ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After dropping back-to-back games, the Broncos evened their record at 2-2 with a historic win over the Raiders in Week 4.
This week, the team will work toward its first win streak of the season, but to do so, it will have to take the 1,758-mile, cross-country trip to Foxborough, Mass.
Broncos players are doing their best to make sure that some of momentum from last week's win travels with them through a strong week of practice.
"We just have to carry what we did last week on to this week," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "Last week the preparation was at another level than it has been all season just because we were so hungry for that win, a division game versus Oakland. … That preparation really set the tone for us last week and we're trying to do the same thing this week."
The defense turned in its most impressive performance of the season, limiting the Raiders to just 1-of-12 on third-down conversions – a point of emphasis entering the contest.
"We took a step in the right direction against the Raiders," cornerback Tracy Porter said. "We made the necessary steps against them and we're looking to improve coming into this game."
Even though the defense took strides against Oakland, the players know there is still plenty of room for improvement.
And with Sunday's upcoming matchup against the defending AFC-Champion Patriots looming, the Broncos know they have to shore up those mistakes if they want to have success against New England.
"Obviously when you do really good, things get wiped under the rug," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "But we made some mistakes in that game and we're going to get those fixed. (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady and (Head Coach Bill) Belichick, they're both really good at picking out what your weaknesses are. They're going to definitely do something like that. We have to fix the things we were not good at and we'll be fine."
STOPPING THE RUN
Going into last week's game vs. Oakland, the top priorities for the Denver defense were to limit the Raiders' rushing attack and get off the field on third downs.
Check and Check.
Raiders running back Darren McFadden rushed for just 34 yards in the game and Oakland converted just eight percent of its third-down attempts in the game.
"Stop the run, that's our philosophy," Wolfe said. "Stop the run so we can them into third-and-long and get after it."
Limiting the success of Oakland's run game on first and second downs made those third downs harder to convert and it showed in the stats.
The Raiders' average third-down distance was 8.3 yards -- almost two full yards longer than the Broncos' previous best this season.
That will be the goal again this week against the Patriots, who had a pair of rushers top the 100-yard mark last week in their 52-28 win over Buffalo.
"If you stop the run, then you leave them one-dimensional," Wolfe said. "It puts the whole thing on Brady and the weapons they have. If we stop the run, make them one-dimensional, then we can bring our (pass rushers)."
Running back Brandon Bolden exploded onto the scene last week, as the college free agent racked up 137 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. Fellow running back Stevan Ridley added 106 yards and a pair of scores.
"(New England's run game) is very strong, and looking at film, I can see why," defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. "They do a good job running the ball, and their O-line is looking really good. We definitely have a big challenge ahead of us."
KOPPEN A FAMILIAR FACE TO PATRIOTS
With Monday's news that center J.D. Walton was headed to injured reserve, the Broncos' next-man-up-philosophy brought veteran center Dan Koppen to the top of the depth chart.
Koppen, who signed with the Broncos on Sept. 11, is the NFL's all-time winningest offensive lineman with an overall career record of 107-31.
Of those victories, 106 came playing for the team that he will be squaring off against this Sunday.
"I was really happy he got the opportunity to be out there," Brady said. "Obviously, he's been one of my best friends over the years, to see him go was a very hard thing. It always is at the beginning of the year. But, I was happy he got the opportunity to be with a great organization."
With Koppen's experience, Brady thinks it won't be a problem for the 10th-year center to adjust to a new offense in Denver.
"To play with a quarterback like Peyton, and certainly with an offense like that, I'm sure Dan is a great fit," Brady said. "He's smart, he's tough and he's physical. He's got great command out there for that position. I loved playing with him when he was here. Hopefully he doesn't play his best game of his career this weekend against us, but we're always rooting for Koppen – except when he's playing us."
The Broncos offensive line is a tight-knit unit and while losing their man in the middle is difficult, they've helped Koppen get up to speed.
"They've been great," Koppen said of his offensive linemates. "They've got a great group of guys here. Coming in from day one, everybody's been great. Just try to get acclimated to what they do and how they do things. Everybody's been helpful."
As the one taking the snaps from Koppen, Manning has the utmost confidence that the veteran center will be able to fill in.
"Rarely, when you lose a three-year starter at every game, a center like J.D., can you have a guy as experienced as Dan to replace him," Manning said. "It's always nice to have guys on your team that have been around winning their entire careers. Coming from New England, Dan has played in every game situation that you can think of. There's probably nothing he hasn't seen on defense except the team he's playing against this Sunday, in a real game. But he's seen them every day in practice. His veteran experience does show in practice. Thankfully, he's on our team. As (Head) Coach (John) Fox says, next man up. I just think you have to take the time to reflect that J.D. was a really good player for us and we'll miss him but I know Dan will do a heck of a job as well."