Del Rio.
He calls Luck, "big, strong [and] talented."
Luck had the third-most passing attempts in the NFL this season and when asked how the third-year QB is so successful despite being on a one-dimensional team, Del Rio clarified that no threat is eliminated.
"I think the biggest thing is that even when they are one dimensional, they are not one dimensional because he'll take off and run it," Del Rio said. "So you're getting their run game that way. He's a good quarterback. He's a good competitor. I think last year's Kansas City game shows that they are never out of it. It's the kind of opponent that you have to play 60 minutes worth of good football against so that's what we're doing right now."
Like Fox earlier this week, Del Rio mentioned the Colts' memorable comeback in the wild card round of last season's playoffs as they came back from a 28-point deficit to defeat the Chiefs.
"He played lights out last week against Cincinnati," Del Rio said of Luck. "In our game [in Week 1] we were ahead and they got some things going late in the game and brought it back to within a score. It's a team that continues to fight; the quarterback gives them a chance to stay in it. You have to fight and play 60 minutes."
BYE WEEK BENEFITS, PARTICULARLY FOR THOMAS
When the Broncos and Colts collided in Denver in September, Julius Thomas proved just how valuable he is – leading the team with seven receptions for 104 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't top 100 yards through the rest of the regular season, but was able to earn a then-league-leading 12 TDs.
After suffering an ankle injury in St. Louis, Thomas hasn't made a significant impact for the offense, totaling three receptions for 56 yards in the last three games.
Like all of the Broncos, the well-earned bye week was a welcomed respite for the tight end.
"We got a lot of guys back," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "I know every day that he is able to get a little bit better and a little bit stronger from the training room to out on the field. For the most part, I think anybody that we had that was a little bit banged up is a little healthier."
In fact, Wednesday's practice was the first times since Week 5 that every player on the 53-man roster practiced. Julius Thomas wasn't able to get into the end zone during the last year's postseason, but he was able to garner 188 yards on 18 receptions in the three games.
He will be vital for the Broncos as they begin their 2014 playoff push.
"He's a matchup issue, especially in the red zone," Gase said. "Everybody has talked about how he's really caused a lot of defenses problems. We're trying to still figure out the best way to use him right now and [we'll] just see how that goes from week to week."
When asked if his limited production was a result of his health or if defenses are playing him differently, Thomas couldn't pinpoint the source.
"I think it's maybe a combination of both," Thomas said. "Just trying to find a way to get as many reps as you can in practice and be able to go out there and execute at a high level on Sundays, it's kind of a thing you've got to work through but it's coming along."