Beuerlein and Broncos fall in Minnesota

Steve Beuerlein becomes the latest victim on the ever growing Broncos injury list, suffering a dislocated pinkie finger on his throwing hand during Sunday's 28-20 loss to the Minesota Vikings.

Minneapolis, Minn. - Earlier this year Steve Beuerlein was faced with a decision whether to retire after an 11-year career, move into a highly coveted media position, or return for one more season as backup to newly acquired quarterback Jake Plummer.

Knowing that as a backup you're just one play away from a starting position, Beuerlein decided to give it one final shot with the Broncos.

After suffering three interceptions, four sacks and a severely broken pinkie finger during Sunday's 28-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings he may want to rethink that decision.

Beuerlein was pressured from the beginning, with two sacks spoiling Denver's initial drive. Following a Vikings 77-yard touchdown drive the Broncos made another stab at an offensive attack but the onslaught continued and Beuerlein underthrew Rod Smith on the Minnesota five-yard line, connecting instead with Minnesota safety Brian Russell for his first interception of the afternoon.

"I felt absolutely awesome before the game," a solemn Beuerlein told reporters afterward. "I felt like I was on top of the game plan, like I really knew what was going on and had settled in to trying to win three of four games for this team, but I just didn't do it. I was brought in here (Denver) to step into these situations and not only did I not do my job, I got injured as well. I don't have any excuses for you, I just didn't do my job today."

Taking nothing away from Minnesota, in reality, many Broncos did not do their job today. Mental errors, mistakes and penalties surfaced at the worst possible times. Two potential scoring drives resulted in interceptions, while a third pick off was carried into the end zone by Vikings defensive end Lance Johnstone. When the Broncos weren't shooting themselves in the foot, it was lady luck dealing the blow.

With the game tied at 7-7, Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper had one final attempt to put up some points as the first half came to a close. Under pressure from the defensive line Culpepper scrambled out of the pocket and found Randy Moss deep in Denver territory. Moss brought the ball in at the Broncos 15-yard line where he was wrapped up by safety Nick Ferguson. During the tackle an alert Moss tossed the ball over his shoulder to Moe Williams who streaked into the end zone untouched as time expired.

"It was just one of those crazy plays that happen maybe once a year, and it happened to us" said defensive lineman Bertrand Berry. "It's unfortunate but at the same time it's not going to kill us, it's not the end of the season, there's a lot of football left and I have a lot of faith in our team."

The last second play not only gave Minnesota an advantage on the scoreboard, it also gave them a mental edge the Broncos would be hard pressed to overcome. The Vikings opening drive of the second half cemented the fact.

Using a combination air and ground attack, the Vikings marched 71-yards over the first ten plays, culminating in a five-yard plunge by rookie running back Onterrio Smith to put Minnesota up 21-7.

"That drive of the second half was a killer," said Berry. "We really felt that if we could give our offense the ball back pretty quick, they could go down and score cause they were really starting to move the ball toward the end of the half. Even though we battled back, we just didn't make enough plays to win the game."

When the Broncos finally did get the ball back they continued to self-implode. Beuerlein threw his third pick of the afternoon, once again to Lance Johnston, who streaked down the sideline for a 33-yard touchdown, giving the Vikings a commanding 28-7 third quarter lead.

Facing the largest deficit of the season Denver began to chip away at the lead when Jason Elam connected on a 46-yard field goal cutting the lead to 28-10.

Less than three minutes later Beuerlein's season took a turn for the worse with a severly dislocated pinkie finger on his throwing hand. Replays show the hand was pinned beneath him as he fell to the turf, dislodging at a ninety-degree angle when the pile cleared.

"I knew right away I was hurt, said Beuerlein. "It felt like my finger was bent all the way back, which I guess is what happened."

With both Plummer and Beuerlein sidelined with injuries Danny Kanell became the Broncos frontman.

Kanell, who was initially cut from the roster prior to the season opener, provided a brief spark for Denver, leading a 10-play, 50-yard drive to set up Elam's second field goal of the afternoon. The 46-yard kick narrowed the Vikings lead to 28-13 less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

The gap narrowed even further on the Broncos next possession as Kanell found Mike Anderson in the end zone for a one-yard touchdown toss. Elam's extra point brought the Broncos within eight points at 28-20, with just over six minutes remaining.

After a strong defensive stand the Broncos had one final opportunity to tie the score. With 3:24 remaining Denver took possession on its own 33-yard line. Four plays later the team had advanced to the Minnesota 30-yard line and appeared to be making a serious threat.

That threat was short lived however as Denver failed to convert on a fourth and ten pass to Clinton Portis with 27 seconds remaining, and Minesota ran out the clock to improve their record to 6-0.

The fourth quarter touchdown pass was Kanell's first score since the 2000 season when he was a member of the Atlanta Falcons. Despite his lack of recent playing time Kanell did surprisingly well during his Denver debut.

"I was doing a lot of praying out there, just trying to stay calm and stay within myself," said Kanell. "I'm a perfectionist and I know Jake and Steve are too, so now I'm going to go back and look at film and see what I could do better, and try and fix the mistakes."


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