|09-18-2006, 01:26 PM||#1|
Hokie since 1993
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Denver, CO
Klis - Shanahan: We scaled back the O
Sorry if this has been posted already...I'm really bust today
broncos 9, chiefs 6
Dull but done
Broncos win in OT with conservative game plan
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer
Each Tuesday before the next big game, Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer has his off day interrupted by his home fax machine.
The whirring brings in the latest game plan, as fed by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and his top offensive assistant, Mike Heimerdinger.
In their lackluster, 9-6 overtime win Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs before a fidgety sellout crowd at Invesco Field at Mile High, the Broncos' latest offensive strategy was unusual only in its dullness.
Plummer wasn't asked to play with his right arm tied behind his back, exactly, but he did seem to have a thick leash clipped around his neck. The Mastermind went retro, back to a time when the quarterback's responsibility was to hand off first, hand off again, hand off even on third-and-6.
"Man, I'm not into blocking every down," Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker said.
Play for field position. Play for the field goal. After Plummer committed four turnovers, including three interceptions, in a season-opening, 18-10 loss at St. Louis last week, the game plan for Week 2 asked the quarterback not to win the game, but simply avoid losing it.
This was about the only part of the game plan Plummer and the offense executed.
Until the overtime period, when he completed key, second-down passes to David Kircus and Walker, Plummer passed poorly, when he passed at all.
"I'm hoping just a win will give Jake some confidence," said kicker Jason Elam, whose three field goals, including a 39-yarder to cap the only offensive possession in overtime, accounted for all the Broncos' points. "I'm really proud of him because everybody's all over him. You can hear the fans behind us. I feel for him. But he's got that personality where he's going to keep going and he never goes in the tank."
What comes first, the coaches showing confidence in Plummer, or Plummer giving his coaching staff reason to have confidence in him? After the first quarter, Plummer completed 1-of-2 passes for 12 yards. Knute Rockne wasn't this conservative in the 1920s.
"We dialed it back a bit," Shanahan said. "We put a little bit more pressure on our defense."
There was logic to support such caution. Denver's defense has yet to give up a touchdown through two games this season, yet the Broncos had to go overtime, against a heavy underdog, to even their record at 1-1.
The Chiefs have struggled mightily on offense since Dick Vermeil retired and Herm Edwards replaced him as head coach following last season. Aggravating their woes was the injury to starting quarterback Trent Green last week, forcing the Chiefs to play the seldom-used Damon Huard.
By comparison, the Broncos' offense was a blend of unpredictability next to the Chiefs' play-calling of Larry Johnson right, Larry Johnson left, and a one-step drop, quick pass by Huard.
"Huard didn't really cost them anything," Broncos defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said. "But we weren't thinking he was going to be erratic. We thought he was going to be composed. He did everything we thought he would do."
The Chiefs even went home thinking they should have won.
And they might have, had Johnson, who finished with 126 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving, not fumbled the ball away at the Broncos' 6 on Kansas City's opening drive.
From there, the Broncos' defense remained in control, patiently waiting for their offense to do something, anything. The Broncos didn't commit a penalty for only the third time in their 47-year history. They didn't give up a sack. There were no dropped passes.
Yet, the Broncos could only break in their new touchdown song by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with field goals.
The biggest problem was clear to the hecklers behind the Broncos' bench. Plummer was off from his first pass, which sailed over an open Rod Smith running down the left hash marks. Then Smith left the game with a concussion - his third such head injury in a year.
The running game was stagnant and the Chiefs were up 3-0 at halftime. Where have you gone, Alonzo Stagg? With the score 6-6 after regulation, the Broncos were guaranteed their lowest- ever overtime score.
The Bronco Bells - Tatum and Mike - each had big runs in the second half. Mike Bell's 19-yard burst set up the Broncos' tying field goal in the fourth quarter. Tatum Bell's 20-yard run in overtime helped set up the game-winner.
Between Tatum Bell's overtime jaunt, Plummer hit Kircus on a slant for 14 yards and Walker, who really didn't block on every down, for 24. Elam finished off the drive with his third field goal. Cue up Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
"Late in the game, we started getting in the gun, throwing the ball quick, which I always like," Plummer said. "That's what these coaches do, they make an adjustment."
Perhaps the Broncos' latest game plan, which started with a fax, will be sent through the shredder as they prepare to play the 2-0 New England Patriots next Sunday night in Foxborough, Mass.
"I know we have the skill level to do it, but what we're missing, we're still trying to deduce," said Broncos fullback Kyle Johnson. "We have to figure it out soon."
Staff writer Mike Klis can be reached at 303-954-1055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TURNING POINT: Drive just in time
In overtime, Denver's offense came alive just enough. The Broncos drove 63 yards to set up a 39-yard field goal by Jason Elam. His third field goal of the game gave Denver the victory.
"It wasn't pretty, but we got it done," Denver wide receiver Javon Walker said.
CRAZY PLAY OF THE DAY: Follow bouncing ball
In the third quarter, the Chiefs' Damon Huard had a pass knocked down and it bounced right back into his hands. Huard started to run, but was met by a bunch of Broncos. Huard fumbled and the ball was recovered by Michael Myers.
"I kept saying to myself, 'Where's the ball, where's the ball?"' said Myers, a defensive tackle. "And then I found it."
HIT OF THE DAY: Not a pretty picture
Late in the third quarter, on fourth and inches, Denver surprised the Chiefs with a reverse by Javon Walker. The play worked perfectly and Walker ran for 16 yards to the Chiefs' 27. When he was pushed out of bounds, Walker crushed a photographer, knocking her down. After he picked himself up, Walker helped the woman to her feet and patted her on the shoulder before returning to the field.
BESTS: Patrick produces
Situational pass rusher: Backup defensive end Patrick Chukwurah has given the Broncos defense a much-needed push in the pass rush. He has had sacks in Denver's first two games.
Close call: Denver's biggest offensive play of the first half was nearly a back- breaker. While under pressure in his end zone, Denver quarterback Jake Plummer flared a pass out to fullback Kyle Johnson. The ball was nearly intercepted by linebacker Derrick Johnson, who could have waltzed into the end zone. Kyle Johnson ended up making a 20-yard gain. Efficiency: Playing a smart and riskless first half, Damon Huard, subbing for the injured Trent Green, had completed 11-of-12 passes by halftime.
Opportunity: The Chiefs advanced to Denver's 6-yard line on their first possession of the game. On a third-and-5 play, tailback Larry Johnson was stopped for no gain. The ball was jarred loose and safety John Lynch recovered the fumble back at Denver's 13. Johnson's fumble was caused by safety Nick Ferguson.
WORSTS: Strange decision
Time management: In the waning seconds of the first half, Kansas City coach Herman Edwards called a timeout with the Chiefs at Denver's 11. Then he decided to attempt a field goal. It didn't make a whole lot of sense.
Reception: Predictably, Denver fans started to chant for rookie quarterback Jay Cutler to get in the game in the third quarter when Plummer continued to struggle.
Return: To open overtime, Denver's Cedric Cobbs, in his first game with the team, muffed the kickoff return and instead of falling on the ball, he tried to pick it up and run. By the time he fell on the ball, Kansas City nearly recovered it at Denver's 16.
- Bill Williamson
C: Again, quarterback Jake Plummer had a tough game - but at least he didn't self destruct and cost Denver the game. He threw one interception, better than his four-turnover game at St. Louis. This unit, Plummer in particular, needs to get better fast.
A: The defense has been brilliant: Through two games, the unit has not surrendered a touchdown - giving up 24 points all on field goals. It's first time since 1995 Denver's defense has gone two consecutive games without allowing a TD. Kansas City was 0-for-2 in the red zone. After being 28th in the NFL in red-zone defense last year, Denver has not allowed a red-zone score in seven situations this season.
B: Jason Elam won the game with three field goals. Dante Hall didn't hurt the Broncos in the return game. Cedric Cobbs almost lost the game by muffing the kickoff in overtime.
B: Defensively, the Broncos schemed well against Chiefs star running back Larry Johnson. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Denver dialed down the offense. The Broncos won, so the strategy worked.
B: The offense needs to get better or it will have no chance at New England on Sunday night. That's the bottom line. But there are some good things happening here. The defense is brilliant, the special teams are getting better, Javon Walker looks like the playmaker the team thought he'd be when it traded for him and the running game has been solid. Denver didn't commit a penalty through the game for only the third time in team history.
- Bill Williamson