Broncos Update Insider - Thursday, Dec. 16

The Denver Broncos will benefit from keeping Kansas City off the field, so running the ball will be important. They should be able to do that against Kansas City's run defense. Denver rushed for 192 yards as a team in the first meeting this season. The Chiefs will probably do what they can to keep Jake Plummer in the pocket, especially on bootleg plays. The Broncos need to make the Chiefs pay with the running game if they commit upfield to containing Plummer.

There's no hotter topic in Denver right now than Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, especially his obscene gesture towards a fan during last Sunday's game against Miami.

Plummer apologized after the game for the gesture, but even as the Broncos prepare for a key game at Kansas City on Sunday, the issue was still a hot-button topic during his Wednesday press conference.

"What happened last week, I think I've addressed well enough on Sunday night and I'm apologetic for it and stand up here as a man and say that will never happen again," Plummer said. "But, any time I've ever made a mistake or I've ever done wrong, I want to move on and the only thing I can do is try to correct that. A big win in Kansas City is a right step in that direction."

The things that have made Plummer as successful as he has been are the same things that have gotten him in trouble, on and off the field.

Plummer's teammates say they appreciate his fire and competitiveness, but that's what caused him to make the gesture to a heckling fan shortly after he threw an interception against Miami.

"You're looking at a guy that's not perfect," Plummer said. "I'm not a robot. I'm a man that's got warm blood that sometimes gets hot in there and runs through my veins. People do things that they regret. As long as you can learn a lesson from it and step up and be a man about what your actions were and move on, I think that's the true lesson you learn from it."

The competitiveness also forces Plummer to make throws that cause Broncos fans to gnash their teeth. Plummer has thrown 17 interceptions this season, including some like his second interception against Miami.

Plummer rolled to his right, and with the team in field-goal range and the score tied in the fourth quarter, he tried forcing a pass into coverage that was intercepted at Miami's 3-yard line.

"It's tough because as a player you want to make plays," Plummer said. "Sometimes I think I can make every play and at times that trigger in your brain doesn't go off and tell you to not try to make it."

Plummer's up-and-down ways has made him a controversial figure in Denver. Plummer has a $6 million option bonus due in March, and the Broncos can choose to pay it or go in a different direction.

"I think there's still a large contingency of people that are happy I'm here," Plummer said.

SERIES HISTORY -- 89th meeting. Kansas City leads the series 49-39, but Denver has won the only playoff meeting between the teams. Denver won the first meeting between the teams this season, taking the regular-season opener 34-24 at Invesco Field at Mile High.

NOTES AND QUOTES

The first meeting between the teams was a breakout performance for Quentin Griffin, whose season went south after that game. Griffin rushed for 156 yards in that game and was predicted to be the next 1,000-yard back in Mike Shanahan's offense. That seems like a very long time ago.

Griffin didn't rush for more than 66 yards in any of his next three starts. The Broncos did find another 1,000-yard rusher -- Reuben Droughns -- but as the season has gone on he has been threatened by rookie Tatum Bell. Griffin has been out since he tore a ligament in his knee on Oct. 25.

--One of coach Mike Shanahan's favorite stories is about the Broncos' AFC divisional playoff win at Kansas City at the end of the 1997 season. Denver won its first Super Bowl that season.

Shanahan has often called that game the most physical he has been a part of during his time in the NFL.

"I think the best football game I've ever been involved in was that 14-10 (playoff) game," Shanahan said. "It was one of those football games, and the first or second playoff game at Arrowhead. That was the loudest outdoor stadium I've ever been in. we have some great memories there."

--Shanahan sounded like he has mended fences with former Broncos receiver Eddie Kennison. Kennison, who abruptly quit on the Broncos during the 2001 season, ripped the Broncos and Shanahan before Denver's second meeting with Kansas City last year.

"Eddie called me up before our first game this year and talked to me for about 15-20 minutes on the phone," Shanahan said. "He talked to me after the game. It's really a credit to him how he handled himself beforehand and afterwards."

BY THE NUMBERS 3 -- The Broncos have had three running backs gain 100 yards in a game this season (Quentin Griffin, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell). The only other time that has happened in franchise history was 1995, when Terrell Davis, Aaron Craver and Glyn Milburn each had 100-yard games.

QUOTE TO NOTE "It's just hard playing in that stadium. Plus the stadium is ugly. All that red and yellow, it's like, 'Oooh, you all could have picked different colors.'" -- DE Trevor Pryce on playing at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL The Broncos expect teams to test the two rookies that will play regularly in the defensive backfield for the rest of the season.

Cornerback Willie Middlebrooks was placed on injured reserve because of a leg injury he suffered while blocking on a kickoff return during last Sunday's game against Miami. Cornerback Lenny Walls is already out for the season, too, so the Broncos will likely use rookie Roc Alexander in their nickel defense and rookie Jeff Shoate in the dime defense.

The Broncos play three teams that can pass the ball well the rest of the season -- Kansas City, Tennessee and Indianapolis -- and how well the rookie cornerbacks play when they're on the field could determine if the Broncos stay in the AFC playoff picture.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--S John Lynch is playing his best football late in the season. He has been an effective blitzer for the Broncos the past two weeks. Lynch is only in his first year with Denver, but he rarely misses an assignment.

--DT Ellis Johnson has been one of Denver's most productive defensive linemen this season. Johnson had a sack on Sunday. The Broncos haven't had much depth at defensive tackle the past couple years, so his addition earlier in the season via trade with Atlanta was a good move for the team.

--TE Jeb Putzier had a big 19-yard catch on a fourth down in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Miami. Putzier only caught two passes against the Dolphins, but he has been a big-play threat at tight end because his speed is unusual for the position. Putzier was a receiver in college.

--RB Garrison Hearst has the confidence of the Broncos coaches if Tatum Bell can't play with a shoulder injury. Hearst has rarely been used this season, but that could mean he is fresh for the final weeks of the season. If nothing else, Hearst is a reliable veteran the Broncos can use in a substitute role and not have to worry about mental mistakes.

--G Dan Neil is back practicing at full speed with the Broncos. Neil didn't start last week's game against Miami because the team thought he looked a step slow after taking a pounding all season.

GAME PLAN
The Broncos will benefit from keeping Kansas City off the field, so running the ball will be important. They should be able to do that against Kansas City's run defense. Denver rushed for 192 yards as a team in the first meeting this season.

The Chiefs will probably do what they can to keep Jake Plummer in the pocket, especially on bootleg plays. The Broncos need to make the Chiefs pay with the running game if they commit upfield to containing Plummer. If Plummer is kept in the pocket, he has to make sound decisions. The Broncos can't afford many mistakes on the road and still win.

Defensively, the Broncos need to limit the damage when Kansas City spreads the field. Denver is thin in the secondary after losing Willie Middlebrooks and Lenny Walls to season-ending injuries, so expect the Chiefs to test rookies Roc Alexander and Jeff Shoate, who will probably be Denver's nickel and dime cornerbacks.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

--Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez vs. Broncos S Kenoy Kennedy. In the past two weeks the Broncos have faced San Diego's Antonio Gates and Miami's Randy McMichael, so they shouldn't be caught off guard against Gonzalez this week. Kennedy, a good cover safety, did a solid job in man coverage against McMichael last week. The Broncos tried different looks against Gonzalez in the first meeting, including using cornerback Champ Bailey against him a couple of times, so expect Denver to have multiple schemes to slow down Gonzalez.

--Broncos DE Reggie Hayward vs. Chiefs LT Willie Roaf. Hayward has been on a roll lately. He had a streak of four straight games with a sack broken on Sunday, but he might have had one of his best games in the season. He was close to sacking Miami's A.J. Feeley a few times. Hayward lines up on the right and left side so he won't be exclusively matched up against Roaf, but Hayward needs to get some pressure on Trent Green, especially with the Broncos thin in the secondary.

INJURY IMPACT

--RB Tatum Bell will try to practice Thursday and Friday with a separated shoulder, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said, and if he can get through practice he should be ready to play against Kansas City.

--DT Luther Elliss practiced on Wednesday. He is listed as questionable with a calf injury, but the Broncos are hopeful he'll be ready to play.

--DE Trevor Pryce took some reps with the scout team during Wednesday's practice. He said if he continues to improve during the week, he wants to try to play. He is listed as doubtful on the injury report.

--S Sam Brandon returned to practice after missing a game with a sprained ankle. Brandon is a solid special-teams contributor, something the Broncos need with CB Willie Middlebrooks out for the rest of the season.

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