October 20, 2009
A couple of months ago, Las Vegas casinos placed the Denver Broncos’ over/under for wins this season at 6 1/2. If it wasn’t for the bye this week, the Broncos might have that beat by the end of October.
The Broncos are the most surprising team in the league, and at 6-0 have a stranglehold on the AFC West. If they beat Oakland, Kansas City twice and Washington (combined record of 5-13) and nobody else the rest of the season, 2-3 San Diego would have to finish 9-2 to win the division outright.
The Broncos blew a three-game lead with three left to play last year, but many things have changed.
“It feels different; every season is different in my mind,” Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “You can’t say it’s the same because in the last two years the Broncos were not 5-0 or 6-0.”
The reasons for the Broncos’ success are multifold, but one factor that continues to amaze is the team’s dominance in the second half.
Denver trailed 20-17 at halftime Monday night against the Chargers, then won the second half 17-3.
Denver didn’t allow San Diego to convert on third down in the second half, the fourth straight game the Broncos have held an opponent without a third-down conversion after halftime. The Chargers were 0-for-5 on third down in the second half.
The Broncos are substituting a lot on the defensive line and at linebacker, especially during passing situations, which keeps the defense fresh for the second half.
Another reason for the second-half prowess has been conditioning. Players have credited strength and conditioning coach Rich Tuten, and coach Josh McDaniels believes the extra running the team does after practices is paying off.
“Rich Tuten did a great job with us this year, getting guys in condition, knowing this is the way football was supposed to be played — it’s all about playing hard in the second half when it really counts and guys have to step up — and I think we demonstrate that,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said.
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