Tom Uhlman/Associated Press
ENGLEWOOD – The Denver Broncos dodged a couple of big scares against the Carolina Panthers.
An MRI on pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil’s left shoulder Monday showed no tear. Coach John Fox said Monday that the injury was a muscle strain, “so that was good news,” and the Broncos would know more when they return to practice Wednesday.
It’s the same shoulder he strained last season, which sidelined him for two games and much of a third.
The Broncos also were relieved about Peyton Manning’s close call.
Manning’s left shoe got stuck into the grass, and he landed awkwardly when he tried to slide after a 6-yard scramble in the second quarter of Denver’s 36-14 win at Carolina on Sunday. Concerned teammates gathered around him but he bounced right up, straightened out the brace and didn’t miss a beat.
“He’ll probably get a little grief about that, but I think his knee brace got stuck,” Fox said Monday. “That’s what it looked like on tape. But that was a little awkward looking. I was glad to see him get back up quickly.”
Manning also had a close call against New Orleans two weeks ago when he banged the tip of his right thumb, and not the knuckle, on a defender’s helmet. He had a sore thumb and cracked nail but didn’t miss any snaps or practice time.
The Broncos were worried that Dumervil’s injury was more serious than it turned out.
He went out in the second quarter after collecting two tackles and posted his fifth forced fumble of the season – most by a Denver defender since Simon Fletcher in 1992 – and didn’t return.
“He would have had a monster game,” said safety Rahim Moore, adding how relieved he was to hear the MRI was negative: “That’s our captain, that’s our leader, that’s our playmaker.”
The seventh-year veteran missed all of 2010 with a torn pectoral muscle, then came back last season and made the Pro Bowl with 9˝ sacks, all in the final nine games.
Dumervil, who led the league with 17 sacks in 2009, has seven this season, teaming with Von Miller (10) to form the most productive pass-rushing duo in the NFL
The Broncos still got after Cam Newton with Dumervil out of the game. Tackle Kevin Vickerson had two sacks to go with one each by Miller, safety Mike Adams (for a safety), cornerback Chris Harris and defensive end Robert Ayers, who replaced Dumervil.
The seven sacks were the most in a game for Denver since Oct. 12, 2003, against Pittsburgh.
“The way our defense has been playing, we haven’t felt too much pressure,” wide receiver Eric Decker said of the Broncos’ high-octane offense. “They’ve been playing really great during these four straight wins.”
The Broncos also will mark the return of linebacker D.J. Williams this week.
Returning to a defense that didn’t seem to miss him much, Williams said he is willing to do anything – even play special teams – to get back on the field after missing the first nine games of the season because of suspensions.
The ninth-year veteran, a former first-round draft pick, became eligible to regain his spot on the Denver roster Monday after missing six games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, then another three as the result of his second alcohol-related driving conviction.
The Broncos are expected to put him back on the active roster later this week.