Broncos Update Inside Slant - November 25

As one might imagine, the grades aren't good this week. Check out the Broncos report card for the Bears game as well as all the latest personnel news and notes, quotes and ancedotes in today's Broncos Update Inside Slant.

As the clock wound down Sunday, thousands of seats were empty at Invesco Field. Sure, the bone-chilling cold had something to do with it. But more than one person muttered, "Do you think those fans would have left if John Elway was the quarterback?" Chances are the answer is no.

Jake Plummer was hailed as the savior upon his return from foot and shoulder injuries. And he had the offense humming against a weak San Diego defense that even Brian Griese and Miami dismantled a few weeks earlier. But against a good defense, he couldn't manage more than one touchdown drive.

Granted, it wasn't all his fault. There were plenty of dropped passes, including a fourth-quarter bomb to Ashley Lelie, and some leaky pass protection. But the fourth quarter is supposed to be when he carries the team on his shoulders. He couldn't in a 19-10 loss to the lowly Bears.

"They are a good defense and I thought our line played a great game. We just missed some opportunities," he said.

Those missed opportunities may mean they miss the playoffs.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--RB Clinton Portis is receiving treatment for a heel bruise. Since he played with it Sunday, he should be able to go this week.

--TE Shannon Sharpe has rib cartilage separation and is a big question mark for Sunday. Coaches and Sharpe said there is a chance he'll play, but a lot will depend on the pain he can withstand.

--CB Deltha O'Neal remains a wide receiver and made his debut there Sunday. He caught just one pass, and hardly looks like a threat in that role.

--LB Al Wilson had an MRI on his neck to check out a pinched nerve, and it was negative, offering some peace of mind. He finished the game so he shouldn't miss any practice time or game action.

--DT Mario Fatafehi started again in place of Daryl Gardener. He suffered a rib strain. Whether he starts again depends on Tuesday's conversation between Gardener and coach Mike Shanahan. Had Denver not lost so ugly, Gardener was a goner, but Shanahan may decide he needs Gardener after all.

--LB Jashon Sykes has some kneecap irritation but he just needs treatment and will practice and play.

REPORT CARD VS. BEARS

PASSING OFFENSE: D-minus -- Ashley Lelie counted up at least six dropped passes, including a costly one by him in the fourth quarter. Give the Bears credit, they came with blitzes and frustrated Jake Plummer, who was sacked twice. With the game on the line, Plummer couldn't muster that fourth-quarter magic.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- It's not often a running back gains 165 yards and his team loses. But that's exactly what happened. Even though Clinton Portis had runs of 59 and 49 yards on two drives, Denver turned the big plays into just three points.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Chris Chandler and Kordell Stewart combined for just 126 yards passing, but they did enough to win the game thanks to good field position. Denver sacked the quarterback just twice, and both of those were Trevor Pryce. Maybe the Broncos need Daryl Gardener after all. Though Lenny Walls has played well at corner this year, he and Kelly Herndon struggled Sunday. Walls was whistled for two costly pass-interference penalties

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Bears averaged just 3.2 yards a carry, but Kordell Stewart was able to break containment several times to keep drives alive. He gained 29 yards on 8 carries, including the game-winning QB sneak at the goal line.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Where to start? Jason Elam made one field goal, missed another and never got a chance to kick a third as Micah Knorr botched the hold. Denver's return teams were horrible, giving up two long returns, and allowing Chicago to handily win the field position battle. The Bears averaging starting position was their 39, while the Broncos were starting at their 19.

COACHING: D -- Coach Mike Shanahan took blame for this loss, claiming he didn't prepare the team well enough to win. But he also acknowledged the Broncos had perhaps their best week of practice. Which is it? The guess is he takes responsibility for poor special-teams play. He also is questioning some of the play calling, especially in the first half when the Broncos could have put the game away but didn't.

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