SAN DIEGO – It was as if Willis McGahee was back in Oakland, driving the Raiders batty as he shot up the middle after taking the handoff on another zone-read option play.
Of course, much had transpired for McGahee in the weeks since then, starting with a strained hamstring suffered in the first quarter at Kansas City on Nov. 17. He didn’t return to that game and was hindered four days later against the New York Jets.
“I was hurting in the Jets game. That was really a test for me to go out there and see where I was at,” McGahee said. “When I realized I wasn’t there, I actually took myself out of the game and let other guys play. I didn’t want to hurt my team.”
But with three extra rest days following the Thursday night duel with the Jets, McGahee was back to his old self, bursting forward on a 24-yard run deep in overtime to set up the 37-yard Matt Prater field goal that allowed the Broncos to avoid their first tie in 24 yards.
The fact that his longest run was his last came as no surprise to McGahee, who finished with 117 yards, his fifth 100-yard game of the season.
“I was built for that. I was never one of those guys that would come out and hit it on the first play. If I do, it’s a bonus,” he said.
“But at the end of the game, I know that when those guys get tired of hitting, that’s when I need to step my game up.
“I kept telling my coach (Eric Studesville), ‘Give me the ball. I’m ready.’ Coach always wants to know the guys that want the ball. I’m one of those guys.”
A FAVORITE SPOT: There’s something about Dante Rosario and Qualcomm Stadium.
In his last visit here, he caught a game-winning, final-play touchdown pass to give the John Fox-led Carolina Panthers a 26-24 win in the opening game of the 2008 season. Sunday, he set up Matt Prater’s game-tying 24-yard field goal with a leaping 23-yard grab that moved the Broncos into the red zone with 3:26 remaining in regulation.
“It’s a good place to play,” Rosario said, smiling.
The grab was Rosario’s fifth this season. Catches have been rare for Broncos tight ends since the quarterback change in Week 5, but they weren’t that much more frequent in the weeks before then. In the first four and a half games, Broncos tight ends had 13 receptions for 148 yards; in the six and a half games since, they have 11 grabs for 163 yards.
Cornerback Cassius Vaughn left with an ankle injury suffered on his 36-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. He did not return. Eddie Royal and Eric Decker handled return duties for the rest of the game …
… Ryan Clady was shaken up on the field in the fourth quarter, but returned …
… Safety Rafael Bush made his Broncos debut after five games on the inactive list, making a single, thunderous tackle on a kickoff return …
… Denver only had 52 players on its roster Sunday after choosing not to fill the spot vacated with the decision to waive Kyle Orton last Tuesday. They only had two quarterbacks on the active roster Sunday: Tim Tebow and backup Brady Quinn.