Broncos desperate after top two quarterbacks go down

Updated: October 20, 2003, 6:41 PM ET

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos sure hope Jake Plummer is a quick healer.

Plummer will miss at least three more weeks with a broken foot, Steve Beuerlein went out with a broken finger and the only healthy quarterback hasn't started an NFL game in nearly three years.

It's hard to imagine a 5-2 team being desperate, but that's just where the Broncos stand after Sunday's 28-20 loss to Minnesota.

"I know everybody's antsy, and by Denver Broncos standards everybody's like, 'It's time to panic'," strong safety Nick Ferguson said Monday. "No. It's not time to panic. Now's the time to come together."

But it won't be easy.

The Broncos lost Beuerlein in the third quarter of Sunday's game and finished one injury away from having receiver Rod Smith fill in at quarterback.

Denver also was without linebacker Ian Gold, who's out for the season with a knee injury, and left tackle Ephraim Salaam will likely miss the next two games due to knee surgery.

The injuries are piling up and the schedule doesn't get any easier with Baltimore on Sunday and New England the following week.

"You're going to have some starters go down," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "If you're lucky, you don't have that happen. But if it does happen, these guys have to step up and play at a certain level."

Beuerlein certainly didn't after replacing Plummer. He showed plenty of rust early against Pittsburgh last week before coming through on the final drive of Denver's last-second win.

Against the Vikings, Beuerlein was immobile and ineffective early and never got better. He was sacked five times, threw three interceptions -- one returned for a touchdown -- and looked more like a rookie than a 17-year veteran. Beuerlein was 9-for-19 for 119 yards and had a quarterback rating of 28.1 before breaking his pinkie in the third quarter.

"No one player loses a ballgame, but it looked like I was trying to out there," said Beuerlein, who's expected to miss up to five weeks. "This was a bad day and I feel like I let everybody down."

As for Danny Kanell, he looked like he had never left the NFL.

He led the Broncos on two scoring drives and had them moving again before the final drive stalled, finishing 12-for-18 for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Not bad for someone cut before the season who had been coaching at his high school when the Broncos brought him back.

"He played with a lot confidence in the game and we expect him to go in and do the job for us," Shanahan said.

But the Broncos don't have much of a choice.

Denver is expected to bring back Jarious Jackson, but he couldn't move up from the third spot in three seasons with Denver. Shanahan said he also plans to bring in two or three others during the week, but Kanell's experience and knowledge of Denver's system make him the obvious choice until Plummer comes back.

It's just been a long time since he's been in this position.

Kanell was the New York Giants' starter for two years, but played a year of minor league baseball and another in the Arena League before signing with Denver in the offseason.

He made the team as Denver's third quarterback out of training camp, was cut the next day, then re-signed after Plummer injured his shoulder against San Diego in Week 2.

So Denver's hopes rely on someone who started the season coaching his high school in Florida.

"It's been a while. In some ways I feel like a rookie again, but in other ways I've been in this situation and I know I can handle it," Kanell said. "I feel comfortable and confident that these coaches are going to put me in a situation where I can succeed."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index