Broncos need altitude adjustment; Brady off to historic start

Used to be that Denver held a Mile High mystique, an advantage all opponents struggled to overcome. Now the altitude appears to be suffocating the Broncos.

After dropping Sunday's game to Jacksonville, Denver now has lost five of its past seven home games. And here's the literal kicker: Denver's only two homes wins in nearly a full year both involved special-teams flukes.

Two Sundays ago, Denver coach Mike Shanahan called a timeout before Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski booted an overtime field goal that would have beaten the Broncos.

And last December, Cincinnati's snap on an extra point in the final minute sailed wide of holder Kyle Larson, preventing Bengals kicker Shayne Graham from attempting his 159th straight conversion. Denver held on to win 24-23.

In other words, Denver's only two home wins over the past year have been by a combined four points, and both games could have been losses as easily as they were victories. The Broncos' home record from 1996-2005 was 64-16 (.800), including three seasons in which the team went undefeated in Denver.

The Mile High mystique has faded and the Broncos need to figure out a way to recapture it to save their season.

After this Sunday's game in the Broncos' haunted house known as Indianapolis' RCA Dome, the team returns to Denver for the teeth of its schedule and three straight home games against the San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.

With Denver sporting a 2-1 record, the Broncos now will play their next four games against teams with a combined 10-2 record. If they don't play better, it's possible their home record could get worse before it gets better.

It's hard to imagine the Mile High mystique going M.I.A. But it's also hard to imagine over the past year Denver posting a 2-5 home record.

THE BEST OF BRADY

No player in football is off to a more torid start than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady is on pace to rewrite the NFL record book. Whether or not he can do it is irrelevant right now. What's relevant is that it shows how on point he has been to start the season.

Brady is completing 79.5 percent of his passes, which would shatter the NFL single-season record former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson set in 1982, when he completed 70.55 percent of his passes.

Brady also has thrown 10 touchdowns, putting him on pace to throw more than 53, topping the mark that Colts quarterback Peyton Manning set in 2004 with 49 touchdown passes.

And if that weren't enough evidence to frame the type of season Brady is having, then consider this: Two of his games this season, in terms of passer rating, rank in the top four he has had.

The Patriots have scored points in each of their 12 quarters this season, and 31 consecutive quarters dating to last season.

HOUSTON, WE'VE GOT ISSUES

Not long ago, Atlanta had quarterbacks Michael Vick and Matt Schaub. The Falcons were rich at the position. But fortunes, and outlooks, change quickly in the NFL, and now Atlanta is preparing to face the quarterback that once was its property.

This is the week the Falcons will get to face Matt Schaub, the quarterback they traded this off-season and the quarterback they could have used this season and in the ones ahead.

So far, Schaub has shined for Houston, but he faces his own battle Sunday. Injuries quickly are wiping out Houston's wide receivers.

TexansPro Bowl wideout Andre Johnson is unlikely to return from his knee injury in time for Sunday's game against the Falcons. One of his backups, rookie wide receiver Jacoby Jones, separated his shoulder during Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts and he said he could miss up to three weeks.

Now Schaub's primary targets are expected to be Kevin Walter and Cleveland's former second-round draft choice Andre' Davis. He will not be playing with a full arsenal. But then, neither will Atlanta.

DECK THE HALL

Atlanta is contemplating imposing its own fine on Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who got into a sideline confrontation with Falcons coach Bobby Petrino.

The situation is a sensitive matter, and Atlanta is trying to handle it the right way. Strained feelings between both sides could become even more accentuated this week, depending on the organization's decision.

Hall was penalized 67 yards during a second-half drive that the Panthers used to tie up Sunday's game. The Falcons were none too happy about Hall's behavior or outburst, and Petrino said on Monday that Hall faces "significant discipline."

Hall helped limit Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith to just one catch, but that's not what the Falcons were talking about Monday.

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