Sharpe's "Best Game" fuels Bronco OT win

Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe set a single game record for NFL tight ends as the Broncos downed the Kansas City Chiefs 37-34 in an overtime thriller on Sunday.

It had been a long time since Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe had visited the end zone. When he finally got there Sunday afternoon, he reached for his sock a la Terrill Owens, but found no Sharpie, only tape covering up the message 'Big Play Shay'.

"I didn't really want to act like I hadn't been in the end zone before," Sharpe said, when asked if he was trying to imitate Owens' controversial post-touchdown move from last week's San Francisco v. Seattle game. "But it has been a long time for me. I wanted everyone to know that I'm back."

Sharpe not only got the first touchdown of his return engagement with the Broncos --- an 82 yard touchdown strike from quarterback Brian Griese, but followed up later on a 28 yarder as he had his best day ever as a professional and fired up the Broncos to a thrilling 37-34 overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

After a lackluster first half which saw the Broncos constantly playing catch up with the Chiefs, Griese zeroed in on Sharpe in the second half. The 82 yard play was the longest in Sharpe's career and he set personal, Bronco and NFL tight end records for reception yards in a game with 214 total on 12 catches.

The previous best performance was a 212-yard game by the St. Louis Cardinals' Jackie Smith on Oct. 13, 1963, against Pittsburgh.Lionel Taylor held the Broncos record of 199 yards for 42 years.

Griese completed 30 of 50 passes in the game for 376 yard and drew the praise of both Sharpe and Rod Smith, who caught seven balls for 92 yards.

"Brian showed great leadership," Sharpe said. "And Mike (Shanahan) had the confidence to go to me. I knew the balls were coming my way and I was ready."

"We have a lot of confidence in Brian," Smith said. "This game goes a long way in establishing his leadership."

The Chiefs game marked Griese's fourth consecutive 300 yard passing game.

Despite the heroics of Sharpe, Griese, and others, the game itself was a cliff hanger to rival the most exciting in Bronco history.

The Broncos were behind or tied the whole contest thanks to some great field position by the Chiefs thanks to some erratic kick-offs by Jason Elam, who said it was perhaps his worst kick-off game ever.

"They were ready to kill me," Elam said of the coaches' reaction to his less-than-stellar kick-offs.

But it was Elam who nailed the victory with a 25 yard field goal in overtime.

"It felt good after last Sunday night's game to be able to win one with a field goal," Elam said. His 55 yard effort in the previous game against the Miami Dolphins with 45 seconds left had appeared to be the game winner until the Dolphins' Olindo Ware nailed one with time expiring.

Besides Sharpe and Griese, a huge hero in the big win which moved the Broncos record to 5-2 was Keith Burns, who blocked a Kansas City punt and recovered it at the Chiefs' 32 yard line in overtime to set up the winning field goal.

Notes:

• Bronco rookie Clinton Portis was the leading rusher for the Broncos with 70 yards. Kansas City's Priest Holmes led the Chiefs with 113 yards. "He's the next Marshall Faulk," Bronco defensive lineman Chester McGlockton said.

• Kansas City's Morton Anderson missed his first field goal in 26 attempts at the 3:47 mark with the Chiefs holding a seven point advantage. Denver took over and worked the ball down the field to set up a Mike Anderson touchdown dive with just 24 seconds remaining on the clock to knot up the score and send the game into overtime. The decision by Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil to kick the field goal on a fourth and one situation was controversial.

"I had a choice," Vermeil said. "To go for it on fourth down or kick the field goal. We decided to kick the field goal and he missed it. He's human."

• Linebacker Al Wilson led the Bronco tacklers with 11. Rookie Sam Brandon, replacing the suspended Kenoy Kennedy performed admirably with six tackles.

• All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs was a major concern of the Broncos going into the game, but was held to five catches for 58 yards and no touchdowns. All of the Chief's touchdown scores came on the ground.

• The Chiefs blocked a Tom Rouen punt early in the fourth quarter which former Bronco Glenn Cadrez recovered at Denver's 5-yard line. Two plays later, Priest Holmes scored his third touchdown which gave the Chiefs a 37-20 lead.

• Denver center Tom Nalen went down in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Coach Mike Shanahan feared that Nalen tore his ACl. A MRI will be performed Monday to determine the extent of the damage. Left guard Ben Hamilton was moved to center and Steve Herndon took over Hamilton's spot on Sunday.

• "I was really proud with the way our team fought for 60 minutes," said Coach Shanahan after the win. "You can look at a lot of different areas and say we didn't play our best football game, but you can't disrespect the effort we had and the way we came up with big plays there in the fourth quarter that gave us a chance to obviously tie the game and eventually win."

• Next up for the Broncos are the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots (3-3).


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