It's homecoming time for the Denver defense – and while they may play it down to the media, this game is huge for the former Browns……Kyle Johnson is declared inactive with an ankle sprain - he should be available against Indy barring any setbacks this week at practice
1st. QUARTER –
Well so much for former Browns WR Quincy Morgan making a splash. His kickoff return made it all the way to the 8-yard line before he got nailed.
Typically slow start offensively, but the Broncos get a huge break recovering a muffed punt to regain possession on the Cleveland 41-yard line. So much for the break – three and out and Ernster battles the wind to punt it deep in Browns territory.
Cleveland rolls out behind former Broncos running back Reuben Droughns - decent yardage until QB Charlie Frye hits Joe Jurevicius for a first down. Frye connects on 3 out of 3 passes before they gamble on fourth and one from the Broncos 46-yard line – scramble looses a yard and Denver takes over on downs.
This would be a good time for Plummer and Co. to wake up – nice pass to Javon Walker – good for 12-yards. (is Walker suddenly becoming Jake's "go to guy"?) - T Bell finds a nice hole up the middle and the Broncos move it to the 35 before Plummer gets picked off by Gary Baxter. You can count on more Cutler controversy this week in Denver. Plummer's hit 3 of 9 for 17-yards in his two possessions
Cleveland makes a little noise but can't push it past the 43 – Frye's hit on 5 of 7 for 47-yards – maybe Plummer could take some notes – Browns punt rolls dead at the 2 as Denver fails to field it – back to Plummer to try and pull it out.
Jake connects with Walker (Mr. Go To) for the longest reception of the day – 38-yards. Broncos on the move as the quarter comes to a scoreless close….
2nd QUARTER -
Broncs pick up the pace but the Brown defense won't give up the big one. Elam connects, despite the wind, from thirty-two yards out and Denver grabs a 3-0 second quarter lead.
Nothing from the Browns – Nothing from the Broncos – Ernster nails a nice punt against the wind that rolls nicely into Cleveland territory. Droughns keeps up the pace but Frye can't connect with his receivers – a third down sack by Elvis Dumervil forces another Cleveland punt – Broncos take over on their own 13-yard line.
Plummer's about an inch away from another interception. Sails the ball a good foot above Rod Smith and gets lucky it isn't picked off. A quick toss to Bell and another to Smith moves the ball closer to midfield. Plummer keeps pushing; hits Brandon Marshall on a beautiful pass and the Broncos are looking at first and goal from the nine. T. Bell around the right side goes untouched into the endzone for his second touchdown of the year and the Broncos hold a nice 10-0 lead. Jake improves his numbers on the 12-play, 86-yard scoring drive – 13 of 25 for 154-yards – a nice push for job security.
Defense continues to rule for Denver – Second and five for Cleveland and Al Wilson strips the ball from Droughns – ball bounces in the air and Dumervil winds up with a gift basket. Broncos take over on the Browns 43.
Plummer goes long for Walker – incomplete – Browns DB Gary Baxter
Gets his leg jammed behind him and is carted off the field. Serious news for Cleveland fans – his return is being listed as questionable – they've got to be kidding.
Plummer and the offense stall out as the first half comes to a close. Jake finishes off the half going 13 for 26, 154-yards. That's 5 ½ games now that the Broncos defense has not given up a touchdown.
Cleveland takes the kick deep and returns it out to the 26-yard line. An incomplete pass and an offensive line penalty push the Browns further into a hole. Three and out and the Browns crowd looks ready to nap.
Plummer utilizes Smith and the undrafted free agent now surpasses Floyd Little for all time yardage in the franchise record books. Nice scramble by Plummer for a first down on the Cleveland thirty-six. Quick pass to Walker moves the Broncos inside the red zone – jump ball in the corner for Marshall comes up flat – if at first you don't succeed try again – jump ball to Marshall and the Broncos extend their lead to 17-0 with 9:13 left in the third. Nice catch rookie…(This could be a nice breakout game for an otherwise stale Denver offense).
(Cut and Paste – Cleveland three and out) – the boos have begun but it's better than the silence. Browns punt and the Broncos take over on their own 40.
Do Broncos fans ever get tired of watching highlights of the Elway Drive?
T. Bell off left guard for 8-yards and Plummer scrambles around right end for the first. Mike Bell adds a 17-yard scamper and Plummer hits Mr. Go To on the 23-yard line for another first down. Browns bottle up M. Bell and Elam trots out for another field goal attempt. Wind carries the ball wide right and Denver's 17-0 lead holds tight.
There is a pulse in Cleveland – Browns break out some nice short passes and suddenly they've moved out to midfield. Hang on – the Browns can't count – too many men in the huddle costs them five yards (cheers turn to groans - they're awake). Quarter comes to a close with Denver maintaining a 17-0 lead.
Frye sails it deep – beautiful completion to Champ Bailey - Denver takes over on their own 26-yard line - the groans continue.
Just when I thought Plummer was getting comfortable – ball overthrown to Rod Smith gets picked by Andra Davis and Cleveland has perfect field position on the six. Frye to Jurevicius in the end zone and Cleveland cuts the lead 17-7. Wonder how p***ed off the defense is at Jake Plummer?
Broncos respond going three and out and once again Plummer survives a near pick. Ernster's punt gets slapped by the wind and Cleveland takes over on the 40.
Slightly different scenario now that the Browns are motivated. This time they go four and out – Denver takes over on the 40. With just under eight minutes remaining Cleveland fans hold out hope with Plummer in the backfield – it's not over yet…
ANOTHER near pick and the Broncos are forced to punt. Grand total of time for the Broncos drive - .45 seconds – way to control the clock. Browns get another chance to cut the lead.
Two incompletes and a quarterback sack spoil Cleveland's plans but they may get another chance – Plummer's still in at quarterback.
Broncos playing it safe – chew up time on the ground then Plummer connects with Walker for a Denver first down. Clock winds down to the 2:54 mark and Cleveland is forced to burn a time out as the Broncos face a third and twelve. T. Bell seals it – 13-yard gain and it's another first down as the clock continues to click. Browns use their final time out with 2:09 remaining.
Denver continues to chew up time – short of the first down Ernster punts with just over one minute left. Browns take over on the 31-yard line.
(Cut and Paste) – Four and out for Cleveland – game, set, match and the Broncos walk away with a 17-7 win.
Plummer's numbers - not terrible, but enough to be concerned with - 20 of 41, 209-yards, one touchdown and two interceptions (could have easily been four if the Cleveland "D" could catch).
Tatum Bell finished with 115-yards on 24 carries and one touchdown while Javon Walker pulled down nine passes for 109-yards, his best performance to date as a Bronco.
On the injury front Matt Lepsis will get an MRI on his twisted right knee tomorrow and Gerard Warren will have his sprained right big toe looked at. No official word has been released on either player.
At 5-1 the Broncos steal sole possession of first place in the AFC West but the question of an anemic offense continues – not a good sign as they prepare to face the undefeated Indianapolis Colts next Sunday at Invesco.
Seventeen points against the Colts isn't going to cut it. Look for Shanahan to break out the big book in game planning this week.
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
Schon: Broncos Game Blog 10/22/06
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