Broncos embracing rocky road to the playoffs

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Only three teams in the AFC have double-digit wins and Denver faces all of them to close out the season. Von Miller is asking the Broncos faithful for a little bit of, well, faith, saying, ''let's not sound the alarm yet.''

Clinging to the sixth and final playoff spot, the Broncos (8-5) will have to get through New England, Kansas City and Oakland for a chance to defend their Super Bowl title.

That looks like a daunting task for a team that's had season-long troubles stopping the run, protecting the passer and holding onto the football.

Miller channeled his inner Aaron Rodgers on Monday, asking the restless Broncos fans to relax.

''I mean, I'm still going to be here, right?'' the star pass rusher told The Associated Press. ''I'm still excited. I'm still ready to go. These teams I've had success with. I've had success with these three teams in the past. I've had success with these three teams this year.''

Tom Brady returns to Denver on Sunday to face the defense that throttled him in the AFC championship in January. The Broncos hit him 23 times and forced him into 29 incompletions, two fourth-down flops and two costly interceptions, one of them on a failed 2-point try that would have tied it with 12 seconds left in the Broncos' 20-18 win.

In a prelude to his MVP performance in the Super Bowl, Miller had 2+ sacks, four quarterback hits, a pass breakup and an interception that turned into a Denver touchdown that night.

''It's going to be an exciting game,'' Miller said. ''I'm ready for it.''

He said he's also eager for rematches with the Chiefs and Raiders , both of whom beat the Broncos last month.

''The second time around, you always play the team a little bit better, especially if you lose,'' said Miller, who had one of his 13+ sacks at Oakland and collected 10 tackles, three sacks and a pass breakup against Kansas City.

Miller has shown the ability to take over a game and lead his team to victory even with an offense that's struggling.

''So, for the Bronco faithful and Bronco Country, have faith in us. We've been here before,'' Miller said. ''We've been here more than one time before and we've been able to come out on top. I know what it seems like, the sky is falling, but let's not sound the alarm yet.

''We've still got to play some really good teams, some playoff teams. And if we're able to pass this test, then we know exactly where we are going into the playoffs.''

Miller said that should the Broncos emerge from this stretch with a playoff ticket, there's no opponent that would welcome a visit from them in the playoffs.

''Yeah, we're going to be good,'' said Miller, who had more optimism than any member of Denver's downcast offense that trudged through the locker room Monday still smarting over their 13-10 loss at Tennessee .

Justin Forsett fumbled away his first carry for Denver, snapping a streak of 950 consecutive touches without a turnover, Bennie Fowler dropped what would have been the go-ahead touchdown pass with less than 5 minutes remaining and A.J. Derby was stripped of the football near midfield in the final minute.

''I definitely had a sleepless night last night,'' Derby said.

Fowler didn't get much shut-eye, either, thinking about the Trevor Siemian fastball that went off his face mask on third-and-goal from the 16 with 4:41 remaining.

''Yeah, just because we go up 14-13 if I make that catch right there,'' Fowler said. ''He put it on the money. I have to make that play. I feel like I let my team down. They all got my back and I'm going to come back this week and prepare hard like I always do and put it behind me.''

Fowler's flub came two weeks after he dived but dropped another perfectly placed pass on the Kansas City 20-yard line one play before Brandon McManus missed a 62-yard field goal attempt that gave the Chiefs a short field to win it as overtime expired.

Had he made those two grabs, the Broncos could be 10-3 and tussling with the Patriots next weekend for home-field advantage instead of fighting for their playoff lives.

They're not lamenting their losses, though, as they embrace their rocky road to the playoffs.

''We've got three good teams,'' Fowler said, ''and if we come out of this, we're going to be really dangerous.''

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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