ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – During their conference calls with the Broncos' media members on Wednesday, Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone and quarterback Kyle Orton talked about the Broncos' run game, defense and Orton's history in the Mile High City.
Kyle Orton started 33 games for the Broncos between 2009 and 2011, finishing with a 12-21 record as a starter.
He returns to play in Denver for the second time since his tenure with the Broncos -- his first was when he led the Chiefs to a 7-3 win in 2011. After his time in Kansas City and Dallas, Orton has landed in Buffalo and took over E.J. Manuel's starting spot following the Bills' 2-2 start.
The team has gone 5-3 with him at the helm and remains a contender for the playoffs.
Check out photos from the Broncos' Wednesday practice.
"We just wanted more production out of that position," Marrone said of replacing Manuel with Orton. "We needed to make some throws that we thought we should be able to make during the year. We just wanted to take a step back and put Kyle in there. He's done an outstanding job for us."
Orton said he still has good friends in Denver and he finished his career as a Bronco with 8,434 yards, 49 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. After his time in Dallas, he said he wasn't actively looking for a job but he heard good things about the Bills organization, so he decided to jump back into football.
"I had been around a few guys previously that had either played here or play here now and they only had good things to say about it so I thought it would be great," Orton said.
Once the opportunity to play for the Bills was available, he jumped at the opportunity. While Sunday will be a return to the city where he spent over two seasons, Marrone isn't concerned about Orton getting distracted.
"He knows he has to go out there and play well," Marrone said. "I don't think that you want to put that stuff in your mind. Once you hit the field and you're playing, I don't think anyone is really thinking about that."
PREPARING FOR THE BRONCOS' DEFENSE
While the Bills boast one of the top NFL defenses, they will face a similarly excellent opponent on Sunday. The Broncos sit No. 1 and the Bills No. 2 in yards per play and both sit in the top ten in passing yards per play.
After an impressive outing from the Broncos' defensive line where they held the Chiefs to just 41 rushing yards and sacked Alex Smith six times for 43 yards, the Bills know they have a tough task ahead of them.
"Good front, good pass rushers," Orton said of the Broncos' defense. "They do a great job pushing the pocket in the middle, secondary plays aggressive, make good plays on the ball, and they have a lot of good players."
Marrone, an eight-year league veteran, has faced a variety of Broncos throughout his coaching tenure, both in the NFL and college.
"Having coached against DeMarcus Ware before when I was in this league, he's an outstanding player," Marrone said. "I think they're [Ware and Von Miller] both outstanding players. Not to take anything away from them, but I see a heck of a lot of production from their inside players. I think [DT Terrance] Knighton is having an unbelievable year, [DT] Sylvester Williams and obviously [DE Derek] Wolfe. We played against [Wolfe] when I was back at Syracuse. He's a really good football player. Those guys are probably going a little under the radar because DeMarcus and Von Miller get a lot of the attention. I think the secondary is playing extremely well, too."
While Marrone was complementary of the Broncos' front, he had plenty to say about Broncos corner Chris Harris Jr., who has been excellent in the secondary all season. He said Harris, who is ranked as the league's top corner by Pro Football Focus, will be a challenge for his offense.
"He's a guy—I think he's been there for a while—he's really upped his game," Marrone said. "He's tough… Obviously, with the rest of those guys back there, they've got a bunch of guys back there—Aqib Talib, [T.J.] Ward is playing really well. [Rahim] Moore is a ball hawk. He's back there. The rookie from Ohio State—[Bradley] Roby—is a heck of a player. I think Chris is really playing well, at least from what I've seen on film. It will be a great challenge for our guys to go against this secondary."
While Orton's presence as the team's starting QB has helped earn them a winning record, their offense hasn't been particularly productive as they are averaging 22 points in the game. But the Bills have had two consecutive high-scoring weeks with a 38-3 win over the Jets and a 26-10 defeat of the Browns.
BRONCOS RESURGENT RUN GAME
On the back of C.J. Anderson and a shuffled offensive line, the Broncos have taken huge steps forward in their ground attack. The first ten games of the season, the Broncos averaged just 89.9 rushing yards and the last two wins they averaged 207.5 rushing yards.
Marrone isn't surprised by the Broncos' recent success.
"I think when you look at who they have across the board offensively, every single player they have is an excellent football player," Marrone said. "It's just a matter of how they want to execute and what they want to do. They've had injuries. Obviously, C.J. Anderson has stepped up. He's done outstanding. They're a good team all around. That's the biggest challenge. There are so many things that you have to try to contain or stop. That puts a lot of pressure on your defense."
Anderson's ability to avoid tackles and his strength with the ball has also impressed Marrone.
"People go up high on him, and they bounce off of him," Marrone said. "His yards after the first hit—you can see it on tape. We talked to our guys. We've got to get a lot of guys around him and any other ball carrier that they have. You've got to get people around him. He has a knack for breaking a lot of tackles."