Broncos Update Inside Slant - November 18

Check out the Broncos report card for the Chargers game as well as all the latest personnel news and notes, quotes and ancedotes in today's Broncos Update Inside Slant.

Is Shannon Sharpe making the final stretch run of his career? It certainly sounded that way Sunday night. When asked if a day like he had against San Diego (three touchdowns, 101 yards) makes him think about playing three or four more years, Sharpe said no, "It makes me think I have two or three more months."

Sharpe has always said he would prefer to leave one year early than one year too late. But coach Mike Shanahan said it's too early to talk about retirement just yet.

"To make those decisions now or shortly after the season is really a little quicker than it should be," Shanahan said. "Sometimes you've got to let things settle, sit back and decide what you want to do."

Sharpe is on pace for 11 touchdowns in his 14th NFL season. That's one more than he had in the last four years combined. While Shanahan couldn't say if Sharpe is playing as well now as he did during Denver's Super Bowl runs, he said he is playing very consistently, making some big-time catches and doing a good job in the running game. There is, however, one notable difference.

"I'd say he's a lot more of a leader now than he was back then," Shanahan said. "Not that he wasn't a leader, but I think he understands the game more, understands what needs to be done from a team perspective. He's matured more and more every year."

Shanahan said when Sharpe was younger, it was very important for him to have a lot of catches.

"Then all of a sudden he forgot about those catches and it was very important for him to win. He's become a guy that's very unselfish, making sure that Super Bowls and the playoffs were the utmost importance."

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--QB Jake Plummer was a little sore after Sunday's game but he wasn't listed on the injury report for the first time in months, and that's a positive sign that he suffered no setback.

--LB Donnie Spragan came in early for treatment on his sprained ankle Monday, which he said was quite sore after playing the entire game Sunday. But he'll be ready to practice Wednesday and start again Sunday.

--P Micah Knorr became the first Broncos punter in team history to kick a field goal when he hit a 27-yarder against San Diego.

--PK Jason Elam said it probably was a good call to pull him and let punter Micah Knorr kick the final field goal and extra point. But he said with two days rest, he looks forward to a normal week where the groin is no longer a problem.

--WR Ed McCaffrey still is having trouble stopping out of his break and until he feels better about that, he won't play.

--LB Terry Pierce becomes the third member of the linebacker corps to be placed on injured reserve, after tearing a pectoral muscle Sunday.

QUOTE TO NOTES: "I know Shannon's had a great career. He's done everything we've asked him to do. And we'll sit down sometime but it won't be for a while." -- Coach Mike Shanahan on whether Sharpe had decided to retire.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Jake Plummer hardly looked rusty after being sidelined for five weeks. His passes were crisp, and he had plenty of zip on the ball, and the timing was there with players like Shannon Sharpe (3 TD catches), Rod Smith (season-high 10 catches) and Ashley Lelie (season-high 48-yard reception).

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Clinton Portis came close to breaking a long one, and still finished with his 6th 100-yard game of the season. The only negative was Denver's failure to convert a fourth-and-inches early that might have proved costly against a tougher opponent. Reuben Droughns and Patrick Hape did a good job filling in for the suspended Mike Anderson at fullback.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Broncos held Doug Flutie to 70 yards passing, sacked him twice and intercepted him once. When he did get off a good pass, Denver's corners were right there to knock the ball away, with Lenny Walls, Kelly Herndon and Jimmy Spencer all making fine plays.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Broncos considered LaDainian Tomlinson the toughest challenge of the year, but they rose to the occasion, holding him to 29 yards on eight carries. One of those went for 16 yards on a draw on third-and-long. The more impressive effort was keeping mobile quarterback Doug Flutie in check as he gained only 11 yards on 5 carries, breaking free just once for 12 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- More big plays here, with Rod Smith providing the spark on his 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. Jason Elam gutted out a pair of field goals and four extra points despite battling a groin injury, and when he finally had enough, punter Micah Knorr showed he was up to the task, hitting a 27-yard field goal on his first pro attempt. The Chargers had no return yardage on punts as Denver didn't have to punt once all day.

COACHING: A -- Mike Shanahan laid it on the line at a team meeting last week, saying deeds, not words, would get the job done. His players played inspired football. At some point, having Rod Smith back on punt returns might bite him in the butt, but the move worked brilliantly Sunday as Smith busted a 65-yard return filling in for embattled Deltha O'Neal.

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