The Denver Broncos, already depleted on defense by injuries, will have to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday without starting cornerback Chris Harris, who suffered a torn ACL last weekend.
An MRI Monday showed the tear in his left knee that will require surgery and at least six months of rehab. He was hurt in the third quarter of Sunday night’s win over the San Diego Chargers.
”There’s no doubt he’s one of our better performers on defense throughout this season, but … we’ve lost some pretty good performers throughout the season and this team’s been resilient,” coach John Fox said.
Harris is the fifth defensive starter the Broncos have lost since November, joining Von Miller, Kevin Vickerson, Rahim Moore and Derek Wolfe.
”It’s terrible news,” teammate Terrance Knighton said. ”You hate to see a guy having a great year, going into a contract year (get hurt). I wish him the best. I wish him a speedy recovery, but we just have to focus on the task at hand right now and that’s New England. Whoever will fill his shoes, whoever we put in there, has to step up.”
Fox’s options include moving Champ Bailey, a 12-time Pro-Bowler who’s been relegated to slot duty after returning from a nagging foot injury last month, back outside or inserting rookie Kayvon Webster into the starting lineup opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Whatever does Fox does, losing Harris is a blow, as shown during the Chargers game.
”When Chris went down, things started to unravel a little bit on the back end,” safety Mike Adams said.
Harris had played more snaps than anybody on defense and had 65 tackles, three interceptions and 15 pass breakups, all career highs.
”It’s another disappointment for us,” linebacker Paris Lenon said. ”Somebody else that we’ve been battling with that has been a huge part of this team and this defense that is down. It’s an opportunity for somebody else to step up and play big.”