All of the Denver Broncos' problems seemed solved, then the fourth quarter started.
Denver led Cleveland 17-0 through three quarters. Jake Plummer was hitting many different receivers in a revived offense and the defense was effective again.
But in the fourth quarter Plummer threw an interception, which led to Cleveland's only touchdown, and had two passes almost picked off. The Broncos defense held Cleveland to only seven points but the way the game ended wasn't completely satisfying.
"We didn't put up all the points in the world and ran up all these yards, so you can still keep talking about our struggling offense," Plummer said.
Plummer has been inconsistent all season and the Broncos have been conservative on offense. The Broncos opened up the offense against Cleveland and started well. Plummer completed 18 of 35 passes for 200 yards before the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter Plummer completed 2 of 5 passes for 9 yards. He said he was frustrated with the way he played in the second half.
"If I was sitting here and was happy and saying we played great, you wouldn't have the right guy to try to lead these guys," Plummer said. "I could have played better in that third and fourth quarter."
The Broncos did win the game to take a one-game lead in the AFC West over San Diego. The theme of their 5-1 start has been that the defense has played very well and the offense does enough to help them.
"It's always nice to find a way to win," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
The Broncos defense allowed its second touchdown of the season, but they weren't at fault. Plummer's interception to linebacker Andra Davis was returned to Denver's 18-yard line. Joe Jurevicius scored a 6-yard touchdown a few plays later. The Broncos are playing so well, even when the Browns got the ball inside the red zone they didn't expect to give up a touchdown.
"When we're down there in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line), we got to stand up," Bailey said. "We can't give up seven points. We got to give up three. That's it."
The one positive step the offense took on Sunday was that Plummer found some other options besides Javon Walker. Walker had more receiving yards than the rest of Denver's receivers combined before Sunday's game.
Walker had 107 yards on nine catches, but Rod Smith chipped in 69 yards and rookie Brandon Marshall had 22 yards on two catches, including a touchdown.
"I think we spread the ball out a ton today," Smith said.
The Broncos have been waiting for Marshall to break out. He is a fourth-round pick who impressed in offseason workouts, but he missed most of the preseason with a knee injury. He didn't have a catch before Sunday, but thinks that he's ready to break out.
"Definitely," Marshall said. "All it takes is one play, and you're right there."
--DT Gerard Warren left the game with a sprained big right toe. He dislocated his left big toe in training camp and missed the preseason. He said after the game that he won't know how long he is out until he gets a MRI.
--DT Demetrin Veal filled in for injured DT Gerard Warren and played well. Veal is a good interior pass rusher and he holds his own against the run.
--OLT Matt Lepsis suffered a sprained knee. He will get a MRI on Monday. Lepsis is Denver's best offensive lineman and will be missed if he can't play next Sunday against Indianapolis.
--OT Erik Pears gave up one sack to Cleveland and allowed pressure that led to another sack. Pears was filling in for injured Matt Lepsis, and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he thought Pears played well, considering he didn't have many repetitions during the week.
--DE Elvis Dumervil had three sacks, which tied a Broncos rookie record set in 1980. Dumervil had two sacks last week and is becoming a force for Denver's defense on passing downs.
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