DENVER • Brian Dawkins deserves some credit for calling a players-only meeting this week. The Denver Broncos’ veteran safety deserves a lot more credit for starting Thursday’s game with a bone-shaking hit on New York Giants rookie receiver Hakeem Nicks, and taking his frustration out on the Giants the rest of the night.

Talking wasn’t going to get the Broncos out of their four-game losing streak. They needed Dawkins flying around the field like a man possessed. They needed Brandon Marshall making a pair of one-handed catches instead of scolding Knowshon Moreno for a fumble, as he did on Sunday. They needed Moreno punching in a second-quarter touchdown instead of making a scene on the sideline by shoving Marshall in the chest.

The Broncos beat the New York Giants 26-6 on Thursday at Invesco Field at Mile High to break out of a slump and improve to 7-4.

“You want to put yourself in a position by Thanksgiving to compete to make the playoffs,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. “That’s what we hopefully have done.”

Dawkins, who was knocked out of last week’s game with a neck injury, showed the Broncos the way. He nailed Hicks on the first play of the game. He showed toughness when he took on 264-pound Brandon Jacobs in the first half and brought him to the ground.

In one sequence in the third quarter he dropped Giants receiver Steve Smith on a short catch, made running back Danny Ware crumple in a heap with an open-field tackle and nailed Smith in the back when he jumped for a high pass.

“That’s Brian Dawkins being Brian Dawkins,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “That’s a Hall of Famer waiting to happen.”

After a tumultuous week when he tried to bring the team together, Dawkins was the biggest difference maker on the field. He broke up two passes, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and led the team with eight tackles.

“He’s a tempo setter for our team, not just the defense,” safety Renaldo Hill said. “He gets everyone fired up around here.”

Plenty of Broncos players helped pull the team out of its slump. Marshall’s first spectacular catch of the day, a one-handed grab inside the 10-yard line, set up a 1-yard touchdown by Moreno. That put the Broncos ahead 13-0.

Quarterback Kyle Orton looked healthy and played well. He completed 18-of-28 passes for 245 yards. His 17-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley on third down in the fourth quarter gave the Broncos a commanding 23-6 lead.

Dumervil had a couple of sacks, increasing his NFL lead to 14 on the season, and forced a fumble that was recovered by Denver with 9:01 remaining.

The Broncos looked like a team that had a renewed purpose. The meeting might have helped in that regard.
“We said ‘Is our season going to go this way or are we going to do something about it?’” Dumervil said.