Win a Big Game First

As the AFC West takes center stage on Sunday, the biggest story in the division is the emergence of Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer. He and his Denver teammates are about to embark on thier toughest test of the 2003 NFL season. For Plummer a career sub .500 quarterback, he faces a Kansas City Chiefs team that intends to show his 4-0 start is indeed a fluke. Who ever proves the other wrong will be in the divsion drivers seat the rest of the season.

With the Chiefs facing their second stiff test in a row, they are well aware of the early season success by their opposing quarterback Jake Plummer. They have their own concerns at quarterback with their quarterback, Trent Green who has looked more like Plummer than the fourth rated passer of a year ago.

Plummer for now has shaken all the lingering effects of the Brian Griese era in Denver. He has thrown seven touchdown passes this year and only three interceptions. His worst performance was opening day against the Bengals in Cincinnati. Even though the Broncos won the Denver media was calling for his head.

Despite winning the next two games against the Chargers on the road and the Raiders at home, Plummer proved that he could carry a team against a weak defensive team like the Lions last Sunday. With running back Clinton Portis on the shelf and unable to play, Plummer threw two touchdown passes and completed 16 consecutive passes.

But the Lions inept offense lost the game and Denver managed to hold on 20-16.

However, Plummer's success still has some of the mainstream media unconvinced the old Plummer will still return. The Broncos are so concerned with their pass blocking that they have Plummer moving out of the pocket to complete the majority of his passes.

Though the Broncos offensive line has been the teams foundation the past decade, this years version is not all that big nor as mobile as past lines. Don't get me wrong what they lack in size, they make up with technique. But teams have yet to put any pressure on Plummer and eventually exposing Plummer outside of the pocket could be damaging to his continual success.

When Plummer played in Arizona he was known for making plays. Creating on the run and at times he kept some defenses off balance. But in Arizona he also had David Boston to bail him out and despite average running backs, Plummer routinely made great decisions than simply stunk up the joint.

That's been the hallmark of his NFL career. Nobody questions his talent but he's NEVER won a big game. Sunday is a big game for Plummer and the Broncos. It might be the most important post John Elway game in franchise history.

The win on Monday Night against the Raiders was big but outside of a magnificent first quarter, the game was a draw. In fact, the Broncos did the same thing against the Chargers. They built a big lead and played out the string. That won't happen in Kansas City even with a healthy Portis in the backfield.

Last December, Jake Plummer brought his Arizona team into Kansas City and the Chiefs defense intercepted him four times. Yes the beloved ‘32' defense. Dead last against the pass and run and they shut him down.

Plummer said this week that he did not remember the game. Please. He wanted to forget it but the Chiefs won't. As they prepare for Sunday's AFC West showdown, they know the key to beating the Broncos at home or on the road is to force Plummer into mistakes.

Plummer in eight NFL seasons has only thrown more touchdowns than interceptions twice in his career. Not counting this year, he last did it in 2001 when he threw 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In his rookie season he threw 15 of each. Other than that, he's been on the down side of the one statistic that separates a great quarterback from a journeyman quarterback.

Statistics are the foundation and blue print for NFL success or failure. They don't lie, they don't cheat, they in fact determine probable outcomes. Maybe Denver Broncos head coach is correct about Plummer. Maybe he'll bring the best out in Plummer on Sunday and for the rest of the season.

But until Plummer wins a big game and backs it up with another big game, Denver fans and Arizona fans who are watching him very closely will always be on guard for the cleats to drop.

With a win on Sunday the Broncos would move atop the AFC West, move to 5-0 on the season and the rest of the NFL might just take notice as to how far Plummer has gone in five weeks.

If he loses against Kansas City, all the critics might ride that bandwagon through week sixteen. A poor performance against Kansas City could spell doom for the Broncos despite their hot 4-0 start.

That's something Plummer and Shanahan have to avoid if they want to get back to the playoffs and prove the decision to give Plummer all that money was money well spent. Fans in Denver are hoping that Plummer is not a reincarnation of Brian Griese. Sunday's game will determine who is right and who is wrong.


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