ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --On a day in which quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch split repetitions "right down the middle," as Head Coach Gary Kubiak said, there were plenty of items on the Broncos' plate as they prepare for the Tennessee Titans' multi-faceted attack.
- SANDERS ON LYNCH: "HE PLAYED LIKE A ROOKIE"**
And that's something to which any player, including Emmanuel Sanders himself, can relate. But having to start through the rookie ups and downs -- that's a different experience.
"When you're a young guy, I can only imagine. I remember when I was a rookie. Coming in, I didn't even start [regularly] as a rookie," he said. "I can only imagine starting as a rookie, how much pressure there is to be playing with guys like Demaryius Thomas and have Aqib Talib look at you and say, 'We need you.'
"That's a lot of pressure. I think he handled it well. He got the job done."
Sanders said Lynch "played like a rookie," but he didn't mean that as a pejorative.
"That's not bad, he's a rookie. He's not going to come out and do anything crazy," Sanders said. "What he did was [win] the ballgame for us. That's what it is. This is my seventh year. There's passes that I wish I could have back. There's routes that I could run better. There's plays that I wish I could have back. He has those, too. He has passes and he has plays that he wishes he would have done better.
"As far as him doing his job, he did his job. That was to win the game. Most rookies can't even do that. He's definitely above most rookies."
- DEALING WITH TENNESSEE'S WEAPONS**
The Titans' offensive cocktail of one slashing running back (DeMarco Murray), one power runner (Derrick Henry), one elite offensive line, one dual-threat tight end who leads the team in receptions (Delanie Walker) and a quarterback as capable of beating you with his legs as with his deep connections has become more potent with each passing week.
Von Miller said Murray is among the league's top three running backs. Walker earned praise as an elite tight end. The kind words for Mariota's progress and ability to keep a defense off-balance are universal in the Broncos' locker room.
But the Broncos have a powerful defense of their own, one which leads the NFL in net points allowed per possession. It's a deep, experienced unit that isn't caught off-guard often -- and can attack Mariota without sacrificing much elsewhere.
"Some guys, you have to say, 'Hey, we've got to contain the quarterback no matter what.' These guys can rush the passer and maybe get to him or pressure him, like we saw last week," said Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips.
That means Miller can still go on the attack.
"Me temper down my pass rush? No, never," Miller said.
Part of the reason is that Miller is often able to rush the passer without being caught out of position; he attacks, but doesn't sacrifice his spot on the edge, helping him contain zone-read runs.
His effectiveness against the run is not well-documented, but is a significant part of his game; his ability to shed blockers at the point of attack and bring down ballcarriers from the back side helps define him as a complete outside linebacker.
Given Mariota's mobility and low sack rate, Miller's other skills could define his performance Sunday in Nashville."I've just got to understand what my role is. It's not just rushing the passer," he said. "It's not just the run game. It's not just dropping into coverage and covering tight ends. My job is to make plays -- make big plays for my team, however I can make them. Strip the ball, tackles for losses, [passes broken up] -- however I can get them, that is my responsibility."
But Miller and his fellow pass rushers can be trusted to go after Mariota.
"We actually put a spy on Cam in the Super Bowl, but then after a while, we said, 'Hey, you guys rush him and make the right decisions,'" Phillips said. "That's the good thing about Von and DeMarcus [Ware] and out outside rush guys, [Derek] Wolfe, those kind of people. You can tell them, 'Hey, if you can beat your guy, go ahead and beat him and make the play.'"
- DOUBLE VISION**
Miller's game-sealing sack came at the end of a game in which he was chipped and double-teamed constantly, but still finished with six quarterbacks hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com, which was the most of any player in the league last week, tied with Oakland's Khalil Mack and Dallas' DeMarcus Lawrence.
"I've never seen a guy double-teamed as much as he was last game. It was phenomenal," Phillips said. "Talking to their coaches after the game, they said, 'We weren't going to let him be the difference.' And he was the difference. So that tells you how good he is."
Miller's lone sack last Sunday -- for which he finally received statistical credit Wednesday -- came via one of his rare one-on-one opportunities, with Jacksonville attempting a last-gasp comeback and needing all of its possible receiving targets downfield. That left Miller against right tackle Jermey Parnell, and Miller pushed him back into Blake Bortles, leading to the game-clinching sack and fumble.
Double-teams come with the territory for Miller. It's a sign of respect for his skill set. But he'd rather have sacks.
"I'm not looking for respect. I'm trying to make plays. But it is what it is," he said. "I'm trying to ruin the game, and they don't want me to do it."
But it causes him to look back at the younger days of his career and realize he didn't maximize his one-on-one opportunities enough.
"I kind of beat myself up about this, because when I first came into the league, nobody was really chipping me like that, and my second year, nobody was really chipping me," Miller recalled. "I should have been taking advantage of those opportunities when I got them. So I really don't pay [any] mind to it."
- WHY MILLER DOESN'T SET A SPECIFIC SACK NUMBER AS HIS ANNUAL GOAL**
Miller, who leads the league with 13.5 sacks, joked that he wanted to get 55 sacks this year -- "If I got 10 five-sack games, I could be close," he said. It was, of course, a comically absurd number that reflects how he regards such self-prognostication.
But there is a good reason why he doesn't set a sack goal. He did it at Texas A&M.
"My sophomore year, I told myself a number that I wanted to get --15 or 16," he said. "I ended my sophomore season with three sacks.
"So I told myself right after that, 'I'm not going to put a number on sacks.' And then the following year, I led the NCAA in sacks [with 17]."
- KEEPING DIXON ON TRACK**
Whenever Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis talks about Riley Dixon's performance, he knocks on whatever piece of wood he can find. It's not that he doesn't have confidence in Dixon's steadily improving form over the course of the season, but it's more of a force of habit for a coach who knows that a spectacular performance in one week can go the other way the next.
The long-term trajectory of Dixon appears solid; he had his best game last week in terms of placement, and he sits eighth in the league in net average.
"There was going to be some rocky points at the start and he's gotten through those," DeCamillis said. "Every week is a new week."
And this week could bring some nasty weather, although the latest forecasts have rain moving through Nashville after the Broncos and Titans complete their game.
"We can have wind there or we can have rain," DeCamillis said. "We could have anything there, so how are you going to react in those types of situations. We really haven't had really poor weather yet, so we have to see how he is going to be in that."
The Broncos resumed practice Thursday in the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse as the team prepares for the Titans. (photos by Eric Bakke unless noted)