ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Key matchups are stated and printed by every sports media outlet prior to every NFL game.
There are several key matchups for the Broncos-Bears game Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High – Phillip Lindsay vs. Roquan Smith; Joe Flacco vs. Mitch Trubisky; Courtland Sutton or Emmanuel Sanders vs. Kyle Fuller.
But if there could be just one it would be this:
Khalil Mack vs. Garett Bolles.
Mack is the Bears’ star pass rusher who is a former No. 5 overall draft pick, NFL Defensive Player of the Year and three-time All-Pro.
Bolles is the Broncos’ third-year starting left tackle who was their first-round draft pick in 2017.
Fortunately for Bolles, he goes up against Mack-caliber players every day in practice when he lines up against Bradley Chubb or Von Miller.
“Khalil Mack is a great player. I know it’s going to be a great challenge for me to go up against a top 10 pass rusher in the league,’’ Bolles told 9NEWS on Friday afternoon. “I’m grateful to have Chubb and Von -- those guys prepare me every week to face those guys so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
For all the criticism he has received the previous two years, Bolles played well Monday night against the Oakland Raiders.
“I feel good. Game 1, there’s a couple things I’ve got to do better on,’’ Bolles said. “That’s every game. But for the most part I did what I was supposed to do. It’s tough not to win games like that, especially when we make mistakes like we did on offense, where we only get 3 points of the 7 points we should have had.
“But we hit the drawing board this week. We have a great game plan. Coaches put us in the right positions and we just got to execute.”
Mack flips sides with the Bears other outside linebacker, Leonard Floyd, so he will also have his matchups with Broncos’ right tackle Elijah Wilkinson. Remember – and how can anyone ever forget? -- in Mack’s career breakout game against the Broncos in 2014, it was the right tackle, Michael Schofield, who he beat for four of his five sacks in the second half.
But it’s not like Bolles can relax when Floyd is over him. Floyd was a No. 9 overall draft pick three years ago and he had 2.0 sacks on Aaron Rodgers last week.
The Bears’ defense is right there with Wink Martindale’s Ravens for the league’s top defense.
“It’s the players,’’ Bolles said of the Chicago D. “They’re a very disciplined defense. Having coach Fangio over here and hearing about what he did with them, it’s the same defense. It’s the same 3-4 defense we run here. It’s what I’ve seen all camp long. I look forward to it. I can’t wait to get out there and do what I do best.”
No. 4 receiver Tim Patrick had surgery Thursday to repair the hand bone that leads into his left ring finger.
“It went well,’’ he said.
He is on Injured Reserve for eight weeks, at which point he will be either activated or stay on IR the rest of the year.
“I had ankle surgery (to repair a compound leg fracture when he was at Utah) so I’m not worried about this surgery,’’ Patrick said. “I’ll be back sooner rather than later.’’
Either River Cracraft or Juwann Winfree will replace Patrick as the Broncos’ No. 4 receiver Sunday.
Inside linebacker Todd Davis and cornerback Bryce Callahan are both listed as questionable for the Bears game. Davis practiced a little more than Callahan did this week, but both were limited. ...
Don't be surprised if Broncos make a roster move Saturday for a backup swing offensive tackle. They currently don't have one. It was Elijah Wilkinson but he's now the starting right tackle for the next month or so based on the enormous left knee brace and crutches Ja'Wuan James was lugging around Friday.
The Broncos other two backup offensive linemen -- Austin Schlottmann and Corey Levin -- play guard or center. The Broncos have two offensive tackles -- Jake Rodgers and Tyler Jones -- on their practice squad. Rodgers made the Broncos initial 53-man roster on August 31, but was cut the next day to make room for one of the four players claimed off waivers.
There could be a chance the Broncos decide to keep their 53-man roster intact and use starting left guard Dalton Risner as their backup right tackle and Wilkinson could serve as the backup left tackle. That would leave Schlottman or Levin to fill in for Risner at left guard. ...
The Broncos’ game captains for Sunday are right guard Ron Leary (offense), cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (defense) and safety Trey Marshall (special teams).
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