Broncos Could Be Walking Into Hornets’ Nest

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Up next for the is the one team they’ve managed to beat in the past two months.

They’re not exactly exhaling.

The Broncos (3-8) don’t expect their rematch with the (7-4) to be anything like it was three weeks ago at Invesco Field, when Denver jumped out to a 35-0 lead and won by three touchdowns.

“An old game, a new month,” is how Denver defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson described the rematch.

While the Broncos have been reeling ever since their 49-29 smackdown of KC that culminated in Todd Haley’s post-game snub of Josh McDaniels, the Chiefs have been on a roll, scoring 73 points in wins over Arizona and Seattle to maintain their AFC West lead.

Matt Cassel threw a dozen touchdown passes in November and his passer rating was 111.2. Dwayne Bowe has caught 49 passes for 733 yards and 13 TDs in his past seven games.

McDaniels tutored Cassel in New England and even pondered trading for him shortly after his arrival in Denver — the spark that ignited the Jay Cutler trade for Kyle Orton a couple of months later.

“I think he’s having a great season,” McDaniels said of his former pupil, noting Cassel’s touchdown-to-interception ratio of 22-4.

“To be on pace for an NFL low in turnovers and then still have that type of production in the passing game — that tells you that you are basically hitting it on the head all the time and Matt is having a season that is very deserving of all the accolades he is receiving,” McDaniels said.

Cassel also has a couple of top-notch running backs in Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, who have combined for 1,733 yards and eight TD runs.

Plus, the Chiefs are still smarting from their embarrassing trip to Denver.

“The bottom line is it was one game that we didn’t play well,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “It was probably our worst game of the year. We’ve definitely moved past that. We know they got the best of us the last time we played. We have to do a lot better job than in the first time. We have to stop the run and make a play. We didn’t make any plays.”

Sounds a lot like the Broncos of late.

They’re 3-8 for the first time in 20 years and their 5-16 slide dating to last season is their worst such stretch in nearly 40 years.

Their tailspin isn’t limited to the football field.

There was the Spygate II videotaping violation that cost McDaniels credibility with fans and a $50,000 fine for not reporting it. Linebacker D.J. Williams was stripped of his captaincy for a drunken driving arrest. The sheriff’s probe into wide receiver Kenny McKinley’s suicide in September found that he had financial and personal problems and a gambling habit that had him $40,000 in debut to Las Vegas casinos.

Orton said the players aren’t distracted by all the off-the-field issues facing the team.

“I think everybody understands when you’re 3-8, everybody feels the heat — players, included, and coaches,” Orton said. “That’s just how it is. You’re here to win football games and we haven’t done a great job of that.”

Perhaps most disconcerting to McDaniels, there are reports of a splintered coaching staff at Dove Valley.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said all the troubles aren’t a distraction, though.

“I think this is one of the best coaching staffs I’ve been on. Josh did a great job when he first got here of putting the staff together. We all work extremely hard together, and we’re all in this business together,” McCoy said. “We’re all one.”

Defensive coordinator Don Martindale said his focus in the middle of this storm is on football.

“I’ve just been worried about the Chiefs,” he insisted. “If I think about anything else than the Chiefs, then I’m not doing the players or fans right for Denver. We’re just going to go out and try to attack Kansas City and try to stop this offense that’s really rolling right now.”

Rams Add to Broncos’ Embarrassment, Win 36-33

DENVER (AP) — This is another tape the might not want to watch.

By the time the Broncos’ 20-point fourth-quarter rally fell short in a 36-33 loss to the on Sunday, Invesco Field was mostly empty, and dark storm clouds hung over both the city and its tarnished football franchise.

The fans have had it with a tarnished team that’s been in the news for the wrong reasons: trades gone bad, a captain’s DUI arrest, and now a videotaping scandal that cost an underling his job and coach Josh McDaniels and the team $50,000 each.

The NFL ruled that McDaniels didn’t view video chief Steve Scarnecchia’s illicit 6-minute tape of the ‘ practice in London last month but punished him for not immediately reporting the infraction to the league as required.

The commissioner wants to meet with the fired videographer this week and could reopen its investigation of the Broncos if he provides evidence this wasn’t an isolated incident as the league concluded.

The Broncos’ sixth loss in their last eight home games featured more of the same troubles that have tormented them all season: a sieve of a defense that’s allowing a league-worst 35.9 points a game and an inability to counter opponents’ adjustments.

After falling behind 10-0 early, the Rams (5-6), who moved into a tie with Seattle for first place in the NFC West, outscored the Broncos 33-3.

Rams rookie Sam Bradford had his first 300-yard game and team owner Stan Kroenke — whose Denver-based sports empire includes the Nuggets, Avalanche and the MSL champion Rapids — had a game ball courtesy of Steven Jackson tucked under his arm as he congratulated his players on the triumph.

“This was a huge step for this team, taking it to the next level,” Bradford said of his first road win. “It’s obviously something we’ve struggled with earlier in the year. But to finally clear that hurdle, I feel like only things can get better now.”

The Broncos (3-8) are feeling the same way.

Embattled coach Josh McDaniels declined to say much more about the scandal that cost video operations director Steve Scarnecchia his job and could lead to his banishment from the NFL when he meets with commissioner .

Scarnecchia was part of New England’s video staff that was involved in the original Spygate scandal four years ago, and McDaniels declined to respond to new reports he told his staff on Friday that the Broncos’ videotaping troubles weren’t on the same magnitude as the systemic illicit videotaping that happened in New England.

“I’m done with that. I’m done talking about that,” McDaniels fumed.

His players said they weren’t bothered by the scandal.

“There wasn’t one bit of distraction. We had one team meeting over it and it was pretty much over after three minutes,” quarterback Kyle Orton said. “There’s stuff that happens throughout an entire NFL season and as pros and as men you worry about your own business. You only worry about your own work.”

It clearly left others befuddled, however.

“Nobody really knows how to take it,” Champ Bailey said. “Obviously, we didn’t see any tapes. And if we did, it didn’t work.”

Bailey said he felt bad for team owner Pat Bowlen because the scandal stained the organization. Justin Bannan said he felt bad for his coach.

“Josh didn’t do anything wrong,” Bannan insisted. “Josh is a great coach and we’ve got his back and he’s got ours. Obviously, things are tough right now, but what are you going to do? What we’re going to do is come out and play better football.”

With signs in the crowd calling for McDaniels’ firing, a 33-3 run by the Rams gave St. Louis a seemingly safe 33-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Orton threw TD passes of 41 and 5 yards to Brandon Lloyd and 16 yards to Eddie Royal to make a game of it.

The Broncos got the ball back with 1:06 remaining and no timeouts, but they had a sack, a dropped pass, an overthrow and an incompletion when defensive end Chris Long hit Orton as he released his last pass.

Their offense just couldn’t atone for another bad day on defense.

“We have to play better defense, have to coach better and giving up 30-something points is tough to consistently try to match on offense,” McDaniels said.

Notes: Dawkins injured his right knee in the third quarter and didn’t return. … McDaniels is 5-16 since winning his first six games last year.

(This version CORRECTS Broncos’ record in last eight games at home to 2-6.)