Broncos Inside Slant - September 25

One need only look at the first three weeks of the season to know what happens when a team takes another for granted. Miami lost to Houston in the opener. Carolina upset defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in Week 2. And Arizona stunned Green Bay last weekend. Read about the Broncos' plans for Detroit, key matchups and all the latest personnel information in our weekly report.

The Denver Broncos, 3-0 for the second straight season and with a road showdown with Kansas City on Oct. 5, insist they know better than to overlook Detroit (1-2) this weekend. They need only to think back to Week 4 last year when they embarrassed themselves in prime time against then-winless Baltimore.

"It happened to us last year and we paid a dear price for it and so I think the guys in this locker room understand what's at stake here," defensive end Bertrand Berry said. "We're not going to make those same mistakes that we did last year."

While this might seem the perfect time to rest a few beat-up players, Shanahan said if players are healthy enough to play, they'll play. The biggest question is in the backfield, where Clinton Portis is still sore from a bruised chest, and fullback Mike Anderson has a sprained right knee. While position coach Bobby Turner said he expects Portis will be ready, the second-year back wasn't so sure.

Maybe that's why rookie back Quentin Griffin had his head buried in his playbook during open locker room this week, and was seen running sprints after practice. Asked if Sunday would be his big day, Griffin said, "I don't know. I just try to prepare myself to practice and see what happens."

The Broncos rolled up 190 yards on the ground against Oakland and boast the league's No. 2-ranked run rushing offense. Detroit, on the other hand, ranks 30th against the run. Green Bay ran up 200 yards against the Lions two weeks ago, with Ahman Green rumbling 65 yards for a touchdown on his first carry. Last week, Minnesota's Moe Williams broke a 61-yarder against the Lions.

Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, however, doesn't expect Denver's game plan to change much, even if Portis is hurting, and the Lions secondary is in shambles because of injury.

"The game plan is pretty much what (coaches) have put together: a heavy dose of run with play action and moving the ball around to the guys that are open," Plummer said.

"I don't have to go out there and do anything differently. We've got guys behind Clinton. You saw Mike (Anderson) come in and make plays and Quentin got a taste of what the NFL is like. He had some pretty nice runs. We are confident in both of those guys to come in and perform."

SERIES HISTORY: 9th meeting. The Broncos hold a 5-3 edge and are 2-1 at home against the Lions. Denver won the last meeting between the teams, 17-7 at the Silverdome on Dec. 25, 1999. The Broncos have won four of the last five meetings.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

• Loquacious tight end Shannon Sharpe went straight to Caesar for a little gem when asked about the Denver Broncos facing an opponent that has lost 17 straight on the road.

"I remember Julius Caesar told Calpurnia, 'You have a lean and hungry look, such women are dangerous,'" Sharpe said.

Well, he said it's the same with the Detroit Lions, who the unbeaten Broncos meet Sunday.

"Such teams are dangerous. You have to guard against these guys, and we will guard against them," he said.

• Mike Anderson initially thought his season, and possibly his career, might be over when his right leg bent awkwardly beneath him Monday night.

"I felt some pain, and guys were screaming at me to stay down," he said. "I tried to get up, but I felt it right away. Looking at the league and the history of guys getting hurt and having knee injuries, falls such as that is what leads to them."

Anderson wore a protective sleeve over the knee this week, but practiced just fine. Could he handle 25-30 carries if Clinton Portis doesn't play?

"I'm ready," said Anderson, who carried 14 times for 70 yards Monday. "If they need me to do that, I'm ready."

So is versatile back Reuben Droughns, who is looking for a shot against his former team, the Lions.

BY THE NUMBERS: 92 -- Percent of minutes Denver has led in its first three games this year. The Broncos have not trailed yet.

38 -- Points scored by the Broncos in the first quarter of three games this year.

33 -- Points allowed by the Broncos in three games this year.

4.5 -- Sacks by Bert Berry. He leads the league and is just two shy of his career best of 6.5 set last year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Last year there were seven teams in the National Football League that were 3-0 and only one team (Oakland) made the playoffs." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. The Broncos were one of the other six.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Nick Ferguson figures to make his first start for the Broncos at strong safety as Kenoy Kennedy is hobbled by a severe ankle sprain.

The Broncos also may look to give several other players some rest against Detroit this week - especially in the backfield - as a road showdown with Kansas City looms on the horizon.

PERSONNEL/INJURY NOTES

• RB Clinton Portis did not practice Wednesday and said he was worried about his chest injury becoming a nagging problem during the year. Coaches, however, hoped he would be able to play Sunday.

• FB Mike Anderson practiced and said he hopes to play despite a sprained knee.

• DT Daryl Gardener got his most extensive work on Wednesday since returning from wrist surgery. He did not play Monday night, but he is expected to be eased back into action this weekend against Detroit.

• SS Kenoy Kennedy was able to walk Wednesday but could not practice. He is very doubtful for Sunday, which means Nick Ferguson would start in his place.

• QB Jake Plummer reported no setbacks playing Monday just eight days after suffering a minor shoulder separation. He took his normal reps Wednesday and should start.

GAME PLAN: The Broncos could go after a secondary weakened by injury but the Broncos still have enough healthy backs to try setting up the run first against the league's 30th-ranked run defense. If they do, look for Jake Plummer to mix in the play-action and go after 37-year-old corner Otis Smith, expected to start for injured Andre Goodman.

Defensively, Denver will rely on four-man pass rush, and nickel formation to put the pressure on second-year quarterback Joey Harrington, who has been interception prone lately.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Broncos wide receiver Ashley Lelie vs. Lions CB Otis Smith. Lelie is young and fast and Smith is 37 years old on the tail end of his career. Lelie also is coming off a 100-yard game against the Raiders, and looks to do the same to Detroit.

--Broncos D-line vs. Lions QB Joey Harrington. This group of linemen made Oakland's Rich Gannon look awful, and they figure to do the same to Harrington, who has thrown six interceptions and no touchdowns in his last two games.

INJURY IMPACT: The Broncos figure to give Quentin Griffin plenty of work this week, with Clinton Portis listed as questionable with a bruised chest and Mike Anderson slowed by a twisted knee. Reuben Droughns also relishes a chance to go against his former team.

Daryl Gardener also likely will see his first action after being a game-day inactive vs. Oakland, but still expect the Broncos to work him in slowly.


Mile High Huddle Top Stories