Welcome to Opening Day 2007 – you can relax now, football has returned.
We've got less than fifteen minutes till kickoff and the starting running back for the Denver Broncos is still anybody's guess. The only certainty is that it won't be Cedric Cobbs, he's been deactivated for the afternoon. Former CSU Ram Cecil Sapp will fill in at the third tailback position.
Others deactivated today include – DE Courtney Brown, WR's Brandon Marshall and Charlie Adams, OL Chris Kuper and Adam Meadows, defensive end/tackle Elvis Dumervil and linebacker Nate Webster.
1ST. QUARTER -
Ok, question answered – Shanahan goes with experience and Tatum Bell get the starting nod in the backfield. Not that it matters much. Denver struggles on the opening drive with two offensive line penalties and a quarterback sack. Javon Walker provides the lone highlite, bringing in an 11-yard toss from Plummer for the Broncos only first down.
On the other hand St. Louis apparently has no problem moving the ball against a rusty Broncos defense – 69-yard drive chews up nearly eight minutes off the clock and Jeff Wilkins splits the uprights on a 26-yard field goal.
Time to switch Bells – Mike takes the field just in time for an ugly underhand desperation toss from Plummer to avoid the sack. This one even had Dan Dierdorf laughing. The laughing continued two plays later when Leonard Little manhandles Mike Bell in the backfield and forces a Jake Plummer fumble which, unfortunately for Denver is kicked 24-yards downfield, eventually recovered by St. Louis on the Broncos three-yard line. Shanahan wastes his first challenge and the Rams look poised to pile it on.
Ok, maybe not – Denver's "D" comes up big, two offensive penalties move the Rams back to the 26-yard line where Wilkins bounces it off the crossbar – Broncos dodge a bullet. This time
Mike Shanahan may want to rethink the Cobs deactivation. Tatum Bell coughs it up on the first play of the drive and once again the Rams take over with an incredibly short field. Quarter comes to a close with St. Louis leading and Mike Shanahan seething.
2ND. QUARTER -
Chalk up another one – Rams turn a 17-yard drive into a quick three and visions of Plummer past are slowly creeping in.
Forget the slow part – the old Snake is here. Plummer gets picked off for the third Denver turnover of the half and the Rams are making a joke out of the former AFC West champs. The only thing keeping this from a complete blowout is the Broncos defense. Wilkins hits his third field goal of the afternoon and St. Louis holds a 9-0 second quarter lead. This is going to be a long afternoon.
With just under six minutes remaining in the first half, I'm wondering what they'll be serving for the halftime buffet. Oh wait, there's another score – Wilkinson can't miss – Rams take a 12-0 lead on a 51-yard field goal. Just my luck – it's hot dogs. This is painful.
As bad as they've looked all day, it's a wonder they're only down by twelve. Credit the Rams offense and the Broncos defense for not letting this one get out of hand. If St. Louis had been able to convert any of the opportunities handed out, this would already be over.
Typical Broncos – as soon as I get in line for some dogs, they mount a comeback, the turnaround coming when Shanahan elects to move on a fourth and one from the Denver 30-yard line. Mike Bell off-tackle for two-yards and Denver picks up its second first down of the game. From that point Plummer rolls - connecting with Rod Smith, Bell and Tony Scheffler one three consecutive passes. A fourth pass finds Stephan Alexander down the sideline to the Rams one-yard line. Mike Bell up and over – Broncos finally find the scoreboard, trailing 12-7 as the first half closes.
Back to the buffet line….
3RD. QUARTER -
Who is this Wilkins guy? Five field goals and we've barely crossed the midway point. Somewhere there's a fantasy owner salivating over this one.
Three drops by Javon Walker, all of which were catchable, quickly puts an end to the Broncos drive – the bad news, the last pass deflects off his finger and Walker pulls himself out to visit with the Broncos trainers.
Denver can't buy a break in this one. To this point, Plummer's been sacked four times and has only one completion in the last six attempts. The quarter comes to a close with Denver moving, but still trailing 15-7.
4TH. QUARTER -
Amazingly the drive crosses midfield where Jason Elam connects on a 49-yard field goal, cutting the St. Louis lead to five. It's hard to imagine that Denver is still in this thing considering how pathetic the offense has looked.
Mike Bell shakes things up with a beautiful 36-yard run but the celebration is short lived. Plummer completely misfires to TE Todd Devoe and Corey Chavous collects the second interception of the game. Any guess on how long it will take before they start screaming for Jay Cutler?
Denver's "D" adds to the misery as Patrick Chukwurah get flagged for roughing the kicker with the Rams punting out of their own end zone. St. Louis retains possession, Denver prolongs the embarrassment.
Somebody should take notes. The Rams are running through the Broncos like they're standing still. Actually, I think they are standing still – between interceptions, fumbles and boneheaded penalties Denver's defense may be eligible for squatters rights, based on actual field time.
Well here we go again - Plummer spoils another Broncos drive with his third interception of the game. The tally now reaches five turnovers, the most of any Broncos team since the 2000 season.
St. Louis shows pity - electing to run out the clock instead of letting Wilkins tie the NFL record with seven field goals in a single game.
A thank you is definitely in order......
POSTGAME BREAKDOWN -
Surprising, but not unexpected – the Broncos layed a similar egg in the opening game of the 2006 season against Miami. Collectively these guys are more out of sync than an Ashley Simpson concert.
Plummer, who had only seven interceptions all last season, tossed them out like candy today. Check the stats - 13 of 26 passes, four sacks, one fumble, three interceptions and zero touchdowns.
Ok, it's early and you can write this one off, but it still doesn't change the fact that the Broncos were blindsided by a team they should have easily walked on – and for the second straight season they find themselves behind the eight ball heading into game two.
It may not be the biggest hole they've had to dig themselves out of, but it just might be the hardest.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past ten years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio stations around the country.
Schon can be reached at Schon@prostarmediagroup.net
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