Shanahan pulled out all the tricks

The Broncos tried a little bit of everything on offense, even running a few plays out of the Wishbone formation.

Updated: October 5, 2003, 9:19 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

KANSAS CITY -- The Chiefs defense knew Mike Shanahan would try to baffle them. He always does. Chiefs defensive coordinator Greg Robinson knows to expect the worst because Shanahan had Robinson as his defensive coordinator when the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls.

Shanahan might have created the ultimate surprise during Sunday's 24-23 loss to the Chiefs in Arrowhead. The Broncos led, 13-10, at the half, and came of the locker room running the football. Clinton Portis gained three and six yards. No surprise there.

But on third-and-1 at the Broncos 35, Shanahan went into a Wishbone formation. Portis was in the back of the Wishbone. Tight end Patrick Hape and fullback Reuben Droughns were flanked ahead of him.

Chiefs defenders didn't know where to line up and one defender was caught on the wrong side of the field. Portis took advantage of that confusion and broke a 65-yard touchdown run that opened a 20-10 lead for Denver.

"With Denver, every week they do a little something different," Chiefs linebacker Shawn Barber said. "Mike Shanahan has about 16 wrinkles in his offense at the beginning of the season. He's going to throw in new wrinkles every week. You've got to just adjust. When you see it the first series, you've got to go out there, come to the sidelines and make an adjustment."

Shanahan unloaded a whole bag of tricks Sunday. On the second offensive series, Shanahan called for a reverse involving Portis and wide receiver Rod Smith. Smith then rolled out and hit Portis in the open field with a pass. Portis ran 72 yards to the Chiefs 8-yard line, and two plays later, Jake Plummer hit tight end Dwayne Carswell with a 6-yard touchdown.

"They did wide receiver reverses, rollback screen deep-ball passes and a wide receiver screens," Barber said. "There was a lot of trickery going on."

The Wishbone play was very intriguing. He tried it five more times in the third quarter and was having success running the ball. Portis rushed four times for nine yards and Mike Anderson gained five more out of the Wishbone.

But trickery can only take you so far. In the fourth quarter, going conventional from the Chiefs 2-yard line on second and third down, the Broncos tried two handoffs to Portis. Mike Maslowski and Eric Warfield made one stop. On third down, defensive tackle John Browning broke through the middle of blocking and made a stop.

The Broncos had to settle for a field goal, and the Chiefs came back later with a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown by Dante Hall to win the game.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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