Game Snapshot: Broncos - Chiefs

<b>Denver Broncos</b> (3-0) at <b> Kansas City Chiefs</b> (4-0)<br> <b> GAME SNAPSHOT</b><br><b>KICKOFF: </b> Sunday, 1:00 ET<br> <b>GAMEDATE: </b> 10/05/03<br><b> SURFACE:</b> Grass<br> <b> TV: </b> CBS, Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross<br><br> <b> SERIES: </b> 86th meeting (regular season). The Chiefs lead 48-37 in regular-season games, but Denver swept the season series last year, winning 37-34 in overtime at Arrowhead. Chiefs have won three of last four regular-season meetings at Arrowhead.

2003 RANKINGS: Broncos: offense 7th (2nd rush, 25th pass); defense 4th (8th rush, 9th pass). Chiefs: offense 9th (5th rush, 23rd pass); defense 18th (20th rush, 13th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Tackling will be at a premium against two offenses with big-play potential all over the field. Broncos RB Clinton Portis (sternum) is expected to play and had 205 total yards in his last game against the Chiefs. Kansas City revamped its defense in the offseason, and this is its first real test against a high-powered balanced attacked. RB Priest Holmes is always to focus of the Chiefs' offense, but they also want to spread the ball around and test Denver's shaky pass defense. Kansas City's Dante Hall has returned a kick for a touchdown in an NFL-record three consecutive games.

FAST FACTS: Broncos: QB Jake Plummer has passer ratings of 129.5, 128.5 and 116.9 the past three games. No Denver quarterback has ever posted passer ratings of at least 116.9 in three consecutive games. ... TE Shannon Sharpe is 10th in NFL history with 766 receptions. Chiefs: Are trying to improve to 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. ... The team is 7-3 at home against Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

PREDICTED SCORE: Chiefs 27, Broncos 24


RB Clinton Portis practiced in pads, and went through contact in 9-on-7 drills. He reported feeling fine afterward, and unless he wakes up Friday feeling a great deal of soreness, he should be back in the starting lineup Sunday against KC.

SS Kenoy Kennedy practiced with the first team Thursday and Shanahan said he looked much improved. That's an indication that Kennedy should start barring any setbacks the rest of the week

DT Daryl Gardener was supposed to get a lot of contact work in Thursday. Instead coaches sent him home with the flu, and now Gardener is in danger of missing his fifth game. He has been trying to come back from a wrist injury, but after experiencing a fever, missed even more valuable practice time.

C Tom Nalen did not practice again Thursday, but he has been walking around on the sprained ankle, gingerly. He continues to receive rehab, and is still holding out hope that he can suit up Sunday.

QB Jake Plummer was probably more sore this week than he has been most of the year after being sacked three times vs. Detroit, but that didn't slow him down in practice Thursday. He took his normal reps and is ready to go for Sunday.

RB Priest Holmes practiced all week and is feeling good heading into Sunday's matchup with Denver. Holmes missed a day of practice with a sore hip flexor muscle last week but was effective against the Ravens and came away with no new injuries. Holmes is listed as probable on the injury report.

CB William Bartee (ankle) returned to practice this week but is expected to miss his fifth straight game. Bartee, who opened training camp as a starter, may be in a fight to win back his old job. Dexter McCleon, who was signed in the offseason, has three interceptions and has not been beaten deep this season despite giving up inches to some of the league's taller receivers. Last week, Baltimore tried to attack the 5-10 McCleon with 6-5 Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap but McCleon came away with an interception on one deep pass and walled Heap off long enough for safety Greg Wesley to make an interception on another.

RB Larry Johnson, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick, has expressed frustration over his role as the third string back behind Holmes and Derrick Blaylock but he shouldn't expect anything to change anytime soon. Johnson has been active for only one game and has not yet vaulted over Blaylock on the depth chart. Blaylock is valuable because he's a solid special teams player. In fact, he helped spring Hall's touchdown return against Baltimore with a key block.

DE Vonnie Holliday has been hampered by a sore groin all week but will play against Denver. Holliday is listed as questionable.

CB Darrius Johnson has been re-signed to the roster as a boost to special teams. Johnson, who played primarily on special teams in four seasons at Denver, went to camp with the team but was hampered throughout with hamstring problems and was released. Johnson replaces cornerback Corey Harris, who was released.


Clinton Portis answered any question coach Mike Shanahan had about his health on Thursday when he went through an entire practice in pads.

"He went through 9-on-7 and had some contact obviously, and said he felt pretty good. So he should be ready to go unless something happens (Friday)," Shanahan said.

Portis sat out Sunday's game against Detroit because of a bruised chest wall and chest cavity. He worried that it might be something that lingered.

But judging from his actions Thursday, he was feeling pretty good, and admitted as much before practice.

Last weekend, however, wasn't much fun.

"It was tough watching the game," Portis said of standing in sweats on the sideline. "I'm glad we came out with a win. Jake (Plummer) stepped up. Mike (Anderson) stepped up. Everybody stepped up and picked up their game a notch just to come out with a win.

"Being that I'm back hopefully we don't have any more setbacks and hopefully we can get back to blowing people out."

With Portis in the starting lineup, the Broncos' margin of victory was nearly 22 points. Last week, Denver won by just four.

The smallest guy on the Kansas City roster has been responsible for most of the buzz this week as the 4-0 Chiefs prepare to face the 4-0 Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.

Wide receiver/return specialist Dante Hall made history last week when he returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the Chiefs' 17-10 win at Baltimore. Hall became the first player in NFL history to return a kick or punt for a touchdown in three straight games.

The 5-foot-8, 187-pound Hall has returned six kickoffs or punts for touchdowns in the last nine games. But the Broncos have other reasons to fear Hall. In the Chiefs' 31-24 loss at Denver last Dec. 15, Hall had thrilling touchdown receptions of 49 and 75 yards. On the 49-yarder which Denver head coach Mike Shanahan called the best catch and run he's seen in his NFL coaching career Hall juked a handful of Denver defenders on a zig-zagging play that made all of the weekly highlight reels.

The key thing about Hall's return skills has been timing. Hall's 100-yard kickoff return against Pittsburgh came with the Chiefs' trailing 10-0 and sparked the Chiefs' 41-20 win. His 73-yard punt return for a score put the finishing touches on the Chiefs' 42-14 win at Houston and his 97-yard kickoff return for a score at Baltimore snapped a 10-10 tie and provided Kansas City with the game winning points with five minutes remaining.

Hall leads the NFL in kick return yardage (35.5 yards per return) and leads the AFC in punt return yardage (17.1). With three returns for touchdowns this season, he needs only two more to set a single-season record. The current record of four is shared by seven players, most recently Denver's Rick Upchurch.

The scary thing for upcoming opponents is that coach Dick Vermeil thinks Hall is just getting started.

"I'm going to tell you this," Vermeil said. "You'll see a better return for a touchdown than you've seen. You'll see him take one that's all broken down, somebody misses a guy, this guy misses, and, all of a sudden, boom. Not everybody can do it but he can."

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