Broncos Inside Slant - October 7

The Broncos' coaching staff didn't grade out very well in our weekly game grades. Read how all the units of the Broncos fared, as well as notes, quotes, anecdotes and personnel status in the latest edition of Broncos Inside Slant.

Jake Plummer aggravated a shoulder injury he suffered against San Diego, and though he was too sore to do much of anything Monday, he was hopeful he could practice this week and play Sunday against Pittsburgh.

Asked if he was worried about the injury causing him to change his mechanics, he said, "That's the scary part.

"You don't want to change your mechanics because you might aggravate something else. So if my arm doesn't feel right Wednesday, then I don't want to push it. I don't want to go out there and have something that will be lingering or make something worse and be more of a problem as the season goes."

Plummer suffered a first-degree shoulder separation against the Chargers, but was able to play the following week against Oakland.

"I played one of my best games ever against Oakland after I had my first injury with my shoulder, so I don't think I'm too scared to go out there and play with a little bit of pain," he said.

There's no question Plummer is in a groove right now. In his last four games, he has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions, and ranks fourth in the AFC in passing after a dreadful start in the opener against Cincinnati. Plummer's pain isn't limited to his throwing shoulder. He also twisted his left ankle Sunday, and reported that his knee is a little tight.

"That's football. You're going to get banged up a little bit," he said.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

• QB Jake Plummer aggravated the shoulder injury he suffered in San Diego and wasn't sure whether it would cause him to miss any practice time this week. The injury is to his throwing shoulder. He said he just needs treatment and can handle some pain as long as he doesn't cause other problems by changing his mechanics. Plummer also twisted his ankle earlier in the game, and received treatment for that.

• SS Lee Flowers, just back from serving a banned substance suspension, got his walking papers on Monday. The Broncos chose instead to keep Chris Young, who has been running third string to Kenoy Kennedy and Nick Ferguson, and third-string quarterback Danny Kanell on the roster.

• DT Daryl Gardener was released from the hospital Monday after being admitted because of strep throat. Gardener, even if healthy enough to play, has lost valuable conditioning because of injury and illness. He has yet to be active for a game.

• LT Ephraim Salaam had an MRI on his right knee Monday but it was negative, indicating only soreness. It is the same knee he had scoped during training camp.

• TE Shannon Sharpe had an MRI on his knee Monday but it was negative. Sharpe took a big blow while trying to make a sideline catch and got up slowly but he isn't expected to miss time.

• DT Monsanto Pope's ankle is only sprained, but his status was uncertain for practice and the game.

• WR Ed McCaffrey has a quad bruise and remains quite sore, but Shanahan wouldn't say whether McCaffrey, when healthy, would regain his role in the rotation with Ashley Lelie and Rod Smith. Lelie started Sunday because of McCaffrey's injury, while McCaffrey came in only for a few downs. Shanahan, however, was pleased with his effort while he was in there.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you're asking me was there a clip, yeah, there was a clip." -- Coach Mike Shanahan on Dante Hall's 93-yard punt return for a touchdown.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Jake Plummer went his fourth straight game without turning the ball over, and has eight TDs and zero picks in that span. Wide receiver Rod Smith had one of his better games, finishing with eight catches for 131 yards and also completing a 72-yard end around pass to Clinton Portis. But Ashley Lelie, starting in place of injured Ed McCaffrey, was kicking himself for failing to come up with two big plays. Though tough catches, he said those are the ones he gets paid to make.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Clinton Portis got out of the gates slowly, with just 31 yards on eight first-half carries. But he came on strong. Running out of the wishbone formation, he broke a 65-yarder for a touchdown and finished with 141 yards. When the Broncos needed a few yards most - facing first-and-goal at the Chiefs' 4-yard line - they couldn't get them. Sunday was a gutsy performance by center Tom Nalen, who severely sprained an ankle a week ago and could barely walk but stayed in the entire game.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Broncos held Kansas City to just 128 yards passing and did a good job of keeping leading receiver Priest Holmes in check out of the backfield (four catches, 14 yards). But the Broncos, going against a solid offensive line, failed to generate the type of pressure they wanted and didn't sack Trent Green once. He had all day to pass on his 20-yard TD pass to tight end Tony Gonzales.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Broncos shut down Holmes in the first quarter, but he got stronger as they day went on, ripping off runs of 16 and 22 yards to finish with 97 on the day. There were missed assignments and missed tackles and not the shutdown defense Denver had hoped to bring. Give the Chiefs' line plenty of credit.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Dante Hall has been nothing short of incredible on his record-setting 93-yard punt return in the fourth quarter, but the Broncos didn't help themselves by kicking right to him. He made a handful of players miss on that run, and did the same on a 41-yard kickoff return early in the fourth quarter. When the day was done, the Chiefs had 262 return yards and the win. The Broncos have a legitimate gripe about a clip on the TD return, especially since they were called for the same - negating a long punt return for a TD by Deltha O'Neal. Denver place-kicker Jason Elam had been on a roll, with 17 consecutive field goals dating to last season. But his 53-yard attempt - his last of four on the day - drifted wide left midway through the fourth quarter.

COACHING: C -- Nobody comes up with a more innovative plan than Mike Shanahan. His wishbone formation worked wonders, especially on Portis' 65-yard TD run. But Denver's offensive minds were caught off-guard by KC's defense while facing a first-and-goal at the Chiefs' 4-yard line. Three straight running plays that went nowhere had as big an impact on the outcome as Hall's punt return. While Shanahan took offense to questions about why Denver kicked the ball to Hall, it was a legitimate point. Look for a change in strategy the next time these two teams meet.


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