Gary Kubiak raising the bar on Trevor Siemian
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Gary Kubiak trusts Trevor Siemian has both the physical toughness and the mental tenacity to lead the Denver Broncos down the stretch.
That much was clear this week when Siemian received a second cortisone shot in his ailing left shoulder along with a vote of confidence from his coach.
Like a kid playing Whac-A-Mole at an arcade, Kubiak seemingly has spent the whole season hammering away at rumors of another quarterback controversy in Denver:
-No, Paxton Lynch isn't going to be under center for the homestretch that includes two games against Kansas City, one against Oakland and another against rival New England.
-No, Kubiak has never wavered on Siemian, who won the job as Peyton Manning's successor over trade acquisition Mark Sanchez and Lynch, the team's first-round draft pick.
-Yes, he expects much, much more of his QB who has earned GM John Elway's praise for going 7-2 as the starter.
''I want Trevor to play big. I don't want Trevor to play OK or good,'' Kubiak said.
Elway said Tuesday he's pleased with the team's record and also expects the Broncos to go on another post-bye roll.
''I think we would take it if you said at Week 10 we'd be 7-3 with what's happened,'' Elway said. ''We haven't played our best football yet, which I think is the encouraging thing.
''But we've played hard week in and week out, and so I'm excited about our possibilities and what we can do. I know that the schedule is a tough schedule from here on out, but that's what happens when you win the division. But we're excited about it.
''We feel like we can get better on the offensive side. We have room for improvement there. We've figured out ways to win. That's what you have to do. We're excited about the last six.''
Siemian said he relishes the rising expectations.
''Kube expects a lot out of me. I expect a lot out myself truthfully,'' Siemian said.
To do that, he knows he has to stay upright.
Siemian took a beating in Denver's 25-23 win at New Orleans on Sunday when he was sacked six times, hit on 11 other drop-backs and tackled on three runs. That's an agonizing total of 20 shots on that sore left shoulder that's bothered him since it was driven to the turf in Tampa on Oct. 2, forcing him to sit out the next six quarters.
''He's beat up. He took a lot of shots,'' Kubiak said. ''Some of them he has to take responsibility for. We have to make sure that he's stepping up in the pocket.''
Aside from the dazzling defensive 2-point conversion that won it, the takeaway image from the Superdome was Siemian on his back, his arms outstretched toward the roof in celebration after getting hammered while throwing a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas.
''The reason he does make a lot of plays is because he will sit in there and get hit right in the mouth and make a play. That is a great characteristic of a quarterback because you have to do that sometimes,'' Kubiak said.
Kubiak then added this caveat: Siemian needs to protect himself better. This, even though five of the sacks and both of Siemian's interceptions Sunday came on four-man rushes, meaning the Broncos had the blockers, but still couldn't protect the passer properly.
''Right now, sometimes his depth is bad in the shotgun,'' Kubiak said. ''It's something we've got to work on. When it's good, he's stepping up. Sometimes he's drifting and getting hit when he shouldn't be getting hit.
''He gets on the road, gets loud, you get in the gun, you start getting away from the center a little too far and now all of a sudden you're back there hitting 11 yards. We're not going to protect you if you're doing that. It's just something that we have to improve with him.''
That was Kubiak defending his beleaguered lineman, something he's willing to do because he's as much assured in Siemian's psychological doggedness as he is in his physical toughness.
The bye week will provide the coaching staff the opportunity to reconfigure Siemian's pocket of protection.
Ty Sambrailo replaced an ineffective Donald Stephenson at right guard midway through the game Sunday, when the Broncos broke out of a prolonged funk and had zero three-and-outs in a dozen drives.
Kubiak said Tuesday that Sambrailo ''deserves to play a lot more football.''
Like a seasoned veteran, Siemian placed plenty of the blame for his aches and pains on his battered shoulders.
''A lot of times I'm holding the ball too long and I get what I deserve in that sense,'' Siemian said.
He said this five-day furlough that begins Wednesday is all about letting his battered body heal.
''Yeah, a lot of rest,'' Siemian said. ''Won't be doing much bench press this week.''
He'll be doing the heavy lifting soon enough.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton