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Broncos believe 'can do this' regarding playoff run; but Siemian's health remains key

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Posted at 1:59 PM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-05 16:13:37-05

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Broncos need not apologize for a win. No disclaimer is necessary for a victory that moved Denver back into the playoff field. 

But let's be honest, Sunday's performance challenged the senses, if not burned a few retinas. 

"It wasn't beautiful. But it was freaking beautiful to me," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak told the team in locker room afterward. 

Wins are the NFL's blooming rose. Yet, the Broncos' postseason picture won't look pretty without a caffeinated offense. Paxton Lynch won his first NFL game. And he didn't turn the ball over. The praise ends there for the rookie, as Denver held on in the second half of the 20-10 triumph over Jacksonville.

The ultra conservative nature of the offense makes Trevor Siemian's improving health the most important topic this week. The Broncos need him to win going forward, if, of course, his sprained left foot cooperates and allows him to function at a high level.

"He's out of the boot. He's doing a lot better," Kubiak said Monday of Siemian, who is 7-3 as a starter, missing two games with left shoulder and left foot injuries. "Hoping he plays. Learning how to stay healthy, it's an art, in a lot of ways. Learning how to protect yourself, get rid of the ball."

Denver travels to Nashville to face a team motivated to win its division behind a rugged ground attack. The Broncos' offense must perk up. 

The Broncos finished 1-for-13 on third down conversions, and collected one first down and completed two passes in the second half. It worked because winning the turnover battle was the avenue to winning the game. The Broncos have won 29 straight when winning in takeaways. Kubiak remains bullish on Lynch's potential, saying he made correctable mistakes on plays he left downfield.

"Oh, I think he has a brilliant career ahead of him," Kubiak said. "He will learn and get better."

Balance would help the quarterback, whether it's Siemian or Lynch. The Broncos ran for 104 yards on 28 carries, including a game-high 49 from Kapri Bibbs. Therein lies the problem, Bibbs appears unlikely to play this week with a high left ankle sprain. He left Sunday's locker room in a boot, leaving the Broncos compromised at the position. 

"It’s a concern right now. Obviously, we are kind of thin there," Kubiak said. "It's a pretty good ankle sprain for Bibbs."

With Bibbs hurting, the Broncos moved quickly, placing a waiver-wire claim on Justin Forsett. Forsett flourished under Kubiak in Baltimore in 2014, rushing for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. He has bounced around since, cut by the Detroit Lions last week. He provides experience. 

For all of their concerns, the Broncos have one thing in their pocket: a gnarly defense. It makes Denver scary. The Broncos have scored nine defensive touchdowns the past two seasons, winning all of those games. The Broncos face a Tennessee team on the road Sunday that loves to win ugly, The Titans average 141 yards per game on the game, third best in the NFL. The Broncos, after two strong performances against ground attacks, yielded 154 to Jacksonville. 

The Broncos' depth remains an issue upfront. Defensive end Billy Winn, however, is recovering quickly from a neck injury. Siemian's ailment will stay on the forefront, his availability linked heavily to the Broncos' chance at a victory.

Footnotes

  • Receiver Kalif Raymond will continue as the punt and kick returner. He provided a lift on punt returns, gaining 40 yards on four attempts with a long of 22. "He provided some juice," Kubiak said.  
  • Donald Stephenson is expected to start at right tackle, but Ty Sambrailo will continue to receive reps. He was used in the bully personnel as an extra tight end against Jacksonville.
  • DeMarcus Ware played 47 of 82 snaps as he continues to increase his download.  

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Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and TheDenverChannel.com’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at Troy.Renck@kmgh.com.