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Good Champ Article

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  • Good Champ Article

    By EDDIE PELLS, AP Sports Writer
    January 16, 2006

    DENVER (AP) -- The stat line for Champ Bailey this season should read like this: 74 tackles, nine interceptions, two saves.

    With the game and Denver's season in the balance Saturday night, Bailey made the game-changing play against New England, much as he did in Week 2 against San Diego when the Broncos were on the brink.

    With Denver trailing, playing poorly and staring at an 0-2 start, Bailey stepped in front of a Drew Brees pass for an interception and touchdown that started a third-quarter rally. It led to a win that kept the Broncos from falling "so far behind the 8-ball, we would've been behind the pool table," in the words of defensive lineman Trevor Pryce.

    Similarly, Bailey's interception and 100-yard return against Tom Brady and the Patriots last Saturday was a game-winner. Maybe a season-saver, too.

    "You never know what's going to happen, but at that point, they had the opportunity to take the lead or pull within a point," Bailey said Monday. "That play definitely stopped some momentum and turned some things around."

    It set up a touchdown that made it 17-6 en route to Denver's 27-13 victory.

    And it was further evidence that Bailey is, undoubtedly, one of the most influential impact players in football.

    "It's great," Bailey said. "I'll look back on it after the season and I'll think about it. But we're still playing football and I try not to dwell on it because it kind of clouds your vision for the week ahead."

    Next, Denver plays Pittsburgh in the AFC title game.

    Seven years into pro career, Bailey has accumulated all the accolades: Two straight Associated Press All-Pro honors, six Pro Bowls, plentiful respect from his peers.

    In his prime, but with the end at least somewhere in sight, all that's missing for Bailey is a Super Bowl title.

    It's the reason he was happy when he was traded from Washington to Denver before the 2004 season. It's the goal he thought he might finally reach once he arrived to play for Mike Shanahan and the Broncos.

    "He studies the game. He's got a sense of urgency about him," Shanahan said. "He's very sharp. When he practices, he practices full-speed. There are a lot of people who get to Super Bowls, but really don't practice on a high level. He's a guy who practices like he's trying to make the team each and every day."

    Despite that, Bailey's first season in Denver was filled with low points.

    There was the 50-yard touchdown he gave up to Cincinnati's Chad Johnson on "Monday Night Football." He also looked bad against Jerry Porter (Raiders) and Eddie Kennison (Chiefs), and that obscured his otherwise solid play.

    He earned his first All-Pro honor in 2004, but when the Broncos lost 49-24 to the Colts in the playoffs -- a result almost identical to their playoff ouster the year before he arrived -- many wondered if his potential impact had been overstated.

    Nobody's wondering anymore.

    Besides his great play, his presence this year has helped Denver's three rookie cornerbacks progress at a surprisingly fast rate.

    "I've learned not to worry about one play," said second-round pick Darrent Williams. "Forget it and move onto the next play. He reminds me that I am a big-play threat. I'm trying to get to his level. He is a real smart, heady player. He has so much ability to begin with."

    Bailey's big play Saturday was set up by abundant film study that led to an instinctive decision to swap coverage with Williams at the last second.

    The Patriots would often stack receivers on the same side of the formation in an attempt to confuse corners in man coverage. Denver corners were beaten on that formation a few times earlier in the game. But with the Patriots at the Denver 5, the corners recognized what was coming at the line of scrimmage.

    "Right before the play started, we looked at each other, gave a little signal to `in-and-out' those two guys," Bailey said of his communication with Williams. "My guy came in, his guy went out. We switched. The ball came to me."

    Making the switch was a risk that went above and beyond the playbook, the kind that big-time players like Bailey get paid to take.

    Forced to hurry his throw by blitzing safety Nick Ferguson, Brady tried to hit Troy Brown because it looked like Williams had left him open. Bailey was in mid-switch, though. He jumped the pass, picked it off and started his sprint, 100 yards down the sideline.

    Naturally, he has been razzed for getting caught at the 1 -- by a tight end, no less.

    Two days later, he can laugh about that.

    "It's not how fast you are, it's how far you can run," he said. "Honestly, though, they had been driving the whole quarter. I was gassed out there."

    Not so exhausted that he couldn't make the play that kept him and the Broncos on track for the Super Bowl.

    "It's working out," Bailey said. "But it's not my dream to get to the AFC Championship. It's winning the Super Bowl. One game left and we're in, and obviously we've got to win again if we get there. It's definitely the process I wanted to take when I came here."

  • #2
    good find...cp for you

    Mile High Manning Fivehead Bandwagon #98