ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Josey Jewell has seen Christian McCaffrey's game-changing ability up close.
In the 2016 Rose Bowl, Jewell's Iowa Hawkeyes faced off against McCaffrey's Stanford Cardinal at the end of Jewell's redshirt sophomore season.
McCaffrey, the eventual eighth-overall pick in the 2017 draft, quickly proved he was a dynamic player. He caught a 75-yard touchdown pass on Stanford's first play from scrimmage and later added a 63-yard punt return score.
The Heisman finalist recorded 368 total yards in Stanford's 45-16 win. Jewell, meanwhile, totaled seven tackles and an interception.
As Jewell, a 2018 fourth-round pick, prepares for a rematch several years later, he expects Sunday's matchup between McCaffrey's Panthers and his Broncos to go differently.
"Yeah, he lived up to it a little bit," Jewell said of the hype surrounding McCaffrey before the Rose Bowl. "We had a couple of plays where he had showed it off. … I think there was a couple pass routes he was on one of our safeties and did some work on them, and being able to just move in the hole and be very elusive. So, yeah, he played pretty well in that game unfortunately, but I think we'll be ready for him this time here. It should be exciting, and I think everybody's up for the challenge."
McCaffrey, who has appeared in just three games this season, earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2019 as he ran for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 116 passes for 1,005 yards and four scores. As a running back, McCaffrey ranked second in the NFL in receptions a season ago.
"He puts up a good challenge," Jewell said. "He's a running back, but he can line up anywhere on the field. He can line up number one, number two out in wide receiver, and he can go in the backfield and do a bunch of different stuff. He's a great player, and we're just going to have to be ready for the multitude of things that he can do. I think we'll be ready for that. So, I'm just excited. … I'm just excited for the challenge again to go up against him."
A SEASON-ENDING STREAK
Despite several tough losses this season, the Broncos could match or improve on their 2019 record with a late-year run. If the Broncos can win three of their final four games, they'll match last year's 7-9 record. With a sweep of the final four games, the Broncos would avoid a losing record and snap a streak of three consecutive sub-.500 campaigns.
The Broncos travel to play the 4-8 Panthers, return home to face the 9-3 Bills, again hit the road to playthe 3-9 Chargers and then close the year in Denver against the 7-5 Raiders.
If Denver can record a few wins in the final four weeks, it would be an important late-season surge after a year plagued by injuries and lack of on-field prep time.
"It's huge to win any football game," Dalton Risner said. "We would love to win these last four and go 8-8 and see where we are in the playoff picture and see where we're at heading into the next year. Regardless of what happens, we're going to start a [new] season, and we're going to have that mojo and be ready to roll. Whether a team goes 16-0 in the regular season or they go 0-16, you have to be ready for the next season. Finishing up this year is huge for us. We have so many guys coming back and you have to win football without some of your best players. It's the game of football. I can't wait to have [OLB] Von Miller and [DL] Jurrell Casey back on the field. Gosh, those guys are dogs. Those are two of the best football players I've ever gone against. On the offensive side, [WR] Courtland Sutton. There's a lot of different guys that are hurt. Some of those guys are premier guys on our team that are used to making plays. We've missed them this season. We have to continue to battle through that, and I hope we can win these last four and build some great confidence going into next season. We'll see where we are at the end of the season. A win always feels good."
The Broncos rank near the middle of the league in yards per game allowed and points per game allowed, but they've been consistently impressive in the red zone on defense.
When opponents get inside the 20-yard line, the Broncos have allowed touchdowns on just 47.7 percent of those trips — a mark that ranks second in the NFL.
On "Sunday Night Football," the Chiefs were 0-of-4 in their red-zone chances and 0-3 in goal-to-go situations. Twice, the Chiefs were stopped from the Broncos' 1-yard line.
Jewell said the Broncos' success can be traced back to how much they practice those situations.
"I think some of it is we run a lot of the same stuff that we always do in the red zone and we're really used to it," Jewell said. "We rep it a lot during practice during the week. Everybody knows what they're doing, and we've seen so many different routes, we've seen so many different plays with the handful of calls that we call down there. We're all just really confident and we can all really play off each other, whether it be the linebackers talking to safeties, whether we're pushing through on quarters, or whether we're locking up on man. I think we know that defense very well and it's pretty easy for us to be able to go out there and communicate that."