Third-stringer Kanell gets the call

Updated: October 19, 2003, 7:24 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- His right hand wrapped in a cast, Broncos quarterback Steve Beuerlein had trouble even tying his shoes after Denver's 28-20 loss to the Vikings on Sunday.

During the game, Beuerlein had difficulty doing just about everything else, too.

Subbing for an injured Jake Plummer, Beuerlein was harassed all afternoon by the Vikings' defense before being knocked out in the third quarter with a dislocated finger on his throwing hand.

He was 9-for-19 for 119 yards and three interceptions. His passer rating was an anemic 28.1.

"No one player loses a game, but I sure felt like I was trying to," said Beuerlein, a 17-year veteran. "I let everybody down."

Third-stringer Danny Kanell, who last played for Atlanta in 2000 and spent the last two years out of football, directed a fourth-quarter comeback that pulled the Broncos within eight. They had first-and-10 at the Minnesota 30 with 1:30 remaining, but the drive stalled.

The Broncos (5-2) are now 1½ games behind Kansas City, which plays Oakland on Monday night.

Beuerlein's first interception came late in the first quarter, when his pass intended for Rod Smith was picked off by Vikings free safety Brian Russell in the middle of the field. Russell caught the ball at the Vikings 5-yard line.

Beuerlein's second interception, like the first one, was fielded with no Denver receivers near the ball. Strong safety Corey Chavous grabbed it at Minnesota's 21 midway through in the second quarter.

Neither of those miscues led to any Vikings points, but Beuerlein's third turnover was costly.

With Denver trailing 21-7 in the third quarter, Beuerlein was picked off by Vikings defensive end Lance Johnstone, who returned the ball 33 yards for a backbreaking score. Johnstone, who dropped back in coverage, said he read Beuerlein's eyes.

"I think us getting to him early kind of got him out his rhythm," Johnstone said, referring to the Vikings' blitz-happy first half.

Kanell went 12-for-18 for 104 yards and a touchdown.

"Given the way I played, it was probably better to have Danny in there anyway," Beuerlein said.

Kanell will be the Broncos' starting quarterback next week against Baltimore. With Beuerlein expected to be out 3-4 weeks and Plummer out least another three, Denver will search the free-agent market for a quarterback this week.

Kanell played in the Arena Football League in 2002. He played minor-league baseball in 2001 for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League. He has 22 career starts in six NFL seasons, including 10 with the New York Giants in both the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

"I sent a letter to the Vikings and about 15 other teams before the season," Kanell said. "They wrote me back and said they were sorry, but their coaching staff is full right now."

For now, Denver's season rests on a quarterback who everyone assumed was finished before the season.

"It's kind of crazy the way things have worked," Kanell said. "But I'm grateful to this organization for taking a chance on me, and I'll do my best to help this team win games."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press