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Broncos, Briefly: Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018

Joseph’s angle is valid: The Broncos aren’t even back to .500 so talking about what’s beyond the next game is futile.

But in the locker room after the 24-17 win over the Steelers on Sunday, there was a sense of momentum and excitement not present since the start of the season. The wins over Arizona and the Chargers were needed, but beating Pittsburgh was a different kind of accomplishment. The next task is taking advantage of a remaining schedule that includes only one team (the Chargers in Week 17) with a winning record.

“We’re at a whatever-it-takes-type mindset,” quarterback Case Keenum said. “We said that for the last two weeks. We’re going to try and go 1-0 (each week).”

“I kind of ignored it,’’ Joseph said about the local fandom that wanted a coaching change. “I don’t read much, Patrick (Smyth, the Broncos’ PR boss) tells me what’s out there in small doses. I really don’t care. My focus is the players and the coaches, honestly. That’s my attitude.

“I knew it was going to turn. We’ve played too much good football. We’ve worked too hard not to have some success. I knew it was going to turn eventually.

“It took us some time, but again we’re 5-6. We’re 5-6, and that’s it. We’ve done nothing up to this point, in my opinion. We don’t win Sunday, we’re 5-7. That’s ugly, right? We want to focus on the Bengals and try to become even. Be 6-6, and that feels better than 5-6. We’ll see. As far as my deal, never a concern—not one moment.”

Harris and his wife welcomed their 5-pound, 8-ounce daughter on Friday. Harris was excused from the team’s work that day, then returned Saturday and played Sunday. And by the time Sunday’s game was over, Harris had one of his biggest plays, perhaps the biggest, since finding a place on the Broncos’ roster last season.

Before latching on in Denver, Harris had been waived by the Oakland Raiders four times as well as waived once each by the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys. It is a winding road his teammates have learned to respect as he has become a key player in the defensive line’s rotation.

“Shelby, we love Shelby,” said safety Darian Stewart. “Shelby, he will say he has the best hands on the team and he’ll probably hold this over the DBs now who don’t have any interceptions. But he made that play so we’ll listen to what he has to say. Seriously, though, everybody loves Shelby.”

Situation: The Broncos faced first-and-goal from the Steelers’ 5-yard line with 5:36 to go in the third quarter. The Steelers led 17-10.

Quarterback Case Keenum showcased a knack for backyard football when leading Denver to a gametying touchdown drive late. He received the snap, rolled right, and when nothing immediately opened up, Keenum continued to drift toward the sideline with Pittsburgh pressure now bearing down. Those few extra seconds allowed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to improvise, streak across the back of the end zone and haul in a Keenum dart between defenders. Keenum’s ability to extend plays was critical to his success in Minnesota. It’s developed more in recent weeks for Denver.

“I thought Billy did a great job with the smoke and mirrors,” Joseph said. “We had a lot of great play calls yesterday, a lot of what we call ‘swipes,’ which are verticals out of condensed formations. A lot of motions and shifts, a lot of screen game that was misdirection screen game — pump left, pump right, hit the middle screen. He did a great job with the game plan of allowing our guys to play fast but slowing their guys down. That defense is really an aggressive, aggressive defense, so he used it against them. He did a great job of calling the game, kept them off balance, and the run game proved it along with the pass plays we hit on them. … He did a great job of calling the game and game-planning during the week. All the coaches did.”

Late-game hero Shelby Harris nearly cut from Broncos in spring 2017 (Kyle Fredrickson and Ryan O’Halloran, Denver Post)

Harris, a former Illinois State star, was drafted by Oakland in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft. He bounced between the Raiders’ active roster and practice squad several times before landing with the Jets, Cowboys, and last season, with the Broncos. Harris eventually turned that first impression in Denver and started six games in 2017 with career-highs in tackles (34.5) and sacks (5.5).

Harris, now through 11 appearances this season, has totaled 25 tackles, six quarterback hits and a half-sack.

“I guess the light came on and the guy has been playing really good football for a year-and-a-half,” Joseph said. “He’s considered a starter for us, rushing the passer, he stout, he plays nose (tackle), three technique and five technique. He’s a really good football player. I don’t know what happened that spring, what Bill did to him, but he was almost out of here.”

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