Denver Broncos Chris Harris Jr. runs down the sidelines en route to a 74 yard TD with an intercepted pass from Oakland Raiders Derek Carr in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 11, 2015. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 16-10. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Despite the performance of their defense, the Denver Broncos head into the bye week saddled with the perception of being the league's weakest undefeated team, a thought fueled by their series of close wins over teams that are now a combined 10-24.
"People are saying that we're not the best 6-0 team, or that we just kind of skated by," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.
In each of their six wins, the defense has needed to make a game-saving or game-winning takeaway in the final half of the fourth quarter.
"We're not going to apologize for being 6-0," said linebacker Brandon Marshall. "We're not going to apologize for how we're winning, because we are winning."
With the Packers, Colts and Patriots among the Broncos' first five opponents after the bye, the Broncos have to improve to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Barring a disaster, the AFC West is theirs; they have a 3 1/2-game lead on second-place Oakland.
But John Fox was allowed to leave and Kubiak was hired to take the Broncos to the final step that eluded them during Fox and Manning's three seasons together. And even with an elite defense, the Broncos will not get there with a competent offense.
NOTES: WR Emmanuel Sanders suffered a shoulder injury late in regulation as he attempted to come down with a pass from Peyton Manning that could have moved the Broncos into field-goal range. Sanders returned for the first play from scrimmage in overtime, but left after a single snap in obvious agony. ... LG Evan Mathis was relieved for 15 snaps Sunday by rookie Max Garcia. Mathis did not practice at all last week because of a hamstring injury, but said the series he took off helped prevent the injury from worsening. ... OLB Shane Ray left the game in the second quarter with a sprained MCL that is expected to sideline him for three to six weeks. ... ILB Corey Nelson left the game with ankle and knee injuries suffered on special teams. He is considered day-to-day and could practice next week. ... OLB DeMarcus Ware rested while recovering from back spasms that set in during the Oakland game on Oct. 11. Barring a setback, he is expected to play against Green Bay after the bye.