ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Knowshon Moreno gave the Denver Broncos one more reason to smile Monday even as he tottered through the locker room with a walking boot on his right foot and a crutch tucked under his right armpit.
An MRI showed his right ankle wasn’t significantly injured in the waning moments of his monster game at New England.
He had hobbled out of Gillette Stadium after rushing for a career-best 224 yards on a career-high 37 carries — and, just as importantly, not contributing to Denver’s five fumbles or bevy of dropped passes in the Broncos’ 34-31 overtime loss Sunday night.
“Knowshon has a bruised ankle and is day to day. I would say there’s a good chance by the end of the week you’ll see him on the practice field,” interim head coach Jack Del Rio said.
That would be especially good news given that rookie Montee Ball now has more fumbles (three) in 83 touches in the NFL than he did the 983 times he got his hands on the football in his four years at Wisconsin (two).
After Ball’s fumble Sunday night helped ignite New England’s comeback from a 24-point halftime deficit, undrafted rookie C.J. Anderson was the one who spelled Moreno when he needed a breather, but he mishandled an exchange from Peyton Manning in overtime that helped kill a promising drive and Ronnie Hillman was benched weeks ago because of too many fumbles.
Del Rio said an MRI also revealed that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s jammed right shoulder wasn’t serious and he should also practice this week in preparation for Sunday’s showdown at Kansas City. Both teams are 9-2, but the Broncos are going for the season sweep.
Del Rio did not have an update on defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (hip) but said he anticipates cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) and tight end Julius Thomas (knee) returning to action against the Chiefs.
“Both those guys were questionable last week. At the end of the day we felt it was in their best interests and our best interest that we wait one more week,” Del Rio said.
Thomas leads the Broncos with 10 touchdown catches and his absence was felt in the red zone against the Patriots. Bailey has missed all but six quarters this season after hurting his left foot in the preseason. He reinjured it at Indianapolis on Oct. 20 and hasn’t played since.
Rodgers-Cromartie was hurt on the final play of the first half, and his absence helped Tom Brady engineer the biggest comeback in Patriots history as he repeatedly picked apart Denver’s depleted secondary, throwing for 263 of his 344 yards after halftime.
“I would say it definitely hurt us,” cornerback Chris Harris said.
Rodgers-Cromartie was hurt when he dived for Brady’s desperation pass that fell far short of the end zone and not near any of his receivers as the second quarter expired.
Del Rio called it an instinctive reaction, not a selfish act of a player just seeking to pad his statistics with a meaningless interception. So, he said he had no problem with Rodgers-Cromartie going for the ball in that situation.
“I’d like to see him catch it. He would like to see himself catch it,” Del Rio said. “He had a chance to catch the ball and he just banged his shoulder a little bit. I think he’s going to be fine.”
Notes: The Broncos matched the biggest collapse in their history. They also blew a 24-0 lead against the Raiders on Sept. 26, 1988, in a 30-27 overtime loss. … Del Rio said he’s confident they’ll get over the loss and not let it linger: “Our season, everything we want to accomplish, is in front of us,” he said. “I know it doesn’t feel good this morning, believe me. You fly back and you wonder is the sun going to come up? But sure enough, before I got home, the sun was up. It’s time to move on.”