|09-20-2005, 12:55 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2004
Heart of a champ:John Clayton
DENVER -- The Denver Broncos clearly aren't playing like champs, but they can thank the Mile High skies that they have a Champ.
Champ Bailey's dislocated left shoulder may not be able to carry the burden of this struggling team long but it sure did Sunday in a weird, wacky 20-17 victory over the rival San Diego Chargers. At the half, the Broncos were down, 14-3, and looked hopeless. Even the loyal Bronco fans started to boo the mistakes and the frustration of an offense that wasn't clicking.
On what Bailey believes was the first pass thrown in his direction, he jumped the route. Chargers receiver Keenan McCardell was running a short hitch route from the Chargers' 23-yard line. Bailey, hanging back in a "Cover 3" zone, read Drew Brees' eyes, picked off the pass and walked in the end zone untouched for a 25-yard touchdown to pull the Broncos within four points.
"That was big, very big," Broncos middle linebacker Al Wilson said. "That's what you've got to do. Big time players step up and make big time plays …"
Bailey doesn't know how long he could go. This much was known, though. Bailey's unstable left shoulder was in much better shape than the Broncos had they lost. Fans were unsettled. Local newspaper columnists have been ganging up on the general manager skills of coach Mike Shanahan since their embarrassing 34-10 opening loss to Miami.
The Broncos started the game with a 13-play drive to the Chargers' 2, but Mike Anderson fumbled. Quarterback Jake Plummer grew more uncomfortable each series against a relentless Chargers blitz and before long, LaDainian Tomlinson had two touchdowns and the Chargers had a 14-3 lead.
Desperation settled into the locker room at halftime. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, under pressure himself because of grumbling that he doesn't do a great job communicating a complicated defensive scheme, altered his game plan. The Broncos decided to call all-out blitzes in the second half. These weren't going to be those tricky fire zone blitzes in which one or two defensive tackles drop into coverage. These were the real deals. The coverages were going to be "Cover 0," meaning there would be no safety in the second line of deep defense. Everyone was coming, and that was the plan Coyer installed at the half.
That aggressive play calling set up a perfect opportunity for Bailey to start the second half.
"We knew we had to make something happen," Bailey said. "They were running and throwing all over us and I feel like I had to step up and make something happen. Drew Brees knew what coverage we were in and he didn't expect me to get to that ball. I knew he recognized the coverage. I baited him a little and I just jumped the play."
Suddenly, the Broncos had life, though they still had to overcome self-inflicted wounds. The mistakes were uncharacteristic for a Shanahan team. Heck, a sandlot teams might not have made some of these blunders.
• In the first six minutes of the second half, the Broncos started drives at the Chargers' 37 and 34, but didn't score any points. Jason Elam missed his first of two second-half 53-yard field goals to kill one drive. Plummer was intercepted by free safety Bhawoh Jue to end another.
|09-20-2005, 12:55 PM||#2|
Join Date: Jul 2004
Two touchdowns were called back by a couple of the most unusual rulings in years. A 36-yard Jeb Putzier touchdown was nullified when right tackle George Foster was called for a head slap. The weirdest play was when Darrent Williams lost a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown because Wilson and tight end Stephen Alexander strayed onto the field as Williams headed to the end zone.
"An official told me that the league wanted them to call this," an angry Wilson said after the game. "Even though we were 25 to 30 yards behind the play, they called it, which makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to take away a great play like that because guys are celebrating when the guy is already in the end zone. It doesn't make sense if we were five yards out. They are trying to take away the enthusiasm of the game, and that's a bunch of bull."
Instead of a touchdown, Denver got the at San Diego's 24 following a 37-yard gain by Williams. However, the ruling turned out to be inconsequential as Kyle Johnson scored two plays later. Somehow, the Broncos led 17-14 with 8:46 left in regulation.
Bailey continued to fight the pain and help the defense. Fortunately for him, the Chargers didn't throw much in his direction. There were about three short passes thrown to his side in the second half just to test his resolve, but he held up well -- in contrast to a week ago when he had to leave the loss at Miami after suffering the injury.
"What makes you think that I didn't think about that?" Bailey said, referring to the Miami game. "It's a heavyweight fight and I got knocked out last week. They told me there were a lot of risks. I could dislocate it again. They told me I could tear something. In this game, there are always risks. I don't care what the risks are. I'm out there to win a football game."
Shanahan endorsed Bailey's return from injury once he saw how hard Bailey practiced on Thursday and Friday. Bailey's position was, "As long as I can move, I can play." So he played, wearing a harness for support, and he may have saved the season for the Broncos.
"It's huge," Plummer said of the win. "It's huge for us to get that win at home. We were in it all game, all day. It looked at times like we were out of it, but our defense kept us in it. The defense played really as good as I've seen a defense play. It allowed us to get back in the game. It took us some time as an offense. It took until the fourth quarter."
Brees drove the Chargers for a 49-yard field goal drive to tie the score at 17-17 with 5:21 remaining.
The Broncos moved ever so slowly to kill the clock to set up the game-winning field goal, but even that was a struggle. With 57 seconds remaining, the Broncos had a fourth-and-1 at the Chargers' 33. They could have tried a 51-yard field goal into the wind or go for the first down to get closer.
Shanahan noticed the timing on the snaps to Elam weren't smooth in the two misses, and he surely wasn't going to go for a 51-yarder into the wind. He made an astute play call. He noticed the Chargers defense anchoring in for a quarterback sneak or a run play behind the tackles.
Plummer tried an option to his left and tossed the ball to Ron Dayne, who went untouched 10 yards to the Chargers' 23. Elam won the game with a 41-yard field goal with five seconds left. "The defense allowed our offense to hang in there, and they hung in there with us," Plummer said. "That's what a team is all about."
|09-20-2005, 01:06 PM||#3|
Join Date: Mar 2005
wolf pot roast
nice read. Still can't believe that call on Dwill's TD return.....I think it's time they started hiring refs full time, so that they can actually get their collective crap in a pile full time. The old arguement that they want them having "regular" jobs to prevent them getting bought off is ludicrous.
I also saw that the media covered Belichek's comment on Stephen Davis' fumble/TD. He said that there should be league cameras @ the endzone, not tv cameras that might not show the right angle. Good call.
|09-20-2005, 01:35 PM||#4|
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Wash DC
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