Broncos report card and game balls from Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers

OFFENSE — D

Their running game was bottled up (3.8-yard average on 27 attempts) by San Francisco’s defensive curveball, a heavy front that controlled the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Case Keenum was 24 of 42 for only 186 yards as he reverted back to his early-season habit of throwing high and wide on out routes. Phillip Lindsay had two drops and the receivers averaged only 7.8 yards per catch. The Broncos have forgotten about their tight ends (Matt LaCosse has one catch in the last two games).

DEFENSE — D

They pitched a shutout in the second half and produced a turnover at midfield that the offense didn’t capitalize on. But about that first half. Is there a lower grade than F for what happened in quarters 1-2? San Francisco did whatever it wanted, including seven passes to tight end George Kittle for 210 yards. Kittle’s 85-yard touchdown was a coverage bust that should not happen in Week 14 and against an opponent’s best weapon. The penalties began piling up and was low-lighted by three neutral zone infractions by linebacker Von Miller.

SPECIAL TEAMS — C

Kicker Brandon McManus made both of his point-after attempts but the 20-point halftime deficit forced the Broncos to go for it on fourth down throughout the second half. Punter Colby Wadman posted a 40.2 yard net on six punts. River Cracraft sparked the Broncos’ first scoring drive with a 20-yard punt return.

COACHING — F

The Broncos had 11 penalties, were a dismal 2 of 15 on third down and trailed a 2-10 team by 20 points at halftime. Where to begin? Let’s start with coach Vance Joseph. His team played with no urgency, as if the 49ers were going to hand them the game. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave got away with four called passes from the San Francisco 1-yard line (touchdown on fourth down) and defensive coordinator Joe Woods had no answer for Kittle and saw his group commit five penalties on one drive. Joseph ended with an odd challenge that cost him a timeout in the final minutes.

GAME BALLS

WR Tim Patrick. His role increased because of Emmanuel Sanders’ injury, Patrick caught seven passes for 85 yards.

LB Bradley Chubb. He recorded two sacks to set a Broncos rookie season record (12).

DL Shelby Harris. In addition to his four tackles, he batted down one pass and deflected another that resulted in a completion for lost yardage.

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D.J. Eliot, former CU Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre land new jobs

While Colorado football fans are just getting to know new head coach Mel Tucker, the Buffaloes’ former head coach and defensive coordinator are on their way to new jobs.

Buffzone.com sources have confirmed multiple reports from Sunday that former CU head coach Mike MacIntyre has accepted an offer to become the defensive coordinator at Mississippi.

Meanwhile, D.J. Eliot, CU’s defensive coordinator the past two years, is set to be introduced Monday as the defensive coordinator at a different Power 5 conference school, according to a Buffzone.com source. Because details are still being finalized, the source could not identify the school where Eliot is headed, but Georgia Tech, Kansas and Maryland all have open spots at defensive coordinator.

MacIntyre did not respond to texts, but his son, senior receiver Jay MacIntyre, tweeted, “HOTTY TODDY!!” — a saying synonymous with Ole Miss football — at the time reports came out Sunday afternoon.

Read the full story at Buffzone.com.

Broncos’ up-down drill: Best and worst against the 49ers

Tracking the best and worst from the Broncos’ loss Sunday.

UP: King Kittle. The Broncos nearly finished on the wrong side of history. San Francisco tight end George Kittle hauled in seven catches for 210 yards and one touchdown — all in the first half. Kittle almost broke the NFL record for tight end receiving yardage set by Broncos’ tight end Shannon Sharpe (214) in 2002.

DOWN: Lindsay-mania. Rookie running back Phillip Lindsay entered the game needing only 63 yards to reach 1,000 on the season. He didn’t get there. The 49ers bottled Lindsay up for 30 yards on 14 carries. He found the end zone once in the third quarter, on a 3-yard dash, but Lindsay’s longest burst of the day went for just 5.

UP: Miller’s streak. Von Miller‘s second quarter sack of 49ers’ quarterback Nick Mullens achieved two milestones. It marked career sack No. 103.5 — tying Miller with Simon Fletcher for the most in franchise history. And, it registered the eighth consecutive game Miller had a sack this season — the longest such stretch in Miller’s career.

DOWN: Miller’s anticipation. Miller got flagged three times for neutral zone infractions in the first half. He was pulled after this third such infraction.

UP: Chubb’s production. With two sacks, Broncos’ outside linebacker Bradley Chubb reached 12 on the season to set a franchise rookie record. Chubb, who wrangled Mullens down in the second and third quarter, surpassed the previous mark (11.5) set by Miller in 2011.

DOWN: Blocking up front. The early success of Denver’s retooled interior offensive line  — LG Billy Turner, C Connor McGovern and RG Elijah Wilkinson — hit a setback Sunday with limited team rushing success (103 yards) while giving up two sacks and nine quarterback hurries.

UP: Fat guy receptions. With about 2 minutes left in the second quarter, defensive tackle Shelby Harris tipped a Mullens pass attempt at the line of scrimmage and the football dropped into the open arms of 49ers’ left tackle Joe Staley. Sure, dropping it for an incompletion rather than catching it for a 5-yard loss would have been the smarter move. But give Staley his moment. It’s not often an offensive lineman ends up in the receiving column.

DOWN: Points off turnovers. Safety Darian Stewart intercepted a Mullens pass with 11 minutes to go near midfield with the Broncos trailing 20-7. But Denver couldn’t capitalize. It faced fourth-and-3 from the San Francisco 21-yard line and a completion to Lindsay fell short of the marker. The Broncos best chance at a comeback was foiled.

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Broncos’ playoff hopes crippled with Week 14 loss at San Francisco

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Life without cornerback Chris Harris and receiver Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday looked a lot like life with them on the Broncos throughout October.

Lousy.

Minus their best cover man (Harris, who broke his leg last week) and their best receiver (Sanders, who tore his Achilles in practice on Wednesday), the Broncos slept-walk through the first half at Levi’s Stadium, eventually losing 20-14. Likely needing to win out to capture the final AFC wild card spot, the Broncos (6-7) fell a game behind Tennessee, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Miami (all 7-6).

The hard truth: The Broncos need to win their final three games … and get help from the above four teams, who must all limp to the finish line.

The Broncos’ three-game winning streak was snapped, mostly by tight end George Kittle, whose 85-yard touchdown gave the 49ers a 13-0 second-quarter lead and whose seven catches gained 210 yards (all in the first half) as San Francisco cruised to a 20-0 lead.

San Francisco seemingly tried to keep the Broncos in the game throughout the second half. The Broncos cut the lead to 20-14 with 3:53 left on a Case Keenum-to-DaeSean Hamilton 1-yard touchdown. The Broncos had all three timeouts and the two-minute warning stoppage left.

Then Denver made strange clock management decisions.

The 49ers gained one yard on first down. Denver called timeout. On second down, receiver Marquise Goodwin caught a pass and fumbled out of bounds. Broncos coach Vance Joseph lost his challenge (and a precious timeout) for an incompletion, setting up a third-and-2 … which became a third-and-7 after left guard Laken Tomlinson’s false start penalty. No matter. Quarterback Nick Mullens threw 31 yards to receiver Dante Pettis. Three plays later, on third-and-3 from the Broncos’ 39, Mullens threw six yards to receiver Trent Taylor.

Game over.

A case can be made that the Broncos’ roster-wide injuries finally caught up to them. But that would be too easy. A surging team like the Broncos, regardless of injuries, should have been able to handle a 2-10 team playing its third-string quarterback.

Instead it was the other way around, particularly in the first half. The 49ers looked like they were on a winning streak. The Broncos looked like they were playing out the season.

In building a 20-0 lead at halftime, the 49ers outgained the Broncos 311-66 and created plays for Kittle to have a first half for the ages, seven catches for 210 yards.

The Broncos showed no discipline or fundamentals: 10 penalties.

They showed no pulse on offense: Five punts and a kneel-down in their six possessions.

And they showed no urgency: It was if they waited for the 49ers to hand them the game.

The Broncos’ defense hung on early, allowing yards but not touchdowns. The 49ers moved 56 yards to open the game, but settled for a Robbie Gould 40-yard field goal. Bradley Chubb’s third-down sack from the four-yard line forced a Gould 29-yard field goal and a 6-0 lead.

But enter Kittle. Mullens had 3.01 seconds to throw on a first-down play from the 15 and found a wide open Kittle, who caught the pass at the 29 and wove his way to a score and a 13-0 lead.

The Broncos tried to find a spark when they took over with 1:48 left in the second quarter. But they quickly punted, using only 41 seconds.

San Francisco made it 20-0 on Mullens’ 1-yard touchdown to Dante Pettis eight seconds before halftime.

The 49ers’ drive was aided by five — yes, five! — defensive penalties by the Broncos, including Von Miller’s second and third neutral zone violations. Those flags added up to a free 22 yards of field position.

The Broncos cut the lead to 20-7 with 6:05 left in the third quarter on Phillip Lindsay’s three-yard touchdown run. The drive started at their 44 after River Cracraft’s 22-yard punt return and included two fourth down conversions (fullback Andy Janovich three-yard run and a 19-yard catch by receiver Tim Patrick).

The Broncos forced a punt, creating an opening. A touchdown and the game would be within reach. Starting at their 8, the offense moved to the 41 and faced a fourth-and-3. Lindsay managed to bounce the carry outside but was ruled one yard short.

On the ensuing possession, safety Darian Stewart intercepted Mullens’ pass. Another opening for the Broncos. Starting at their 44, the Broncos got carries of seven and 23 yards by running back Royce Freeman. But Freeman lost a yard on third-and-2 and Keenum’s pass to Lindsay on fourth-and-3 gained only a yard.

San Francisco quickly punted the ball back. The Broncos converted two fourth down plays (Tim Patrick’s nine-yard catch on fourth-and-7 and Lindsay’s three-yard rush on fourth-and-1). The Broncos had first-and-goal from the 49ers’ 1. Following three incompletions, Hamilton scored the first touchdown of his rookie year.

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Kyle Shanahan, 49ers end Denver’s three-game winning streak

In order to keep pace in the AFC Wild Card race, the Denver Broncos (6-7) desperately needed to beat the San Francisco 49ers (3-10) on Sunday.

Unfortunately for the visiting Broncos, the game plan to slow down 49ers tight end George Kittle was apparently left back in the Mile High City. Kittle torched the Broncos for seven catches, 210 receiving yards and an 85-yard touchdown as the 49ers defeated the Broncos, 20-14.

Kittle, 25, is San Francisco’s leading receiver this season and the second-year pro proved why on Sunday. Kittle’s 210 receiving yards put him in the same conversation as players like Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, and while the 6’4″, 250-pound tight end may not be as fast as those Hall of Fame wide receivers, Denver made him look like an All-Pro.

Time and time again quarterback Nick Mullens was able find his tight end in the open field. And by the end of the fourth quarter, Mullens only had 122 passing yards to players not named Kittle. The rookie quarterback finished 20-33 for 332 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.

While Mullens did not do anything special for San Francisco, the young QB put his team in a position to win and allowed his defense to do the rest.

With the game on the line, Denver’s offense had multiple opportunities to drive down the field and chip away at the 49ers’ lead, but on two different occasions, the Broncos turned the football over on downs.

Down two scores with 3:53 remaining, Case Keenum was able to connect with rookie wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton in the end zone to cut the deficit to six points (20-14). The veteran quarterback would not get another chance to lead his team down the field though.

In a losing effort, Keenum completed 23-41 pass attempts for 165 yards and one touchdown. Keenum will look to get his team back in the winning column when the Cleveland Browns come to town on Saturday, Dec. 15.

Yet another tight end, this time George Kittle, kills Denver’s defense

George Kittle on his 85-yard touchdown. Credit: Stan Szeto, USA TODAY Sports.

Hey diddle diddle, there goes George Kittle.

Rookie tight end Kittle went wild on the Denver defense Sunday afternoon, enjoying the greatest game in the history of the San Francisco 49ers tight ends, with 210 yards and a touchdown. It was also the third-most all-time by a tight end in NFL history. And the 49ers beat the Broncos — basically ending Denver’s season — 20-14.

And Kittle killed the Broncos – who haven’t been able to cover tight ends all season long – early and often.

His first huge play came in the first quarter, with Darian Stewart “covering” him but trailing the tight end by a few yards. Backup quarterback Nick Mullens found Kittle open and Stewart could never catch up. Kittle kept rumbling and Bradley Roby bounced off him like a football off an upright before Justin Simmons finally took him down at the 12 yard line.

That 45-yard play was only the beginning, though.

Once the 49ers saw they could go to Kittle, they did it on the very next drive; which only took one play. There was the tight end again, this time dragging across the entire field and finding himself completely, utterly wide open.

After catching the ball, Kittle turned it upfield and turned on the jets, running 85 yards to the end zone untouched. No. 85 went 85 yards to pay dirt.

With that massive play, the tight end ran his total up to 179 yards, Denver had a mere 39 yards, with nine minutes to go in the second half.

That touchdown wasn’t just an explosive play, it pushed the 49ers ahead 13-0.

And when San Francisco needed to move the ball the most – getting possession with less than a minute before halftime – Kittle had a 13-yard and an 18-yard reception to help push his team down the field where they’d end with another touchdown.

Thanks to Kittle, who had 210 yards in the first half alone, the Niners led 20-0 at the break and held onto all the momentum with the Broncos playoff lives on the line.

What made it even more atrocious was that San Francisco had very few playmakers outside of Kittle, and yet, Denver couldn’t even find him on the field.

But, again, the Broncos have been burned by tight ends all year long. So, it certainly wasn’t a surprise. Just more damning evidence that the team is in desperate need of leadership, both from the head coaching standpoint and specifically on the defensive end.

When it was all said and done, somehow, the 49ers didn’t go to Kittle again after his sensational first half. Still, his 210 total yards were the third-most ever in a single game, with Shannon Sharpe’s 214 yards ironically being No. 1 all-time in NFL history.

The Broncos tried to come back, bringing the game to 20-14, but fell short and their playoff hopes died with the loss, too. If they could have found a way to cover Kittle, they may have won the game and saved the season.

Instead, Denver’s now 6-7 and out of the playoffs for the third straight season.

Chiefs owner: Kansas City knew of 3 incidents involving Kareem Hunt

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said the organization was aware of three separate off-field incidents that led to the release of star running back Kareem Hunt, including the alleged assault in a Cleveland hotel that was captured on a security camera.

The team’s owners also said after Kansas City clinched a playoff berth with a 27-24 overtime victory over the Ravens on Sunday that the NFL was made aware of each of the cases.

One of the incidents occurred in January at a downtown Kansas City nightclub and the other happened in June at a resort in Ohio. No charges were filed in any of the three cases.

Kareem Hunt was released nine days ago, shortly after TMZ Sports posted video of him shoving and kicking the woman in Cleveland. He also was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, which means he could not play in games even if a team signed him.

WATCH: Broncos’ Phillip Lindsay’s 3-yard TD run against the 49ers

For the fourth straight game, Phillip Lindsay has found his way into the end zone.

The Broncos rookie running back on Sunday ran for a 3-yard touchdown against the 49ers. The score cut San Francisco’s lead down to 20-7.

It was Lindsay’s ninth touchdown of the season, moving him past Mike Bell into fourth most rushing touchdowns by a Denver rookie. Only Mike Anderson (15), Clinton Portis (15) and Jon Keyworth (10) have scored more in their first year.

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Bradley Chubb sets franchise record for sacks by a rookie

Bradley Chubb has been everything that the Denver Broncos hoped he would be when the franchise selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

In the second half of Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, the rookie linebacker recorded his 12th sack of the season, which broke Von Miller’s record from 2011 (11.5). With two sacks on 49ers quarterback Nick Mullen, the dynamic pass rusher now has three multi-sack games in 2018 and 10.5 sacks since Oct. 14.

Between the the duo of Von Miller (13.5) and Chubb (12), the Broncos have 25.5 sacks this season. The Kansas City Chiefs are the only other team in the NFL to have multiple players with double-digit sacks. Chris Jones (DE) and Dee Ford (LB) each have 10.5 sacks apiece.

Laviska Shenault named Colorado Buffaloes football team MVP

Laviska Shenault Jr. on Sunday was named the Colorado Buffaloes‘ most valuable player during the team’s annual senior banquet at the Dal Ward Athletic Center.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound receiver earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors after he finished with 86 catches for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns in nine games for the Buffs in 2018. He missed three games due to a toe injury.

Shenault, 20, is the first sophomore to earn the award since linebacker Jashon Sykes was honored in 1999. He is also the third receiver to win the award this decade, joining Paul Richardson (2013) and Nelson Spruce (2014-15).

Running back Travon McMillian was honored with the John Mack Award for the most outstanding player on offense. The senior graduate transfer from Virginia Tech finished with 1,009 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Sophomores Mustafa Johnson and Nate Landman shared the Dave Jones Award for outstanding defensive player.

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Colorado Rapids trade Zac MacMath to Vancouver for midfielder Nicolas Mezquida

The Colorado Rapids on Sunday traded goalkeeper Zac MacMath to the Vancouver Whitecaps for midfielder Nicolas Mezquida and $100,000 in targeted allocation money.

Mezquida, 26, appeared in 101 games for Vancouver from 2014-18, recording 12 goals and four assists.

“He is a creative and dangerous playmaker who fits well into our playing philosophy of dominating ball possession and pressing high up the pitch,” Rapids executive vice president and general manager Pádraig Smith said in a news release.

MacMath, 27, played with Colorado the past four years, appearing in 31 games, starting 30. He had a record of 12-12-7.

“Zac is a top professional and has been an important part of our club over the last few years. His performances on the field and his commendable work in the community will not be forgotten,” Smith said in the release.

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Colorado Rapids trade Zac MacMath to Vancouver for midfielder Nicolas Mezquida

The Colorado Rapids on Sunday traded goalkeeper Zac MacMath to the Vancouver Whitecaps for midfielder Nicolas Mezquida and $100,000 in targeted allocation money.

Mezquida, 26, appeared in 101 games for Vancouver from 2014-18, recording 12 goals and four assists.

“He is a creative and dangerous playmaker who fits well into our playing philosophy of dominating ball possession and pressing high up the pitch,” Rapids executive vice president and general manager Pádraig Smith said in a news release.

MacMath, 27, played with Colorado the past four years, appearing in 31 games, starting 30. He had a record of 12-12-7.

“Zac is a top professional and has been an important part of our club over the last few years. His performances on the field and his commendable work in the community will not be forgotten,” Smith said in the release.

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WATCH: Broncos’ Bradley Chubb sacks 49ers QB Nick Mullens

https://twitter.com/Broncos/status/1071884528782729217

Make it 11 sacks for Broncos rookie Bradley Chubb.

Denver’s 2018 first-round pick recorded took down another quarterback on Sunday, plowing over San Francisco’s Nick Mullens early in the second quarter as the 49ers were threatening in the red zone on third down.

The play forced San Francisco to settle for a field goal. The 49ers led 6-0 after the kick.

Chubb’s 11 sacks puts him just a 1/2 sack behind Von Miller’s franchise rookie record of 11.5.

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WATCH: Broncos’ Bradley Chubb sacks 49ers QB Nick Mullens

https://twitter.com/Broncos/status/1071884528782729217

Make it 11 sacks for Broncos rookie Bradley Chubb.

Denver’s 2018 first-round pick recorded took down another quarterback on Sunday, plowing over San Francisco’s Nick Mullens early in the second quarter as the 49ers were threatening in the red zone on third down.

The play forced San Francisco to settle for a field goal. The 49ers led 6-0 after the kick.

Chubb’s 11 sacks puts him just a 1/2 sack behind Von Miller’s franchise rookie record of 11.5.

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WATCH: Miami Dolphins’ last-minute game-winning miracle touchdown against the Patriots

Call it the “Miracle in Miami.”

Down 33-28 to the Patriots with seven seconds left on the clock and 69 yards to go, the Dolphins made an incredible play to win.

Quarterback Ryan Tannelhill connected with receiver Kenny Stills at the Miami 47 yard line. Stills lateraled to the right to DeVante Parker, who shoveled it to Kenyon Drake who ran past the Patriots defense to end zone for the walk-off touchdown.

Visiliy Lomachenko wins unanimous decision for 2nd lightweight boxing belt

NEW YORK — Two down, two to go.

Vasiliy Lomachenko is halfway to owning all the major lightweight titles after just two fights, and he’s already eyeing the guy he’d need to beat to get the next one.

“Of course I want two more belts and maybe we can make next year a fight with Mikey Garcia,” Lomachenko said.

He picked up his second lightweight title Saturday night, wearing down Jose Pedraza and winning a unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden.

Lomachenko (12-1) knocked down Pedraza twice in the 11th round and though he couldn’t finish him, won easily to add the WBO title to the WBA belt he picked up in May during his first fight at 135 pounds.

The three-division champion unified titles within a division for the first time, after moving up to lightweight in May when he knocked out Jorge Linares in the 10th round.

“It was my dream to unify titles,” Lomachenko said. “It was my next goal. I can now focus on my next chapter.”

Lomachenko won one card by a 119-107 rout, while two judges scored it 117-109, as did The Associated Press.

It ended his streak of eight straight victories by stoppage but he came close in the 11th, when Pedraza went to a knee to stop an onslaught of punches with about a half-minute left in the round and then went down again after Lomachenko caught him with a body shot.

In his first fight since right shoulder surgery, Lomachenko started cautiously before finding the range with a flurry of combinations in the latter half of the fight to pull away. He tore the labrum in the second round against Linares but said he had no problems with the shoulder Saturday, even though he threw far more lefts.

“I’m healthy,” he said. “One hundred percent.”

He certainly looked it for much of the fight and is halfway to a 135-pound sweep. The IBF title is vacant and the WBC version is owned by the unbeaten Garcia, who won’t be defending that any time soon while he moves to challenge welterweight champion Errol Spence in March.

So Lomachenko will have to wait for what would be the marquee fight in the division.

Pedraza (25-2) was making the first defense of the belt he won from Ray Beltran in August and the Puerto Rican had some good moments, including in the 10th round when he landed some good body shots and won the round on all three judges’ cards. But Lomachenko dominated from there.

“I went 12 rounds with the best fighter in the world,” Pedraza said. “I knew what we were going up against. I thought it was a close fight until the knockdowns. At the end of the day, I am proud of what I did.”

It was Lomachenko’s third straight fight at Madison Square Garden, this one in front of a sellout crowd of 5,312 in the smaller Theater that was filled with Ukrainian flags while the Knicks and Nets played upstairs in the main arena.

The 30-year-old Lomachenko had said the break while rehabbing the surgery may have helped him after nearly 400 amateur bouts before his pro career, and it appeared at times early he was looking for ring work. He was content to focus on defending for large parts of the rounds before letting go of his punches and it wasn’t until later in the fight when he started unleashing his sharpest combinations.

Teofimo Lopez, a 2016 Olympian, scored a quick and devastating knockout of Mason Menard in another lightweight fight on the undercard.

Lopez (11-0, 9 KOs) appeared to hurt Menard (34-4) with his very first punch and it didn’t take him long from there to end it with a roundhouse right near the left ear that momentarily froze Menard with his left arm limp before he fell straight forward onto his face. Referee Charlie Fitch quickly abandoned his count when it was clear Menard wouldn’t get up and the fight was over after just 44 seconds.

Lopez then did a backflip and shortly after Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy across town, slipped into his Sooners No. 1 jersey and did a Heisman pose.

Lopez then guaranteed he would become a world champion in 2019.

“We’re in the stage of my career where we can change boxing and bring it back,” he said. “You all haven’t seen anything like me in a long time.”

Also, Mexican Emanuel Navarrete won the WBO junior featherweight title by beating Isaac Dogboe by unanimous decision.

Navarrete (26-1) said he hurt his hand early in the fight but it never showed, as he kept coming forward and Dogboe (20-1) couldn’t keep him away. Navarrete won by scores of 116-112 on two cards and 115-113 on the other.

“This world championship represents every day that I was working away from my family,” Navarrete said. “This title represents sacrifice.”

Dogboe’s eyes began swelling early in the fight and his face was bloodied toward the end, but he was never knocked down and rallied well at times after being examined by ringside physicians between rounds.

“It was a great fight, and Emanuel Navarrete fought like a true Mexican warrior,” Dogboe said. “Champions are supposed to keep going under any circumstance, but I just couldn’t get the victory. The best man won tonight.”

Max Holloway stops Brian Ortega by TKO at UFC 231

TORONTO — Featherweight champion Max Holloway stopped top contender Brian Ortega by TKO at UFC 231 on Saturday night

The fight was stopped by the doctor after four rounds. Ortega’s left eye was almost closed, his face bloodied.

The skills of Holloway, who was returning from an injury-plagued year, were too much for Ortega, who had rallied in the third round but was unable to take Holloway down or use his vaunted jiu-jitsu.

“Kudos to him,” Holloway said of Ortega. “On to the next (opponent).”

UFC president Dana White applauded the decision to end the fight.

“That fifth round should never have happened and I’m glad it didn’t,” he said. “The fight needed to be stopped. For us all of in here that have been in the fight game for a long time, that’s what you call too tough for your own good.

“I believe he could have done the fifth round. I believe he would have done the fifth round. But it should have never happened … He’s a young talented guy and I think going into that fifth round would have been very bad for him health-wise. The fourth round wasn’t good for him health-wise.”

Holloway improved to 20-3-0, adding to his impressive credentials, while Ortega slipped to 14-1-0 with one no contest.

It could be Holloway’s last fight at 145 pounds. White wants him to move up to lightweight (155) to avoid the grueling weight cut.

Valentina Shevchenko, a native of Kyrgyzstan fighting out of Peru, overpowered a game, but outmatched Joanna Jedrzejczyk, of Poland, for the vacant women’s flyweight title in the co-main event. Shevchenko won a unanimous five-round decision.

“I have been waiting so long for this moment,” the 30-year-old Shevchenko said.

Ortega, an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, entered the arena to the sounds of DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It To Ya.” Holloway walked out to “Game Over” by Lil’ Flip and then “Hawaiian Kickboxer” by Moke Boy.

The crowd started chanting “Holloway, Holloway” as the two circled each other. Ortega scored with counter punches as the champion came forward and connected with an elbow. A relaxed Holloway began to find his striking distance and stuffed a takedown as the round ended.

Ortega’s nose began to bleed profusely in the second as Holloway fired punches. Another takedown was rebuffed and Holloway taunted Ortega. The two exchanged words after the round that was dominated by Holloway.

Ortega came back in the third, connected with punches and almost got Holloway to the ground. Holloway fought back with punishing blows as Ortega continued to bleed from the face.

When Ortega connected, Holloway nodded as if to give him props. Ortgea showed he can take a punch.

Holloway danced in the fourth and then hammered Ortega at the fence. He took him down later in the round.

The 27-year-old Holloway had won his last 12 fights since an August 2013 loss by decision to Conor McGregor.

It was Holloway’s first fight since Dec. 2, 2017, due to a variety of health issues.

The two 145-pounders were originally slated to meet at UFC 226 in July, but Holloway was forced to withdraw at the last minute due to what was thought to be “concussion-like symptoms.”

An ankle injury had forced Holloway out of a March bout against former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 222. Ortega filled in for Holloway, winning by a spectacular first-round TKO.

Holloway also missed out on a short-notice fight with current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in April (after Tony Ferguson withdrew with a knee injury), pulling out during his weight cut.

The lone blemish on the 27-year-old Ortega’s record was a 2014 win over Mike de la Torre that was changed to a no contest after a positive test for the steroid drostanolone. The California native was suspended nine months and fined US$2,500.

Ortega apologized for the failed test, saying he took the drug to help with his weight cut.

Jedrzejczyk (15-3-0) and Shevchenko (16-3-0) met at 125 pounds.

Shevchenko looked bigger and bulkier, taking Jedrzejczyk down a minute into the fight. Jedrzejczyk got back to her feet but had trouble gauging her striking distance early.

While she tried to find it, Shevchenko was content to counter. Shevchenko bodied Jedrzejczyk to the ground in the second, got side control and did damage as the round ended.

Shevchenko came on the third, bloodying Jedrzejczyk’s nose. Jedrzejczyk was taken down again in the fourth.

Broncos Insider: Why Peyton Manning surprised Von Miller this week

Von Miller was lied to.

Don’t worry. He’s not upset. Because sometimes a little deception makes a surprise really pop, and believe me, Miller had no idea what was coming. The Broncos’ all-world outside linebacker was told his presence had been requested to discuss his 100th career sack inside the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse by the team’s communications staff, but details were muddled, and Miller was moving on the fly.

“They were kind of rushing me over, like ‘Man, you’ve got to hurry up and get over here,’” Miller said. “And I’m like ‘What’s going on?’ I had food in my hand. I was eating lunch.”

Miller turned the corner to see a familiar face.

The Broncos nominated Miller for the NFL’s Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award.

Peyton Manning delivered the news.

“Right when you walk in you have Peyton Manning there — sitting with his hands in his pockets,” Miller said. “It was incredible. Everybody knows how much I love Peyton and what he means to me, and to have him along with my family there to surprise me, it was incredible. It’s really been a highlight of the year.”

Kyle Fredrickson, The Denver Post


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What’s on tap?

Week 14: At San Francisco 49ers, 2 p.m. Sunday, KCNC-4; 850 AM, 94.1 FM

TV/RADIO: Here’s what sports are airing today

Must-Read

Royce Freeman (28) of the Denver ...
Joe Amon, The Denver Post
Royce Freeman (28) of the Denver Broncos is tackled during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Denver Broncos hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver, Colorado on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018.

Broncos Journal: Back healthy, offense will need Royce Freeman down the stretch

The Broncos’ running game starts with Phillip Lindsay, who needs 63 yards to reach 1,000. It is a role he has earned. But as the Broncos (6-6) begin the final quarter of their season Sunday at San Francisco, don’t sleep on fellow rookie Royce Freeman. Read more…

Steve Dykes, The Denver Post
Denver Bronco Head Coach Mike Shanahan and his son, Kyle, watch the Broncos go through a practice session at Dove Valley on Friday, May 30, 2003.

Why you’ll never get the Cherry Creek out of Kyle Shanahan

The son of former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan talks about why not getting the Broncos job turned into a blessing. Read more… 

The name of Pat Bowlen is ...
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
The name of Pat Bowlen is revealed in the stadium during the halftime ceremony honoring owner Pat Bowlen. The Denver Broncos played the Green Bay Packers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on Nov. 1, 2015.

Broncos ownership dispute: Bill Bowlen files objection to trustees’ request for delay in lawsuit

Bowlen’s legal team argues case should not be delayed while the trustees’ request to the NFL for arbitration is considered. Read more…

Quick Hits

+ Broncos Game Plan: How Denver matches against the 49ers, injury report and predictions.

+ Punter Colby Wadman developing into critical Broncos special teams weapon.

+ Broncos Briefs: Improved third-down work key during final stretch.

+ New Broncos CB Jamar Taylor aims to help keep Denver in AFC wild card chase.

+ Broncos Briefs: Von Miller calls Payton award nomination “incredible achievement.”

Want to chat about the Broncos? Ask to join our closed discussion group on Facebook.

By The Numbers

1971-72

The last time the Broncos suffered back-to-back losing seasons.

Parting Shot

Emmanuel Sanders (10) of the Denver ...
Joe Amon, The Denver Post
Emmanuel Sanders (10) of the Denver Broncos stiff arms Joe Haden (23) of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter. The Denver Broncos hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver, Colorado on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018.

Kiszla: There’s no crying in football, and Broncos’ run at playoffs didn’t end with injuries to Sanders, Harris. The kids are alright.

So is this where the Broncos’ run at the playoffs ends, with Emmanuel Sanders throwing his helmet to rage against a torn Achilles? Read more…

Get in Touch

If you see something that’s cause for question or have a comment, thought or suggestion, email me at dboniface@denverpost.com or tweet me @danielboniface.

A look at how Broncos make playoffs for first time in three years

Case Keenum. Credit: Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports.

The Denver Broncos don’t miss the playoffs often under the ownership of Pat Bowlen.

In fact, the five-year stretch of no postseason from 2006-2010 was such an anomaly, both Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels were fired. Denver’s missed the playoffs the last two years, but even now in early December, they still have a chance to make it into the postseason.

And once you’re in, it’s a whole new ballgame.

When the Broncos lost six of seven games in the heart of their schedule this year, many believed it was all over. But, the team has rallied as of late, winning three straight and setting themselves up with their playoff destiny in their own control.

Well, mostly.

What does Denver have to do? First, win-out. That shouldn’t be too difficult, considering their upcoming competition. First, it’s the 2-10 49ers today. Then, they host the Cleveland Browns 4-7-1 next Saturday (6:20 p.m. MT kickoff). In three weeks, on Christmas Eve, Denver heads to Oakland (2-10) before the season-finale against the only competitive team left on their slate, the Los Angeles Chargers (9-3).

On top of winning-out, the Broncos must have either the Pittsburgh Steelers lose two games, the Baltimore Ravens need to lose two or the Chargers have to lose three.

Like with Denver’s upcoming opponents, those teams’ upcoming schedules are favorable for the orange and blue. The Ravens face the Chiefs and Chargers, two of the best teams in the AFC, with a combined record of 28-19-1 (.596 winning percentage). The Chargers have the second-toughest slate, with their opponents possessing a combined record of 28-20 (.583).  And finally, it’s the Steelers, with New England and the 10-2 New Orleans Saints still upcoming (26-22, .542 percentage).

While the Broncos got “murderer’s row” out of the way earlier in the year, these playoff contending teams face their toughest opponents in December.

But, none of it can happen if the Broncos don’t first win today against the 49ers in San Francisco at 2 p.m. MT.

How does Denver beat the San Francisco?

Run the ball with Phillip Lindsay, arguably the NFL’s best running back. Shelby Harris — an elite interior defender — Von Miller and Co. need to pressure backup quarterback Nick Mullens relentlessly. And, Case Keenum should look to exploit the 49ers’ lack of depth in the secondary.

Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan’s still got it, son Kyle says

Once a football junkie, always a football junkie.

“My dad truly enjoys being in a dark room and watching films for days,” former Cherry Creek High School wideout and San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan says of his father, Mike, who coached the Broncos to victories in Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII. “I keep telling him, ‘Why are you looking at film?’ (He said) ‘I don’t know. I just enjoy it.’ Because he does. That’s pretty neat.”

Kyle last week shot down the notion that his father, 66, might be candidate for the vacant Green Bay Packers coaching gig. But he promises that the old man’s still got it. And, more to the point, that he still keeps up on the pro game, even in retirement.

“He watches a ton of stuff and he’s very schooled on the (current) game,” says the younger Shanahan, whose Niners host the Broncos Sunday as Denver looks to extend its three-game winning streak. “With the technology, he’s got everything in his house where he can watch all the film (he wants).”

Kyle humors the frequent comparisons to his father, one of only six coaches to ever win back-to-back Super Bowls and who was last seen on an NFL sideline with Washington in 2013.

But the 38-year-old Shanahan says when the time comes for him to hit his golden years, he’d prefer sweating over grains of sand to sweating somebody’s game tape.

“When I’m retired, I plan on being on the beach,” the younger Shanahan says. “And being nothing like that.”

Vail Resorts stock took epic tumble Friday

Vail Resorts‘ stock price tumbled down a double black diamond mountain Friday.

The Broomfield-based ski resort operator’s stock endured a record loss after the company released results for its most recent financial quarter that showed bigger than expected losses and slower than expected revenue gains for season pass sales.

After opening the day at $258.60 per share, Vail’s stock fell 17.85 percent during another rough day for the market, closing at $223.25. It was the biggest single day price drop since Vail went public in 1997, out doing a 17.3 percent drop during on Nov. 14, 2008, according to Marketwatch.com, a decline that came when the market was imploding due to the mortgage crisis.

“Vail’s recent acquisitions and new season-pass offerings aren’t enough to sustain demand and will likely hurt its fiscal 2019 growth prospects,” Bloomberg Analytics wrote in response the Vail’s release, referencing summer buys that included Crested Butte and three other U.S. resorts.

Vail Resorts Inc. reported a net loss of $107.8 million for the period stretching from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31. The company reported a loss of $28.4 million over the same span last year.

“Our first fiscal quarter historically operates at a loss, given that our North American mountain resorts are open for ski operations during the period,” CEO Rob Katz said in a statement that accompanied the financial results.

North American season pass sales for the current 2018-2019 season were up 21 percent through Dec. 2, according to the company. The increased sales volume didn’t translate directly when it comes to revenue, however, as the dollar drawn from those sales was only 13 percent. That can be attributed in part to the creation of a new version of the company’s Epic Pass for military members, available a substantial discount ($99 for retired and active  military members and their families in the U.S., Canada and Australia versus $949 for a standard Epic Pass).

“We are very pleased to see double-digit revenue growth in our season pass program after a very strong record performance last year,” Katz said. He added that, excluding military passes, “we achieved solid growth in our Colorado, Destination and Whistler Blackcomb markets, while experiencing declines in both the Northern California and Utah markets.”

But the growth wasn’t enough to satiate analysts and it hurt on another rough day on Wall Street.

Season pass sales “likely fell slightly below buy-side expectations,” Stifel Financial Corp. analyst Brad Boyer wrote, according to a summary of opinions shared by Bloomberg. Boyer pointed to the “presence of a new competitor” when looking at sales declines in Utah and Northern California, possibly referencing Denver-based Alterra Mountain Co. and its Ikon Pass.

Strong early season snow that allowed Vail Ski Resort to open early this year may have hurt the company.

While pass sales remained “relatively consistent” during the reporting period compared the financial quarter immediately preceding it (25 percent growth in units sold and 15 percent growth in revenue) “the bar had drifted slightly upward in recent weeks as favorable early season weather trends unfolded across the portfolio,” KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Brett Andress wrote.

Vail is doling out a quarterly cash dividend of $1.47 per share. It also bought back $50 million of its own stock in the quarter.

The company expects to sell 925,000 epic passes this year, when including sales in Australia and to military members. The company sold more than 750,000 of the passes for the 2017-18 season.

It also plans to make at least $175 million in capital improvements across its 18-property portfolio in 2019 including numerous projects in Colorado.

The company’s geographic diversity means it long-term outlook remains strong regardless of how its stock fared Friday, according to Bloomberg Analytics,

“Its global resort network provides alternative destination options and is an added benefit to pass holders,” Bloomberg wrote. “Recent acquisitions further enhance the season passes’ value, helping Vail to secure its position as North America’s leading ski-resort operator.”

Broncos ownership dispute: Bill Bowlen files objection to trustees’ request for delay in lawsuit

Bill Bowlen, a brother of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, submitted an objection Saturday in Arapahoe County District Court to the stay motion request by the Pat Bowlen Trust filed two weeks ago.

Giovanni Ruscitti, Bowlen's attorney from the Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti law firm in Boulder, filed the brief on his client's behalf. The filing asserts that granting a stay will "prejudice" Bill Bowlen.

In late October, Bowlen filed a lawsuit asking the trustees be relieved of their duties. The trustees — Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis, team counsel Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly — responded with the stay request and asking the NFL for arbitration with two of Bowlen's daughters, Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Bowlen Klemmer.

In the document, Bill Bowlen's legal team called the trustees' request "nothing more than a delay tactic and attempt to interfere with the Court's ability to decide important issues relating to (the) Defendants' misconduct."

Read more from The Denver Post.

Broncos Journal: Back healthy, offense will need Royce Freeman down the stretch

The Broncos’ running game starts with Phillip Lindsay, who needs 63 yards to reach 1,000. It is a role he has earned.

But as the Broncos (6-6) begin the final quarter of their season Sunday at San Francisco, don’t sleep on fellow rookie Royce Freeman.

If the Broncos play the kind of game they want Sunday – run/pass to get a lead and run to close out the game — Freeman will be critical. Although he lost a fumble, he gained 48 yards on 12 carries in last week’s win at Cincinnati.

“He obviously had a bad fumble that we don’t want, but he ran downhill,” coach Vance Joseph said.

In coach-speak, “downhill” is short for running with power and in a bad mood.

“I’m going out there trying to run like I know how and imposing my will on the defense,” Freeman said.

Freeman’s role could grow moving forward. Without receiver Emmanuel Sanders (torn Achilles), the Broncos should experiment with a Freeman-Lindsay and Freeman-Devontae Booker personnel packages. Get Lindsay and Booker lined up outside for easy completions and have Freeman serve as the inside battering ram.

Since we are not in an era of 25-carry games being the norm in the NFL (only 18 this year), having a running back tandem is required and it’s what the Broncos envisioned during training camp.

And it has developed that way … kind of. The Broncos are one of eight teams that have two players with at least 96 carries (Lindsay 154 and Freeman 96).

But the thought during August was those totals would be reversed. Freeman, as the third-round pick whose pounding style would suit him to the NFL, would lead the way and Lindsay would be the change-of-pace guy.

Freeman, though, has led the Broncos in carries only twice and one game was at Baltimore when Lindsay was ejected for throwing a punch in the first half. Lindsay has proven to be equally effective running between the tackles as he is getting around the corner.

Lindsay was beginning to take over the top role when Freeman sustained a sprained ankle in the Week 7 win at Arizona and missed two games. In his three games since returning, he has 25 carries for 87 yards (he has 397 yards this season). He is an important player, but currently a complementary one.

“I think (returning from the injury) was more of a mental thing,” Freeman said. “Just the practices and doing things over and over again to get my feet under me again has been a positive.”

This is new territory for Freeman.

At Oregon, he played in 51 of a possible 53 games. For the Broncos, he’s missed two of 12 games.

At Oregon, he averaged 18.6 carries per game. For the Broncos, he’s averaging 9.6 carries per game.

Playing for the Ducks, Freeman knew he would get plenty of time to find a rhythm. Now, he may get one attempt per possession to make an impact.

“If you start pressing, you will do things that aren’t ordinary and you won’t run the way you’re used to,” he said. “It’s just sticking to the game plan and your style.”

Freeman’s style is bruising. If the Broncos have a lead in the final six minutes on Sunday, they know he can be counted on to gobble up yards in short chucks to keep the clock moving. But he also has 12 carries of at least 10 yards.

“Royce is feeling more and more confident on his ankle,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “We’re looking forward to implementing him more as he gets more healthy.”

Denver Post Week 14 NFL Picks: Rams look to stay perfect on road

Game of the week

L.A. Rams at Chicago

Back-to-back long road trips for the Rams (minus-3), but they avoid a 10 a.m. Los Angeles kickoff with the prime-time game at Soldier Field. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has multiple sacks in five of the past six games. The Bears (8-4) have the league’s fourth-ranked defense. They won’t after this game.

Rams 31, Bears 20

Lock of the week

Minnesota at Seattle

A Monday night game between teams heading in opposite directions. The Seahawks (7-5) are a three-point favorite and trending upward, having won five of their last seven and seven of their last 10. The Vikings have only one good win through 13 weeks (at Philadelphia two months ago).

Seahawks 24, Vikings 13

Upset of the week

Philadelphia at Dallas

The Eagles (6-6) are a four-point underdog, but their season-saving win over Washington put them only a game behind Dallas (7-5). The Cowboys have won four consecutive games but this is a franchise famous for following up great wins with dreadful losses. After beating the Saints, expect that.

Eagles 27, Cowboys 21

Broncos vs. 49ers live blog: Real-time updates from the Week 14 NFL game

Live updates, tweets, photos, analysis and more from the Broncos game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Dec. 9, 2018.

Mobile users, if you can’t see the live blog, tap here.

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Around the AFC: Steelers’ skid creates opening for Houston for No. 3 seed

Second seed intrigue. A few weeks ago, Pittsburgh and New England figured to slug it out in their Week 15 game for the AFC’s second seed (and a first-round bye). But the Steelers lost to the Broncos and Chargers, creating an opening for Houston, which has won nine consecutive games. The Texans and Patriots are both 9-3, but New England has the head-to-head tiebreaker. Watch out for the Patriots at the Dolphins on Sunday. Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady is 7-9 all-time in Miami.

Hunt’s future. Former Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt sailed through waivers on Monday, days after he was cut by the Chiefs in connection with video of an altercation with a woman surfaced. When Hunt was cut, our guess was that there were previous problems in his background. Well, they have begun to come out. So what’s next for Hunt? He is only 23 years old and the reigning NFL rushing champion. We think he’ll be in a camp with some team next summer.

Running wild. Tennessee running back Derrick Henry entered Thursday night with a season high of 58 yards rushing. Against the Jaguars, he rushed 17 times for 238 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown that tied Dallas’ Tony Dorsett for the longest in NFL history. Henry scored four touchdowns. It was another embarrassing night for the Jaguars, who let Henry turn Nashville into Smashville by running through the Jacksonville defense.

Mayfield’s response. The Broncos host Cleveland in Week 15 after playing San Francisco. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is coming off his first real stinker of the season, three interceptions in a 29-13 loss at Houston in which Cleveland trailed 23-0 at halftime. Mayfield threw for all but 46 of his 397 yards in the second half. The Browns host Carolina on Sunday. Any concern about Mayfield bouncing back? “None,” interim coach Gregg Williams said. “Zero. None. That’s not who he is.”

Why you’ll never get the Cherry Creek out of Kyle Shanahan

When a Cherry Creek High guy, a Bruin for life, says he’s rooting like sin for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, you want to know why. And Zack Zucker, Class of ’98, offers up this story, from his senior year when he was in San Diego with one of his best friends, Kyle Shanahan, called to make sure he was all-in on joining the Broncos entourage headed over to Super Bowl XXXII.

“I said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to go to the game.

“And Mike (Shanahan) grabs the phone out of Kyle’s hand. And this is the day of the Super Bowl. And he gets on the phone with me and says, ‘You get your (expletive) to my hotel, now.’

“He called his assistant that worked for the Broncos, and you could imagine how security is around the team hotels at the Super Bowl. He made sure I was found, got me inside the team hotel and took me into his room and got me a pass that said ‘Mike Shanahan’s assistant.’ I was on the field as Mike’s ‘assistant’ for the best Super Bowl ever.”

There are friends you follow on Facebook, and friends you’d walk through Hell in a gasoline suit to hug.

Kyle Shanahan is the latter.

“I call myself the biggest fair-weather fan in America,” Zucker laughs. “I have been a Denver Broncos fan. I have been a Washington Redskins fan. I have been a Cleveland Browns and an Atlanta Falcons fan. Now I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan. I’ve got more gear in my closet than any NFL team ever. People are confused as to which team is mine.”

Of this, he’s certain: You can take Kyle Shanahan out of Bruins Country, but danged if you’ll take the Bruins Country out of Kyle Shanahan. For one thing, Zucker and Jeff Brunson, another of the younger Shanahan’s old high school football teammates and running buddies, make a point to fly out to a handful of Niners games a year, hearts on their sleeves. For another, there’s Kyle, walking the sidelines as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers against the Denver Broncos, his hometown team, the team that he grew up with, the franchise he darn near coached, a testament to the scars that never leave you.

“I can still remember my sophomore year, coming in and making the varsity basketball team and truly believe I should have,” the younger Shanahan, a wide receiver on Cherry Creek’s 5A state title team in 1996, tells the Post. ”And then every person who didn’t make the team, in the cafeteria, they’d say, ‘You only made it because of your last name.’

“I always fought that and got a big chip on my shoulder to prove them wrong. It gave me a lot more anger when I was younger, to prove them wrong.

“That’s why I wanted to play so bad. Then when I got into coaching, I just always had to prove myself. I’ve gotten over that. When I’ve gotten older, you start to realize it’s not personal, that’s just how (people) are and how they work. You’ve got to experience (that). And that’s what motivated me most of my life.”

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, left, talks with his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, during their NFL football training camp at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., Monday, Aug. 16, 2010.

***

When a Cherry Creek guy, a Bruin for life, tells you he probably dodged a bullet by not getting the Broncos job two years ago, even though his parents are here, and his pals are here, and his soul — deep down — is here, you want to know how that can be.

“I think after the interview I made it a little bit harder on them,” the younger Shanahan says of the January 2017 interview he had with Denver after Gary Kubiak resigned. “I just didn’t think (the Broncos) would choose me.

“And I think it worked out for the better. Denver was my home. I’d much rather be in a situation where I could do my own thing and go a little different direction.

“I had mixed feelings on it. I never felt like I was a front-runner or anything. I don’t think we connected … very well in interviews. It’s different. I knew all those guys when I was younger: (president) Joe Ellis, (general manager) John Elway. I remember having Thanksgiving at John Elway’s house when I was 5 years old. So those guys have been a part of my life for a long time, so they know me, (but) at the same time, they don’t really know me as a man. I don’t think they knew what to expect.

“It was truly fun to sit down for 5 hours and talk. We all know each other well and hadn’t seen each other for 20 years. They all knew me as a high school kid, and it was different for them to see me as an adult.”

To some — even after Duke, even after Texas, even after a dozen years as an NFL assistant, even after being one of the best things ever to happen to quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Ryan, even after nabbing the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year Award in 2016 — he’s always going to be the son of Mike, the man who brought two Lombardi Trophies home, and all that comes with it. The skinny kid running routes at insane hours at Broncos headquarters.

“It’s Sunday, and I’d get a call from him first thing in the morning,” chuckles Brunson, the son of former Broncos kick returner/wideout Larry Brunson and a former University of Colorado defensive back. “He says, ‘Get up here. Now.’ It’s Sunday at 7 a.m. and he’s at the Broncos’ facility already getting a workout in.

“He’d be up there, literally, all day. I’m like, ‘My body can’t handle this.’ He pretty much would have that schedule every weekend. Catching balls from the JUGS machine, he was always doing something — we’d be at the Broncos facility all the time just doing drills and helping out and trying to get better, too.”

Kyle Shanahan (87) and Chris Simms (1) post for a picture after a spring game at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, in March 2001.

***

When a Cherry Creek guy, a Bruin for life, tells you how much he misses weekends at the Shanahan house before Y2K, you want to know the wherefores.

“We were dorks, honestly,” laughs Pete Rebstock, Shanahan’s old running mate in the Cherry Creek receiving corps and a future Colorado State wideout. “We were not partyers early in our high school days.”

Just dudes doing dude things. Sleepovers at Shanny’s. Bottomless supply of Coca-Colas. Towers of pizza boxes. Pick-up basketball half the night.

“(Kyle) didn’t take losing well, which is why he’s been successful as a football guy, because he works at it,” Rebstock says. “He always had a talent and an eye for the game from a macro level. He’s always been really good at evaluating a talent skill-set. He would always tell me things he thought I did really well. I didn’t have coaches tell me that when we were that age. He always complimented me on my quickness and my burst and my hands. Kyle was one of the first guys to tell me I was good enough to play Division I football. That tells you a lot about how, as a kid, he could see it.”

Two steps and three chess moves ahead. Same as it ever was.

“I love going home to Denver,” Kyle says. “Anytime we get a chance, I love spending time in Colorado. I’ve got a lot of really good friends there.”

A lot of good memories, too, tucked into closets between the Niners gear and the gasoline suits.

“I think (the Broncos job) would have been really hard on him,” Rebstock says. “I think it would have been harder on (Kyle’s wife) Mandy than Kyle — Kyle can check himself into a film room, and most of us know not to even talk to him during the season. But being that Mandy is from here as well, I think, trying to get everyone appeased on gameday, it would’ve been miserable.

“Yeah, in Fantasyland, it would’ve been awesome having one of your best friends in high school coaching your (favorite pro) team. But all coaches get fired. I think it would be very hard for his kids and his family to have to come home and be around here with their whole family here, and have to leave because there’s not a job here anymore.”

But there’s the chip. Now. Always.

“It’s an uphill battle,” Kyle says. “It’s great to have that last name. But if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t work hard, if you’re not good, you will get exposed. You’ll get run out of the business.”

Around the NFC: Storyline of Mike McCarthy deserving better is comical

No sympathy. It was comical following Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy’s firing to hear the talking heads (mostly ex-players and ex-coaches) whine about how McCarthy was done wrong by president Mark Murphy and deserved to finish out the year. Pathetic. The Packers are 4-7-1 (0-6 on the road) and had lost a home to Arizona as a 14-point favorite. By making the move now, Murphy can begin vetting candidates. And if anything, he did McCarthy a favor. He can use the next four weeks to catch his breath and canvas the potential openings.

Redskins mess. Washington usually creates messes on its own, such as claiming disgraced linebacker Rueben Foster off waivers last week. Any team run by Bruce Allen is bound to have some public relations nightmares. But the Redskins’ injury situation is simply misfortune. They have 17 players on injured reserve and only three are defensive players. Quarterback Alex Smith, receiver Paul Richardson and guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff started in Week 1. Once 5-2, the Redskins have sunk to 6-6.

Career Cardinal. Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald enters Sunday’s game against Detroit with 1,281 catches, tied with Jerry Rice for most receptions with one team. Rice caught his first 1,281 passes for San Francisco. Fitzgerald has 47 catches for 508 yards so his three-year streak of at least 100 catches and 1,000 yards will end this month.

Carolina’s collapse. The Panthers have lost four consecutive games (allowing 52, 20, 30 and 24 points) to drop to 6-6. Coach Ron Rivera stripped first-year defensive coordinator Eric Washington of the play-calling duties (Rivera will call the defense). Welcome to the NFL, owner David Tepper.

Giants improving. The Broncos started 3-6 but are 6-6. The Giants started 1-7 but have won three of their last four. Quarterback Eli Manning has seven touchdowns and two interceptions in the last four games compared with eight touchdowns/six interceptions in the first eight games.

Nuggets avoid injury disaster in one of “worst performances” of season

ATLANTA – Jamal Murray could only crack a joke at the Nuggets’ unfortunate rash of injuries that threatened to spread even deeper down the bench Saturday night.

“Our bench is going to our bench,” he said with a tongue-in-cheek laugh following Saturday’s demoralizing 106-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. “We got Juancho (Hernangomez) playing the four. Everything comes off as improvising, a little bit out of our comfort zone sometimes. We might call on (injured rookies) Jarred (Vanderbilt) and Michael Porter to come in the game, you never know.”

One night after losing Paul Millsap to a broken right big toe – the third starter who’s been bedeviled by injuries – it looked like Murray might be the latest Nuggets starter to sustain an ailment. He took a reckless kick to the shin from Hawks forward Justin Anderson late in the second quarter that limited him to just 7:44 in the second half.

“I got kicked I think in an awkward spot,” he said after scoring just four points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said the incident was compounded because Murray had been battling shin soreness.

“I didn’t think Jamal had a good game before he got hurt or after he got hurt,” Malone said. “I thought this was one of the tougher games that he’s had. That shin has been bothering him prior to tonight. It’s one of those injuries where you try to protect it, but every kick, hit, anytime it gets touched it’s probably really, really painful for him. He’s trying to fight through that. I thought tonight was a tough night for Jamal. Once we get home and try to get whole again, get healthy and get some rest, he’ll come back better for us next game.”

Murray returned to the game sporting a sleeve over his right shin and hobbled by a noticeable limp.

“I got in there, had a turnover just because I wasn’t ready for what they had, being out, sitting out for 10 minutes and all that,” Murray said. “I just riled myself up to get in the game, and that hurt me in terms of they were already riled up to play. Next time I get hurt I just got to take it slower and get back to basics.”

The Nuggets avoided catastrophe, but Malone was agitated over his team’s passing and the third-quarter defense. The Hawks, led by Vince Carter’s 11, outscored the Nuggets 35-21 in the period to open up the game.

“This was one of our worst performances of the year,” Malone said. “We had a lot of guys who had really bad nights. It was by far our worst passing game since I’ve been here. We couldn’t pass the ball from A to B. We couldn’t get the ball inside. It’s just a lack of discipline, lack of awareness, lack of execution. It’s a tough way to finish up a long road trip.”

For what it’s worth, he didn’t attribute his team’s lack of focus to the mounting injuries that have plagued them on the road trip.

“That would take away any credit given to (the Hawks), and give them credit,” he said. “They came out in the third quarter and beat our butts. I’m not going to use the excuse of guys sitting there saying we’re injured. That allows that it’s OK for us to come out and not play to the best of our ability.”

The Nuggets, which started the road trip with impressive wins in Portland and Toronto, fizzled over their final two games at Charlotte and Atlanta. It’s fair to chalk up Saturday’s loss to road-weary legs, but the more pressing and big-picture issue is the team’s health. Fortunately, that situation didn’t get any more dire Saturday night.

Avalanche shocked by the Lightning in Tampa Bay

The Colorado Avalanche concluded its road trip against the first-place Tampa Bay Lighting. The Avalanche came into the game, hoping to leave the trip with only one loss, but the Lightning had something to say about that, handily handily defeating the Avalanche, 7-1.

Tampa Bay controlled the game from the very first puck drop as Steven Stamkos scored on the power play just under three minutes into the game, and would score again later in the first to make the score 2-0.

With 6:00 remaining in the first period, Nathan MacKinnon notched the only tally of the game for the Avalanche, his 20th of the season. Tyler Johnson would add one more in the first making it 3-1.

Alex Killorn, Andre Palat, and Anthony Cirelli would each add another goal apiece in the second, and Semyon Varlamov was pulled in the period as well.

Tampa Bay would add one more goal from Andre Palat in the third period, making it 7-1.

Vladislav Kamenev left the game with an apparent wrist injury and did not return to the game.

Colorado returns home Tuesday, December 11 to face off against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM MST from Pepsi Center.