The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Chargers need Peyton’s help to sell tickets Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag, Mike Klis addresses concerns about the boringness of using Jim Leonhard as Denver's punt returner.

He's right - although Leonhard isn't making any big plays, he's also not making major gaffes. And once the defense has gotten the opposing offense to give up the ball, the next play is all about making sure Peyton Manning gets his crack with it. Sure, a faster player might bring an extra couple of yards per return, but that doesn't seem worth the tradeoff of a less-experienced returner who may be more likely to fumble or make a poor decision.

Unfortunately, the Broncos just don't have a punt returner who's the complete package. This was readily apparent during the preseason; it's just one of those things the Broncos will have to accept until next offseason, when they are yet again presented with the issue.

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Centers have W-L records too Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! After 134 games as New England's starting center, Dan Koppen will be making his Broncos starting debut against his old mates.

But the transition to Koppen from J.D. Walton may not be as difficult as one might expect.

After all, Koppen is well-versed in Josh McDaniels's offense (much of which Mike McCoy still uses in Denver), and he also has loads of experience in operating sans huddle. Of course, the real question is, how familiar is Koppen with the Peyton Manning offense?

And as Sacco & Co. want us to know, all Koppen does is win. So what's there to worry about?

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Now that’s more like it Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! For anyone spoiled by the Mike Shanahan Era in Denver, yesterday was how Broncos/Raiders games are supposed to go.

Peyton Manning, Willis McGahee, and Elvis Dumervil were absolutely dominant in a 37-6 thrashing of Oakland yesterday at SAF@MH (Gamebook, ANS box score).

Manning had spoken during the week about faring better in the first and third quarters of games, and his teammates clearly got the message. The Broncos tallied all but six of their points in those periods, scored a first-quarter touchdown for the first time all year, and unloaded for three touchdowns in the third quarter, turning what had been a tight game (on the scoreboard, at least) into a laugher.

But the game was never in much doubt.

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Streak-ending time Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! We're all too aware that the Broncos have lost four straight home games to the Raiders, and six of nine matchups regardless of location.

No figure has loomed larger in this matchup recently than Oakland RB Darren McFadden, who has racked up 510 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in his last three games against Denver, all Raiders wins. Injury kept the back out of their last meeting, when the Broncos won 38-24 in Oakland.

Obviously, the Broncos defense is well aware of the threat McFadden brings; fortunately for Denver, Oakland may be somewhat one-dimensional today due to a banged-up WR corps.

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Hillman itching for more play Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It was another fine day at Dove Valley yesterday, but not in the positive sense of the word.

Von Miller was slapped with a $15,750 penalty for his late hit on Matt Schaub, which preceded Joe Mays's own suspension-inducing hit on the quarterback by one play. Mays will still collect a game check tomorrow, but he was fined $50K. In his brief career, Miller has already been penalized with over $60K in fines.

Meanwhile, John Fox has formally appealed the ridiculous $30K fine he received for his behavior in Atlanta; Jack Del Rio is expected to follow suit regarding his $25K penalty.

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D.J. to learn of extended ban soon Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! As expected, the first group of real officials were welcomed back heartily last night, as Gene Steratore's crew was given a standing ovation before the game.

Steratore even got hugs from Ravens coach John Harbaugh and linebacker Ray Lewis, and safety Bernard Pollard says the players have a new appreciation for the skill of the regular refs.

Before the game, Roger Goodell apologized to the fans, but framed the lockout as something that had to happen, and even summoned up the nerve to call the craptastic officiating as part of the "beauty of sports."

Judy Battista reports that indeed, progress in negotiations had been made prior to Monday, so there was actually a possibility of a deal before the game-deciding blown call. But according to her sources, owners Jerry Richardson of the Panthers and Woody Johnson of the Jets were among the owners digging their heels in on Tuesday, while the Patriots' Robert Kraft and Giants owner John Mara - often described as key moderates during last year's player lockout - were more concerned with the impact of using scab officials.

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Was it worth it, owners? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Well, it's thankfully, finally over. Many hours after Chris Mortensen reported the NFL and NFLRA had come to an agreement on a new contract, they actually agreed to a fresh deal.

To get there, it only took three weeks of craptastic officiating and a call so bad that a Vegas sportsbook is refunding losing bets.

Some questions:

What if the tipping point Packers/Seahawks call had occurred instead in the Jacksonville/Indy Sunday game that was probably seen live by fifty people who aren't Jags or Colts fans? Would we still be celebrating a return of the regular officials today? Or would the resulting uproar not be enough to sway ownership?

Was it worth it, NFL owners? You've cost yourselves and your sport a good chunk of credibility. The fans who sided with you during the 2011 player lockout, and for two weeks of this officiating lockout? Even they finally realize now how little you truly care about the integrity of the game. We're curious to see if this affects the public opinion of player lawsuits regarding your handling of head injuries.

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Ginger is Hammerless in ref dispute Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's appearing as if the officiating lockout will continue into the forseeable future, as if Jerry Jones's comments yesterday didn't establish that already.

The two sides met on Tuesday for the fourth consecutive day, but reportedly made little or no progress toward a deal. Incredibly, the NFL still has the nerve to spin this dispute as being about raising the quality of officiating, rather than about taking away pensions of the refs who are now so sorely missed.

Mike Freeman hears that Roger Goodell would have settled this dispute months ago were he anything more than a lapdog for the league's owners, but he also suggests that Ginger's lack of assertion may cost him his legacy as Commish. Freeman says an end to the impasse could come this week - and he's betting on a deal coming this weekend - but he hears the prideful owners don't want to appear to have been swayed by what happened on Monday.

But these owners aren't just prideful; they're a lovely mix of Lucky Sperm Club members and hardened business bullies who simply aren't used to hearing no as an answer.

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What we’ve all been dreading Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! There are plenty of reasons to be a fan of the NFL over other sports.

It's an exciting game with supreme athleticism, choreographical beauty, and intellectual strategy. At turns, a football game can be won by the strongest men, while at others, its smartest can rule the day. It is played by nimble 330-pound men and brutally strong 230-pounders alike.

For the most part, it is a fair game.

Never before have I thought about why I love the NFL and considered officiating. But I have often viewed soccer matches and boxing bouts, noted the notoriously inconsistent officiating, and found myself grateful to not be a fan of either sport.

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Last-place tie Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Rumors of the demise of Peyton Manning's arm strength were shown yesterday to be greatly exaggerated. No surprise there.

Unfortunately, the quality of Denver's defense was also proven overstated, and Peyton & Co. again ran out of time attempting a furious comeback from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Denver scored two touchdowns in the final stanza, but it wasn't enough, as the Broncos dropped to 1-2 with a 31-25 loss (Gamebook) to Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips's Texans.

Jack Del Rio's guys got tuned up for three Matt Schaub touchdown passes within a twelve-minute, four-second span, in a nightmarish first half that netted the Texans a staggering 285 yards of offense.

Were it not for a timely Wesley Woodyard interception near the end of the first half - a swing of six or ten points, after Matt Prater's third FG - the game may have been over before Rod Smith took his rightful place among the Broncos' greats in the Ring of Fame.

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