Broncos top Rams 23-16

DENVER, Colo.- The emotional roller-coaster that is Brian Griese came dangerously close to derailing on Sunday, but the fifth-year starter silenced critics with a late fourth quarter touchdown toss to Ed McCaffrey, and the Broncos held on for a 23-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams at Invesco Field.

DENVER, Colo.- The emotional roller-coaster that is Brian Griese came dangerously close to derailing on Sunday, but the fifth-year starter silenced critics with a late fourth quarter touchdown toss to Ed McCaffrey, and the Broncos held on for a 23-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams at Invesco Field.

Griese, whose reign as Denver's starter is thought to be in question, played nearly a flawless first half, connecting on a twelve-yard toss to Rod Smith with 3:51 left in the first quarter to give the Broncos an early 7-0 lead. The score culminated an impressive 13-play, 97-yard drive, which included a 27-yard pass to McCaffrey, his first of the 2002 season.

While Griese was impressing critics, St. Louis was baffling them, as their offense continued to struggle. Unable to mount any serious attacks the former NFL powerhouse was forced to settle for just two first half field goals by Jeff Wilkins.

Jason Elam countered with three first half field goals of his own, one from 47-yards out, one from 34-yards and one from 34-yards out, and Denver walked away with a 16-6 first half lead.

For an offense that was less than impressive during its' four preseason games, it was a welcome change, but it was a change that unfortunately wouldn't last long.

Griese opened the second half with two successive interceptions and a fumble, causing many of the sold-out crowd to voice their displeasure with a thunderous reign of boos.

The Rams cut the margin to 16-13 during this undoing as Aeneas Williams intercepted Griese's first pass of the third quarter, returning it three yards to Denver's 26-yard line. A 21-yard pass interference penalty against safety Deltha O'Neal advanced the ball to the Broncos 5-yard line, where Marshal Faulk carried it in for St. Louis's lone touchdown.

With the offense struggling, it was up to Ray Rhodes' defense to make the day, holding St. Louis scoreless on Griese's two subsequent turnovers, the most notable being a 4th down play on the Broncos 10-yard line, where they pressured Warner into an incomplete pass.

A refocused Griese responded on Denver's next possession, connecting on four consecutive passes for 56-yards, including the 23-yard game winner to Ed McCaffrey.

"Brian had a quarter in there when things went flat and he was really pressured," head coach Mike Shanahan said. I'll tell you what though; I'm really pleased with the way he played with the pressure on him. That last drive showed me plenty; I like to see that."

Griese finished the game completing 18 of 27 passes for 202 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

His counterpart, Kurt Warner, spent most of the time getting acquainted with Denver's defensive line, which sacked the former MVP three times. Warner finished with 32 of 41 passes for 315-yards, one interception and no touchdowns.

Marshall Faulk finished with a career-high 14 catches for 91 yards, but was held to just 19 yards on 10 carries rushing.

Rod Smith's first quarter touchdown catch entered the eight-year veteran in Denver's record books with 45 touchdown catches, the most in Broncos history, placing him ahead of teammates Shannon Sharpe and Ed Mccaffrey.

Denver takes their 1-0 record on the road next weekend when they travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers (1-0) at San Francisco Stadium at Candlestick Point. Kickoff is at 1:15 p.m. (PDT) and the game will be broadcast nationally by CBS.

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