Stage set for Colts rematch

As the coin was being tossed before the game against the Packers, the Broncos knew their playoff destination and sat down most of their marquis offensive players in a game won by the Pack, 31-7. The game was actually a lot closer than the score would indicate, but it made no difference to the Broncos, who were already looking ahead to next week's rematch with the Indianapolis Colts.

Race begins at Indy - Denver Post - Adam Schefter
Monday, December 29, 2003 - An utterly suspenseless game was upstaged by two major dramas. Ten minutes before Denver kicked off at Green Bay, Mike Vanderjagt stepped into the football and kicked a 43-yard field goal, giving the Colts the AFC South title and the Broncos a return trip to Indianapolis.

Playoff-bound Packers lean on hurting Favre - Denver Post - Woody Paige
Monday, December 29, 2003 - "I've been around people who lost family members, and they talk about that person looking out for them ... and angels. Two weeks ago I didn't believe that.' Now, Brett Favre truly believes. "Something's going on here,' he said Sunday night. "But it's beyond my comprehension.' The Green Bay Packers' extraordinary quarterback always has had faith in himself, but he has found a new conviction in life.

McCaffrey goes out with concussion - Denver Post
Monday, December 29, 2003 - No one in the Broncos organization has sounded any warning bells, but there should be growing concern over the number of concussions Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey has suffered. In the past three games, McCaffrey has suffered two concussions, the latest coming Sunday when Packers safety Marques Anderson clobbered him.

Plummer's ability, attitude improve team - Denver Post
Monday, December 29, 2003 - The difference between these Broncos and the ones who lost to Baltimore in the 2000 playoffs? Those Broncos had Gus Frerotte, not Jake Plummer, at quarterback. "We're a lot better, and one of the main reasons, honestly, is our quarterback,' Rod Smith said. "I told him that today. I said: 'Dude, you've had a heck of a year. No matter what happens, you helped us do something we haven't done around here in a while.'

Replay unlikely in rematch - Denver Post - Patrick Saunders
Monday, December 29, 2003 - Broncos middle linebacker Al Wilson fancies himself something of an expert on Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts' Pro Bowl quarterback. Wilson predicted Sunday that Manning, his former Tennessee Volunteers teammate, will be armed, dangerous and inspired when the Colts host the Broncos in a playoff game next Sunday.

Wasted moment - Denver Post - Anthony Cotton
Monday, December 29, 2003 - After the Broncos' team meetings Saturday, Jarious Jackson called his mother and some other family members and told them to be sure to watch Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, telling them, "I might be playing some.'

Playoffs in the Cards for thankful Packers - Denver Post - Mike Spofford
Monday, December 29, 2003 - With Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos well in hand, the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes hinged on the Arizona Cardinals upsetting the Minnesota Vikings, but there were no updates on the Lambeau Field scoreboard as to how the game was unfolding.

Broncos draw skiers from slopes - Denver Post - Jason Blevins
Monday, December 29, 2003 - When the Denver Broncos play their wild-card playoff game this coming weekend, the contest may not be cheered at Colorado ski resorts. Thousands of Coloradans who might otherwise be skiing down the slopes may be watching that game and other NFL playoff games through Feb. 1.

Loss? No problem - Rocky Mountain News - Lee Rasizer
December 29, 2003 - As the Jackson 5 once sang, so it will be for the Denver Broncos: They're going back to Indiana. Early NFL results Sunday fell in such a way that Denver already was guaranteed a playoff rematch with the Indianapolis Colts, the newly crowned AFC South champions, regardless of its final regular-season result. And the Broncos knew it.

Concussion sidelines McCaffrey - Rocky Mountain News - Lynn DeBruin and Lee Rasizer
December 29, 2003 - The scene was nothing unusual: Ed McCaffrey taking a hard shot across the middle, and needing help up off the field. That it was his second concussion in 14 days, however, was a bit unnerving to his Denver Broncos teammates. "His second? I didn't know that," wide receiver Ashley Lelie said. "That's something to be worried about."

Colts can't wait to face Broncos again - Rocky Mountain News - Lee Rasizer
December 29, 2003 - Don't expect the Indianapolis Colts to go cowering in a corner just because they're two weeks removed from their worst loss of season, against Denver, and meet the Broncos again Sunday in an AFC first-round playoff game. "What could be more incentive than that?" Colts tight end Marcus Pollard said Sunday.

Krieger: End may be closer than Sharpe thinks - Rocky Mountain News - Dave Krieger
December 29, 2003 - To get to Brett Favre's Steakhouse, you hang a right on Lombardi and a left on Holmgren, then turn into Favre Pass, which leaves you a down-and-in from the Don Hutson Center. So I spent the bye week in some pretty good football company. Shannon Sharpe, too, although I did more work than he did, which isn't saying much.

Lincicome: This was tough; it will only get tougher - Rocky Mountain News - Bernie Lincicome
December 29, 2003 - Never mind. What's ahead for Denver is harder than what's behind. Chewing broken glass is not as hard. Sliding down a saw is easier. The Broncos have survived a season to earn the impossible, a four-game ordeal as tempting as boot camp. And that's if the Broncos make it to the end, each week a weight, each step a stagger. The Super Bowl would be less a reward than a relief.

Sunday almost makes believer of Favre - Rocky Mountain News- Dick Knapinski
December 29, 2003 - Two weeks ago, Brett Favre was not a big believer in the spiritual world, as in somebody watching over him, especially when dealing with football. After the emotional bungee cord he has ridden for the past eight days, though, Favre has emerged with a certain feeling outside the norm occurring around him and the Green Bay Packers.

Sunday almost makes believer of Favre - Rocky Mountain News- Lynn DeBruin
December 29, 2003 - Al Wilson heard the question, and dismissed it. "I'm not talking about Ahman Green," he said. Fellow Denver Broncos linebacker Jashon Sykes was equally tight-lipped. "It's a new season. Everything we did in the past really doesn't matter," he said. Even coach Mike Shanahan insisted he wasn't concerned about Green's 218 yards rushing or the 262 rushing yards Denver's defense allowed Sunday to Green Bay.

Denver has difficult time on defense - Rocky Mountain News- Lynn DeBruin
December 29, 2003 - Al Wilson heard the question, and dismissed it. "I'm not talking about Ahman Green," he said. Fellow Denver Broncos linebacker Jashon Sykes was equally tight-lipped. "It's a new season. Everything we did in the past really doesn't matter," he said.

Green scampers into Green Bay's record books - Rocky Mountain News- Dick Knapinski
December 29, 2003 - In the triumphant feeling that saturated the Green Bay Packers' locker room Sunday following their 31-3 win against the Denver Broncos, most of the emphasis was on the astonishing way the Packers qualified for the NFL playoffs. Somewhat lost in the loud celebration were the individual superlatives by Green Bay running back Ahman Green. In the 80-plus years of the Packers franchise, no running back had ever run for 200 yards in a single game or scored 20 touchdowns in a single season. On Sunday, Green changed all that.

Understudies do little to reach upper level - Rocky Mountain News- Lynn DeBruin
December 29, 2003 - Granted, the weather was quite balmy for December in Green Bay. But Sunday's game had the feel of a preseason finale in August. Instead of Jake Plummer, Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe breaking the Denver Broncos huddle, there were Jarious Jackson, Adrian Madise and Jeb Putzier.

Broncos report, December 29 - Rocky Mountain News
December 29, 2003 - The Broncos were facing a 17-3 deficit and a fourth-and-1 at the Packers' 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Denver decided to go for it, but quarterback Danny Kanell was blasted by Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila as he tried to throw, causing the pass to fall incomplete. On the next play, Ahman Green took a handoff and raced over right tackle for a franchise-record 98-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach.

Portis rests, ready for Colts game - Daily Camera - Ryan Thorburn
December 29, 2003 - Clinton Portis? Check. The Broncos' star running back, held out of the last two games with a sprained right ankle and knee, will be ready to return to the starting lineup next Sunday when Denver travels to Indianapolis for the first round of the playoffs.

QB Favre guides Packers to North title, playoff berth - Daily Camera - Ryan Thorburn
December 29, 2003 - It was the worst week of Brett Favre's life and one of the greatest of his Hall of Fame playing career. In the week after the Green Bay quarterback's beloved father died of a heart attack, the heart and soul of the Packers led his team to two consecutive wins and the NFC North division title.

Packers thump 'backup' Broncos - Daily Camera - Ryan Thorburn
December 29, 2003 - Who was the toast of Titletown on Sunday night? Ahman Green was a very worthy candidate. Mike Shanahan was a popular guy for holding Jake Plummer, Clinton Portis and other stars out. And Brett Favre was an inspiration for all.

Thorburn: Broncos hand major assist to Packers - Daily Camera - Ryan Thorburn
December 29, 2003 - Ten things we learned on Sunday at Lambeau Field: 1. Mike Shanahan didn't believe he had an obligation to his peers (specifically Mike Tice) or other franchises (specifically Minnesota) to field a competitive product with Denver's playoff fate already decided.

Broncos' focus is on playoffs - Green Bay Post Gazette - Benjamin Wideman
Dec. 29, 2003 - As Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan can attest, winning isn't everything. Sometimes, staying healthy is. Opting to rest several prominent starters for the playoffs, Shanahan acknowledged after Sunday's game he wasn't surprised the Green Bay Packers hammered his Broncos 31-3. For a coach who saw his team suffer its second-worst defeat in his nine-year tenure, Shanahan seemed downright upbeat, rather than upset.

Colts savor chance to get another crack at Broncos - Indianapolis Star - Mike Chappell
December 29, 2003 - So, it's Denver. Again. Embarrassed by the Broncos 31-17 eight days ago in the RCA Dome, the Indianapolis Colts earned a rematch with Sunday's 20-17 victory over the Houston Texans. Round 2 comes Sunday, again at the dome, in the first round of the AFC playoffs. "There's not a lot of time in the NFL when you get a second chance," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "We're going to get one, and we're excited about it.

Focus Quickly Shifts to Colts - - Andrew Mason
Monday, December 29, 2003 - A team-sports athlete is often implored to "forget about it" by a knowing coach after giving up a big play to an opponent, be it a long pass in football, a slam dunk on a fast break or a three-run homer. The same philosophy carries over to games, so between the 28-point loss and the fact that most offensive starters were inactive Sunday, that's precisely what the Broncos did.

Playing It Safe: Jackson, Kanell Get the Call - - Andrew Mason
Sunday, December 28, 2003 - Head Coach Mike Shanahan knows all too well how injuries can ravage a team; he saw how the Broncos struggled while Jake Plummer battled shoulder and foot injuries earlier this year, going 1-3 in the quarterback's absence.

Green Bay 31, Denver 3 - - Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
December 28, 2003 - GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The biggest cheer at Lambeau Field came for a play more than a thousand miles away that got the Green Bay Packers into the playoffs. Ahman Green reeled off a 98-yard touchdown run and Brett Favre completed a hard week in which he buried his father back in Mississippi to lead Green Bay to a 31-3 rout of the Denver Broncos. But it was at the 2-minute warning when the Arizona Cardinals completed an amazing last-second comeback to beat Minnesota and give Green Bay an improbable NFC North title that the place went wild.

Broncos-Packers Notebook: Plummer, Sharpe, Smith Inactive - - Andrew Mason
Sunday, December 28, 2003 - GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The story wasn't so much who played, but who didn't. The team deactivated quarterback Jake Plummer, running back Clinton Portis, cornerback Kelly Herndon, fullback Reuben Droughns, guard Dan Neil, wideout Rod Smith and tight end Shannon Sharpe. Droughns, Neil and Herndon were scheduled to sit out all week; Head Coach Mike Shanahan indicated that they would sit down at his press conference on Wednesday. The others were game-day decisions.

Broncos' 2004 Opponents Set - - Andrew Mason
Sunday, December 28, 2003 - Denver didn't just learn its playoff destination with the early-afternoon results on Sunday -- it learned its full slate of 2004 opponents, as well. Cincinnati's 22-14 home loss to the Cleveland Browns knocked the Bengals back into a second-place finish and ensured that the Broncos will play at Paul Brown Stadium next year. That was the last puzzle piece remaining to complete the 2004 roster of opponents.

Broncology: A First Look at Broncos-Colts - - Andrew Mason
Sunday, December 28, 2003 - Any chance that the Broncos could improve their seeding in Sunday's game at Lambeau Field died while the team's captains were at midfield, calling the coin toss. At about that moment, Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt stayed perfect on 2003 field-goal attempts not called back on account of leaping penalties, and the Colts wrapped up the division. Their triumph, along with the Tennessee Titans' 33-13 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ensured that Denver's destination was set before Micah Knorr's opening kickoff at Lambeau Field.

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