Orton's status unknown until later
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The unraveling Denver Broncos haven't won a game in a month and they've lost their starting quarterback for who knows how long.
Coach Josh McDaniels said Monday that he didn't know if Kyle Orton's sprained left ankle would prevent him from playing in Sunday's showdown with the San Diego Chargers, who have whittled away Denver's 3½-game lead in the AFC West and are now tied with the Broncos at 6-3.
Orton was injured just before halftime of Denver's third straight loss, 27-17 at Washington on Sunday, after throwing for nearly 200 yards and connecting with Brandon Marshall on two long scores.
He was replaced by Chris Simms, who wasn't able to shake off 3½ years of rust.
McDaniels said the team will monitor Orton's progress throughout the week and Simms will be drilled in the offense in case he has to make his first start since 2006.
"We'll have to see if and when Kyle is ready to go. Whether that's Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or none at all," McDaniels said.
No matter who's under center, the Broncos will have a makeshift pocket of protection with Tyler Polumbus at right guard in place of Ryan Harris, who will miss his third straight game with two dislocated toes. Plus, Russ Hochstein will likely start at left guard again after supplanting Ben Hamilton, the longest tenured Broncos player, last week.
Simms had a solid preseason before being sidelined by a high ankle sprain.
"We have a good feel for him," receiver Brandon Stokley said of Simms. "Chris is one of the hardest workers on this team. If he has to play, I feel very confident in his abilities."
With the exception of rookie running back Knowshon Moreno, nobody on offense played particularly well after Orton went down on the Broncos' final play from scrimmage in the first half, and Simms was downright dreadful, sailing long passes over receivers' heads or entombing short throws at their feet.
"I would have loved for him to have played better, but I think there's some other things that happened in the course of the second half that affected his play or would have affected Kyle's play," McDaniels said. "We got into some long yardage situations. We obviously had two two-minute drives there at the end, we're behind and we had to throw and they know it and they're pass-rushing us.
"The game plan was not necessarily designed to have a bunch of dropback passes where we just stand there in the gun like a sitting duck and let them come after us. We knew they had a good front, a good rush and that proved to be true in the second half more than it did in the first half."
The blame didn't stop with Simms, although he came in and struggled just when the offense had discovered a downfield component to their risk-averse offense -- Orton having hooked up with Marshall for TD tosses of 40 and 75 yards before getting hurt.
The Broncos' slide from 6-0 to 6-3 has been thorough.
Their special teams have been atrocious, allowing two TD returns and culminating Sunday when the Washington Redskins telegraphed a fake punt and still scored the game-changing touchdown that led to a 27-17 win over the bumbling Broncos.
And their defense has gone from dominant during their six-game winning streak to dismal during their three-game skid.
Completing the collapse: McDaniels' Midas touch during the first six weeks has disappeared.
Halftime adjustments that worked wonders when they were outscoring their opponents by a combined 76-10 in the second half while going 6-0 are all backfiring now as they've been outscored 58-14 after halftime during their three-game slide, including 13-0 on Sunday.
About the only positive on Sunday was a breakout game for Moreno, who struggled through the first half of the season before running for 97 yards on 18 carries against the Redskins.
Now that they've finally found a ground game to take some pressure off the passing attack, the Broncos need their defense to start stopping the run again.
Safety Brian Dawkins said the Broncos won't wallow in their failures as they try to fix things.
"You can't sit there and dwell on the 'piddly-poo' of tears and worry about the last game," Dawkins said. "You have to move forward and that's what we're going to do."
No matter who's leading the way on offense.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press