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Okung's Face Alone Makes Me Love this Picture

Of all the hires I'm inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to, Alex Gibbs is undisputed.

You also hear little about the Broncos' offensive line. Until midseason, it was distinguished mainly by its ever-changing personnel. Then it settled, in the words of Alex Gibbs, its coach, into ''a cohesive, bright group of fighters who know what it takes to win.''

It starts Dave Studdard (6-4, 260) and Ken Lanier (6-3, 269) at tackle, Keith Bishop (6-3, 265) and Stefan Humphries at guard and Mike Freeman (6-3, 256) at center. Those heights and weights would be small on some college teams, let alone in the National Football League.

Of that group, Gibbs rates Studdard the best pass protector and Bishop the best all-round player. The surprise player is Humphries, a Rhodes Scholar nominee at Michigan and a Chicago Bear until less than five months ago.

This line is coached by Alex Gibbs, with Barney Chavous as an assistant. Gibbs, 57, is in his fourth year in Denver and his 15th in the N.F.L. as a coach. He is a crusty fellow, a guy who is respected throughout the league and admired by most in the Broncos' organization. The guy is a guru at offensive line play. He knows when to push a player and when to embrace him. He knows that football is won in line play and makes sure that the Broncos' offensive linemen understand that, too.

The Falcons, under Coach Jim Mora, have built a run-first offense that is designed around lighter, more mobile linemen using a zone-blocking scheme brought to Atlanta in 2004 from the former Denver Broncos offensive line coach Alex Gibbs. The Falcons led the N.F.L. in rushing for the first time in franchise history in 2004 under Gibbs, who is now a Falcons consultant.