ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The wheels have come off in Denver.
We're not talking about the Broncos' season, although it's teetering with two straight ugly losses. All they have to do to end their long playoff drought is beat their former quarterback Kyle Orton and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Their fix-it list which includes the pass rush, the turnover differential and sputtering offense grew, by one item Tuesday.
Guard Zane Beadles was toying around with his radio controlled car fresh out of the box and it slammed into a teammate's locker, leaving the right front wheel bowed.
Adam Grant, who had purchased the $370 hobby-grade car as part of the linemen's white elephant gift exchange, shook his head in disgust, while fellow tackle Orlando Franklin reminded Beadles that the machine, which can reach 70 mph when modified, is an outdoor toy.
"That was the first time I played with it," Beadles lamented. "It's been charging all weekend."
Beadles, who majored in mechanical engineering at Utah, figured if he can build robots, he could fix the remote control car that he'd enjoyed for all of 45 seconds. Grant wasn't so sure and gave him directions to a hobby shop to buy some replacement parts "that aren't cheap."
The Broncos' ability to fix their other issues will go a long way toward determining if Denver makes the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Players came in for conditioning and classroom work Tuesday on the eve of their final padded practice of the regular season as they prepare for Sunday's showdown that pits Orton and Tim Tebow.
Orton won the Broncos' job during training camp, but relinquished it after Denver stumbled to a 1-4 start. He was released last month and the Chiefs snatched him off the waiver wire. That saved Denver $2.6 million in salary but could ultimately cost it a trip to the playoffs this weekend.
The Broncos (8-7) are trying to avoid another December meltdown like the ones that cost them playoff berths in 2008 and '09 under former coaches Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels.
"You don't get that chance too often, to win one game and make it to the playoffs," receiver Eddie Royal said. "And a lot of us know the feeling of watching the playoffs at home. We don't want that feeling, so we've got to do everything in our power to make sure that's not us this year."
The Broncos are downplaying Orton's return to the city where he was never really loved, going 12-21 after coming over from Chicago in the much-maligned Jay Cutler trade.
"I mean, I love Kyle, but I couldn't care less," said Beadles, whose locker was 5 feet away from Orton's. "It's the Broncos vs. the Chiefs. We've got to beat the Chiefs to get in the playoffs. And it doesn't matter who's on their team."
Who will have the advantage is a matter of great debate in Denver. But wide receiver Eric Decker said he wasn't so sure Orton could give the Chiefs many helpful tips because the Broncos have undergone a massive makeover since he was their starting quarterback.
"I think being with this team through training camp and the first couple of weeks of the season, obviously he knows what we ran early on, but we've made adjustments on both sides of the ball," Decker explained. "Offensively, there may be some things he tries to give, whether in protection or whatnot, but again, we've changed as a team and that's not something we're going to worry about."
Added tailback Willis McGahee: "No, I'm not worried about it. I don't think our defense is worried about it. We know Kyle's a good quarterback. But we're going to go out there and play Bronco football."
Which, to the oft-injured McGahee, means running the ball like the Broncos did in their last game against Kansas City on Nov. 13. They reeled off an astonishing 55 carries and threw the ball just eight times, completing only two; one of those was a 56-yard scoring strike from Tebow to Decker that sealed Denver's 17-10 win.
"As a unit, yes, we expect to do that as a unit," McGahee said of the run-first, run-second mindset. "I expect to be playing and everybody else is expected to be out there, so that's the good thing about it."
Beadles, meanwhile, gathered broken bits of plastic and a bent rod from his broken car and was hoping he could find the parts to fix it.
"Right now it's not looking great," he said. "I'm pretty upset."
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