Broncos Inside Slant - September 16

Even though he told a "little fib" and is being investigated for it by the NFL, Coach Mike Shanahan and his staff deserved an A for their efforts in the Bengals game. How did each of the units of the Broncos grade out? Read about it in our weekly report on the Broncos.

Mike Shanahan called it a little white lie, one that didn't hurt anyone.

But the NFL was investigating whether he broke the rules regarding injuries when he stretched the truth at halftime Sunday and reported starting QB Jake Plummer had a mild concussion rather than a minor shoulder separation.

"You can fib during the game but you can't fib after the game or before the game," Shanahan said.

Shanahan worried that Plummer might be forced back into the game if Steve Beuerlein -- Denver's only backup -- was injured. Since Plummer couldn't throw, Shanahan didn't want the Chargers stacking the line against the run, thus affecting Denver's odds of winning.

As it turned out, he was being overly strategic.

On Monday, he insisted he was being completely honest when he said he expects both Plummer and star running back Clinton Portis to practice Wednesday and play Monday night in a prime-time showdown with the Oakland Raiders.

Portis reported feeling much better after sitting out the second half of Sunday's game with a bruised sternum. Plummer's MRI, meanwhile, showed no ligament tears in his shoulder, only bruising.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--RB Clinton Portis said he was able to lift his arm over his head Monday, and vows to practice this week and play Monday night despite suffering a bruised sternum.
--QB Jake Plummer had an MRI on Monday and it was negative, showing no ligament tears in his shoulder, only stretching and bruising. He hopes to practice Wednesday and play Monday.
--LB Al Wilson twisted his knee but isn't expected to miss any practice time.
--LB Keith Burns suffered a bruised knee but is expected to practice Wednesday.
--DT Daryl Gardener practiced again Monday, working in pads against offensive linemen to test his surgically repaired wrist. He likely will play mostly in passing situations Monday night.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think sometimes the NFL takes it too far. They take advantage of the powers they have." -- TE Shannon Sharpe, on reports the NFL was investigating whether Mike Shanahan broke the rules regarding injury reports and faces a possible fine.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Jake Plummer was hardly perfect, and was slow to pull the trigger a few times on wide-open receivers. But he carried out the play action perfectly, with easy touchdown passes in the first half before leaving with a shoulder injury.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Clinton Portis looked like he was headed for a 300-yard game, or perhaps even a 400-yard game after his first four carries netted 99 yards. But he would watch the second half from the locker room with a bruised sternum. Portis is getting good blocking up front, and from fullback Mike Anderson, who also showed he's not bad carrying the ball (16-65, 1 TD).

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- No sacks, but the Broncos forced Drew Brees into early throws and some bad throws. They also intercepted him once when Bert Berry batted a ball at the line. Cornerback Lenny Walls is young, but he's giving receivers fits with his long arms.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Broncos struggled at first, allowing LaDainian Tomlinson to gain 36 yards on his first three carries. But he finished with just 93 on the day, a big victory for a defense that gave up 220 yards to Tomlinson the last time it faced him.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Jason Elam was 3-for-3 on field goals for the second consecutive week, despite kicking on San Diego's dirt infield. The Broncos' coverage units didn't force any turnovers this time, and they gave up a 28-yard punt return. Overall a pretty solid day.

COACHING: A -- Mike Shanahan and Co. got the best of Marty Schottenheimer and his staff, mixing up his personnel so much the Chargers didn't know what to do. The Chargers predictably tried to stack the box, then bit on play-action, which made for three easy first-half touchdown passes by Jake Plummer to a fullback, offensive tackle and tight end. Broncos coaches also noticed the Chargers' young, fast cornerbacks weren't looking back for the ball on deep routes. All those underthrows on the sideline were designed, and the Chargers didn't stop the play once.

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