DENVER –With Halloween approaching, it was somehow appropriate that the ghosts of recent Broncos seasons continue to haunt — and taunt — the Broncos.
The latest was tight end Tony Scheffler, who after the 2009 season joined fellow 2006 draft picks Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall among the key contributors purged from the roster during the Josh McDaniels era. He out-leapt and out-tipped cornerback Chris Harris for a 28-yard reception in the second quarter to set up a first-and-goal, then caught a 1-yard touchdown pass three plays later.
After joining Tennessee’s Daniel Graham in the club of ex-Broncos tight ends to score touchdowns against their former team, Scheffler celebrated by needling the “Tebowing” Internet meme and the Mile High Salute, while also fake-spiking the football in a four-second routine.
“I was amped up doing whatever was coming into my head,” said Scheffler. “It was a fun experience.”
Much more fun than his final months in Denver in 2009 and through the 2010 offseason before he was traded to his home-state Lions.
“I still have friends on (the Broncos),” he said, pointing out Eddie Royal, Chris Kuper and Ryan Clady by name. “I feel for how it’s going for them … it’s just a shame that things kind of took that turn (as they did under McDaniels).”
Nearly two years later, Scheffler finds himself on a team poised to make the playoffs. It would be their first postseason experience since 1999 and his first in a six-season pro career.
Right tackle Orlando Franklin left the game in the fourth quarter with a groin injury and did not return. Franklin had struggled Sunday and was beaten twice by Lions defensive end Cliff Avril for sack-strip-fumbles, including the one that Avril recovered and returned 24 yards for a touchdown. Chris Clark, a backup whose action has mostly come as an eligible tight end, took his place for the rest of the game …
… Free safety Quinton Carter suffered a concussion late in the second quarter. He absorbed a hit on a punt that appeared to leave him dazed, but rose and briefly returned before heading to the sideline. When the second half began, he was not seen not he sideline; fellow rookie Rahim Moore, who started the first five games at free safety, replaced him in the lineup …
… Tight end Virgil Green did not return after hurting his neck on a first-quarter kickoff return. Green was treated on the field for several minutes by Broncos medical personnel, but walked off the field under his own power …
… Cornerback Cassius Vaughn suffered a hamstring injury.