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Broncos, 49ers both try to get on track with matchup in London

While international games have given the NFL additional exposure, the teams that have played in those contests have to deal with long flights, lingering jet lag and in the case of London, sometimes adverse weather conditions.

However, the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers aren't about to complain as they look forward to trying to regroup overseas at Wembley Stadium on Sunday in the league's fourth regular-season game played in London.

The last three games in London have featured some of the NFL's best teams, including New England in 2009, New Orleans in '08 and the New York Giants in '07 -- the season they won the Super Bowl. However, this year's edition likely won't showcase a playoff-bound club in the Broncos (2-5) and 49ers (1-6).

San Francisco coach Mike Singletary will be turning to a new quarterback this weekend and the 49ers have the worst record in the NFC, but with his team in a division that has one club owning a winning record -- 4-2 Seattle -- he thinks this weekend's game across the Atlantic could help.

"For us, it's a nice chance to get away and regroup, rethink," Singletary said. "It really works to be a bonus for us. It really gives us a chance to kind of get away from the hustle and bustle of the NFL, to come over and kind of think through some things, look at maybe some changes we need to make."

His team is coming off a tough 23-20 road loss to Carolina last Sunday after the Panthers rallied to score 10 points in the final 1:53.

David Carr, who came in when Alex Smith separated his shoulder, threw an interception with 1:08 remaining to set up Carolina's go-ahead field goal.

Carr finished 5 of 13 for 67 yards and his unimpressive performance might have played a big factor in Singletary's decision to start Troy Smith over Carr this weekend.

Smith spent the last three years with Baltimore, where his only two starts came in 2007 as he struggled to live up to the hype from his college days with Ohio State when he won the Heisman Trophy. Smith has played in 10 games over the last two seasons, making 13 pass attempts.

"Troy Smith gives us a good opportunity to win this game," Singletary said. "I talked to David Carr about it. He understands."

Frank Gore will try to make an easy transition from third-string to starter for Smith by taking some of the pressure off him.

Gore has rushed for 251 yards the last two games and he's averaged 95.0 in the last four contests after averaging 64.3 over the first three.

Gore figures to have an even bigger day against a Denver run defense that ranks 30th while giving up 156.3 yards per game. The Broncos allowed 328 yards rushing in an embarrassing 59-14 home loss to Oakland last Sunday.

Denver might have been even more eager than San Francisco to leave the country after tying the franchise record for points allowed in a game.

The Broncos gave up 24 points in the first quarter, trailed 36-17 at the half and allowed 508 yards of offense.

"I apologize to (owner) Pat (Bowlen) and the organization, all the fans and everyone else," coach Josh McDaniels said. "It was awful."

Kyle Orton went 12 of 29 for a season-low 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception to lead an offense that has averaged 17.0 points and 310.7 yards in the last three games -- all losses. Over the first four, the Broncos averaged 21.8 points and 394.5 yards of offense.

A big factor has been slow starts, which has been a problem all season. The Broncos have scored seven first-quarter points, the fewest in the league.

"Really just focused all week on starting fast in practice, starting fast in meetings, just being locked in the whole time," Orton said.

Orton added that the team has been preparing for playing in the rain. The London game in 2007 was played on a muddy field after a steady rain, although the last two were played in better weather.

"We've worked with some wet balls so we'll be ready," he said. "Wet fields are a chance for big plays on offense."

This is the first meeting between these teams since the 49ers won 26-23 in overtime in 2006. Gore ran for 153 yards in the victory.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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