Broncos Update Inside Slant - December 2

The effort Sunday was good enough to beat the hapless Raiders, but chances are it won't be good enough to beat the AFC West-leading Chiefs. Check out the Broncos report card for the Raiders game as well as all the latest personnel news and notes, quotes and ancedotes in today's Broncos Update Inside Slant.

The effort Sunday was good enough to beat the hapless Raiders, but chances are it won't be good enough to beat the AFC West-leading Chiefs. Denver allowed Oakland's Tyrone Wheatley to average 10.6 yards a carry. Give KC's Priest Holmes that much room and he'll run all day. And Denver's special teams are still struggling, not a good thing with Dante Hall coming to town.

In the first meeting Hall ripped off a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown, and also had a 41-yard kickoff return. Sunday, the Broncos gave up a 37-yard punt return, committed a costly block-in-the-back penalty and had a punt blocked.

Offensively, the biggest question is whether Clinton Portis can really carry that much of a load against a team that has been averaging 30.8 points a game.

The answer: Probably not.

Denver will need more production out of its passing attack, currently ranked tied for 27th in the league. Only Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia are ranked lower.


--WR/KR Chris Cole has some separation of his rib cartilage and a sprained A/C joint in his shoulder but team officials couldn't say whether it might sideline him the rest of the season. A lot depends on how Cole reacts to treatment.

--RB Clinton Portis rushed for 34 yards Sunday, and didn't need to come in for treatment Monday - a good indication that he can take such pounding.

--LT Ephraim Salaam continues to rotate series with Blake Brockermeyer. The idea is to keep both players fresh, since both have had their share of surgical procedures performed.

--P Micah Knorr has had a tough stretch lately and it doesn't get any easier this week with Kansas City up next. Knorr botched one hold two weeks ago, and on Sunday had a punt blocked. While the block wasn't his fault, he has struggled lately to drop punts inside the 20, with only two in the last six games.

--Deltha O'Neal will continue to see more and more action as a wide receiver. He was in on numerous plays Sunday but caught only one pass for three yards. For now he is a receiver but coach Mike Shanahan admitted he would sit down at the end of the season to discuss whether its best to keep him on offense or move him back to corner.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought we played Dante Hall as good as you could possibly play him. That was one of our best special teams. I think everybody knows what happen on the punt return, but I don't think we could have been in better position than we were, kicking from the 50-yard line and a guy catches a punt at the 2-yard line, and we would have had him backed up. But it didn't work out that way and you deal with the consequences." -- Coach Mike Shanahan when asked about his strategy this coming week toward Hall, who broke a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first meeting even though at least one clip wasn't called.


PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Jake Plummer passed for only 105 yards, but the sloppy conditions made it obvious this game wasn't going to be won through the air. He set up Denver's first TD with play-action, but he also made another red-zone mistake tossing an interception. It didn't hurt this time, but that won't cut it against a better team. Charles Woodson did a good job of taking Rod Smith out of the game, but the Broncos got a boost from Ed McCaffrey, who caught his first pass since Oct. 12.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Clinton Portis' first three carries went for no gain, no gain and a 2-yard loss. But he got his feet under him, then carried the Broncos to victory. The line did a good job, but much of the success was simply Portis, who ran hard and put on some fancy moves en route to his second-biggest day (170 yards). He also showed he is pretty durable, carrying a career-high 34 times.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Raiders were stupid to throw 30 times, and Rick Mirer couldn't win this on his own. Give Denver's defense credit for doing a good job after giving up some big plays (4 21-yard passes). Denver's corners are scrappy if not flashy. The pressure was good at times, non-existent at others, but again the conditions were partly to blame.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Tyrone Wheatley averaged 10.6 yards a carry but the Broncos lucked out in that the Raiders had him carry only 8 times. Overall Oakland ran up 120 yards on the ground, including 16 by a mobile Mirer.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- this unit cost Denver the game a week ago, and nearly did so again. Micah Knorr had a punt blocked as Jashon Sykes led O.J. Santiago to come through the line clean. Knorr had a tough day overall, failing to drop a pair of pooch punts inside the 20. Denver also allowed another long punt return, for 37 yards. Not good considering who is up next: Dante Hall.

COACHING: B -- Give Mike Shanahan credit. He checked the weather reports early and saw that it was going to be a soggy Sunday, so the game plan called for an emphasis on the running game. While he has been good about not overworking Portis, this was one game where he was right to keep giving him the ball.

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