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Plummer jump-starts Denver without Portis

9/28/2003

DENVER (AP) -- Coming off a win over Oakland and with a trip to
Kansas City next on the schedule, Denver was due for a letdown
against Detroit.

It happened -- of course -- but the Broncos still found a way to
win thanks to Jake Plummer.

Question on the Lions: Can the Lions keep the ground game going?
Yes. The Lions have shown a dedication to the run and have enough of a passing offense to support it. The Lions are another example of a team that's young and needs to play ball-control offense to stay in games. They know if they're able to accomplish that, they'll be able to win.

Question on the Broncos: Did the Broncos sit Portis looking ahead to next week's game against K.C.?
No. I think the Broncos sat Portis because of a legitimate injury. To use the old axiom: On any given Sunday, any team can win. NFL teams know that and abide by it. The Broncos wouldn't waste a game this early in the season.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Plummer completed 16 straight passes in the first half and threw
for two touchdowns as the Broncos held on to beat the Lions 20-16
Sunday for coach Mike Shanahan's 100th career win.

"I think he responded well to the pressure," Broncos running
back Mike Anderson said. "You can tell he's a guy who is getting
more and more comfortable with this system. He's starting to really
get it."

Even with running back Clinton Portis out with a bruised chest,
the Broncos figured to have an easy time with Detroit, which hadn't
won on the road in nearly three years

Yeah, right.

With a second rivalry game in three weeks just over the horizon,
the Broncos played like they were looking ahead. Denver had just 79
yards rushing, 136 total yards in the second half and let the Lions
hang around until the end.

It wasn't until Joey Harrington's fourth-and-10 pass from
Detroit's 32-yard line fell incomplete that the Broncos secured
their fifth 4-0 start in team history.

The good news for Denver is that it went to the Super Bowl the
other four times, including 1998 after a 13-0 start.

"It's scary because you only have to have one or two guys who
are off their game a little bit and all of a sudden it's a dogfight
just like it was today," Shanahan said.

Plummer picked up where he left off last week against the
Raiders.

He had his first pass broken up, but didn't miss again until
overthrowing Reuben Droughns on the first play of the third
quarter. He 16-for-17 for 185 yards at halftime, with touchdown
passes to Ashley Lelie and Shannon Sharpe.

Plummer also recovered two fumbles -- one was his own -- and was
the lead blocker on a double reverse in the first quarter. About
the only mistake he made was fumbling in the second quarter while
diving for a first down.

Plummer finished 25-for-34 for 277 yards.

"He's that guy, that added dimension that an athletic
quarterback gives an offense," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said.

Harrington matched Plummer's two touchdowns after having none in
the previous two games, but he wasn't exactly sharp. With tape
holding his fingers together, he finished 15-for-33 for 149 yards
and missed badly on some of his attempts.

"I just missed some, rushed some," said Harrington, who
dislocated a finger last week against Minnesota. "It's a good
football team and they force you to do some things that you don't
necessarily want to do."

Still, the Lions kept it close.

Denver took a 17-10 lead on Jason Elam's 37-yard field goal late
in the third quarter, but Detroit answered with a 43-yard touchdown
pass from Harrington to Scotty Anderson to start the fourth.

Jason Hanson had to pull up on the point-after attempt because
of a low snap, and Hanson had to pull up, leaving Denver in the
lead.

Elam made it 20-16 on a 41-yard field goal with 3:13 left.

Detroit started its final drive at the 20-yard line, but
couldn't reach midfield. The Lions haven't won away from home since
Dec. 17, 2000, against the New York Jets, a span of 18 games.

"I think we grew up a little bit today," Mariucci said. "We
have more growing up to do, obviously, but I think we learned
something today -- that if we play as well as we can, we can beat
some teams."

Denver won its first three games by dominating early, outscoring
opponents 68-13 in the first half.

Not this time.

Detroit gave the Broncos their first deficit of the season
midway through the first quarter, when Harrington hit Charles
Rogers on a 33-yard touchdown pass.

Denver didn't take long to answer.

The Broncos moved 80 yards in nine plays on the next drive,
tying the game on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Plummer to Lelie.

Plummer followed with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Sharpe -- his
12th straight completion -- on the next drive to put the Broncos up
14-7.

"Sometimes you've got to find a way to win games like this,"
said Sharpe, who passed James Lofton for 10th place all-time with
766 career receptions. "They found a way to hang around and almost
win a ballgame, but we found a way to win at the end."

Hanson made 14-10 with a 53-yard field goal midway through the
second quarter. It was his 23rd from beyond 50 yards, one more than
Nick Lowery for third in league history.

Game notes
Denver played without strong safety Kenoy Kennedy, who
sprained his left ankle last week against Oakland. ... The Lions
were without WR/KR Eddie Drummond, who suffered ankle and knee
injuries last week. ... Plummer's previous best for consecutive
completions was 15, set Nov. 8, 1998 against Washington while he
was playing for Arizona. ... Elam has made 14 straight field goals,
including nine this season. ... Hanson's missed PAT ended a streak
of 119 straight.