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Fired-up McDaniels relishes ‘special’ win

Josh McDaniels, sporting a hoodie, naturally, is pumped up after guiding the Broncos to an overtime victory. “It’s a great challenge playing against Bill [Belichick],’’ McDaniels said. Josh McDaniels, sporting a hoodie, naturally, is pumped up after guiding the Broncos to an overtime victory. “It’s a great challenge playing against Bill [Belichick],’’ McDaniels said. (Mark Leffingwell/Reuters)
By Theresa Smith
Globe Correspondent / October 12, 2009

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DENVER - Running across the field, throwing fist-pumps toward family members sitting near the 10-yard line, Broncos rookie coach Josh McDaniels unleashed an emotional display of joy - rare by NFL coaching standards.

And that was just what the crowd of 76,011 witnessed. When McDaniels entered the locker room after the Broncos defeated the Patriots, 20-17 in overtime, he ran through hollering and hugging players and staff.

“This is a new breed of coaching,’’ said defensive end Vonnie Holliday. “This is an evolution in the whole coaching world. These guys are younger and fired up. It is not that old-school mentality anymore. He was excited and he showed his team. He’s down there fighting for us every day, even on Sunday. He’s in it with us and we appreciate it.’’

McDaniels, 33, wouldn’t acknowledge any mixed emotions about competing against his mentor, Bill Belichick, the man who tutored him for eight seasons in New England, including the last three as offensive coordinator.

“No, I was really happy,’’ he said. “He would have been really happy had they won. I owe him a tremendous amount of my success. I will always be indebted to him. He’s a great friend; he’s a great teacher of mine. I have great admiration for him. I don’t think he would have expected anything less of me to compete against him and our team to compete against his team for 60 minutes today.’’

While it might have appeared unusual that the pair did not embrace after the game, it was all by design.

“We agreed before the game that we would wave,’’ McDaniels said. “We shook hands before the game. We knew that there has been so much made of him and handshakes that we agreed to just go ahead and do that, but I talked to him before the game.’’

Despite repeated questions by disbelieving reporters in the days leading to the game, McDaniels insisted that it was not a special game. Yet after defeating his former employer, he copped to the truth. “I lied,’’ he said, smiling.

“It was more special to me because I knew how hard it would be to beat them,’’ he said. “They don’t beat themselves . . . they just don’t make mistakes and they didn’t really today. I knew we’d have to be incredibly prepared as a staff. I knew we’d have to have a great week of practice to be really in tune with the game plan and play extremely hard for 60 minutes. And I knew we would have to make some adjustments.

“It is a great challenge playing against Bill and his staff and playing against that team with all those great players and that’s why it’s special. It’s not special just because I was in New England. It is special because our team put in the time and the effort and the work that it required to compete with them at the end to get the win.’’

The Broncos trailed, 17-7, at halftime and 17-10 at the end of the third quarter, but tied the game when Brandon Marshall’s 11-yard reception from Kyle Orton capped a 12-play, 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Orton completed 35 of 48 passes for 330 yards.

“I don’t know if [Orton] missed a read all day,’’ McDaniels said. “He did an excellent job of staying calm.’’

Orton was also stellar in the drive that led to the winning field goal, using three receivers to move the ball.

With the Broncos 5-0 and one of only five undefeated teams, a resilient personality appears to be forming. After all, McDaniels was denied twice on play challenges in the first half, his Wildcat formation, a surprise ploy - a direct snap to the running back and an unbalanced line - was not overly effective, and his defense was not as dominant as in past games.

Yet with pupil facing teacher, with the crowd roaring on every down through the end of the fourth quarter and overtime, it proved to be McDaniels’s day.

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