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Broncos have 227 yards rushing

12/22/2003

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Clinton Portis just knew his teammates would
take Denver into the playoffs.

Quentin Griffin, Mike Anderson and Jake Plummer didn't
disappoint.

With an injured Portis cheering from the sideline, Griffin ran
for 136 yards, Anderson added 56 yards and a touchdown and Plummer
ran for two scores as the Broncos' pounded Indianapolis 31-17.

"I think I'm playing for my job," Portis joked. "These guys
went out and played great."

It was the Broncos' fourth straight victory and completed what
seemed an improbable playoff run just a month ago when they were
just 6-5. Denver (10-5) will make its first playoff appearance
since 2000 and just its second since John Elway retired following
the 1998 season.

For the Colts (11-4), it was a gut-wrenching loss. They could
have wrapped up the AFC South title at home and put themselves in
position for a first-round bye.

Indianapolis still can win the division next week, with a win at
Houston or a Tennessee loss, but will have to play in the first
round because New England (13-2) will have a better overall record
and Kansas City (12-3) is guaranteed of a better conference record.

If Sunday's game was any indication, the Colts could be in for
another long day.

"We have to look at that because it looks like there's a good
chance we could play these guys down the road," Colts coach Tony
Dungy said. "We're going to have to see how we can play them the
next time."

Denver ran nearly twice as many plays as the Colts, 71-37,
produced 227 yards on the ground and held the ball for 44:58 -- even
without Portis, the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,591 yards.
Portis was inactive after spraining his right knee and ankle last
week against Cleveland.

But he was a part of the action. Wearing orange shoes, orange
and white gloves and a baseball cap, Portis constantly prodded his
teammates.

Anderson, the 2000 offensive rookie of the year, was the Broncos
power runner, Griffin the speedster and Plummer the trickster as he
scrambled effectively and gained yardage of quarterback draws.

"We were just going to try to change it up," coach Mike
Shanahan said. "The second half, we had the lead, so we tried to
control the clock some."

The Colts had no answers.

Griffin averaged nearly five yards on his 28 carries, Anderson
continually ran through tackles and the Colts' defense couldn't get
off the field.

"We knew they were going to come in here and try to run the
ball, and we were trying to stop them," linebacker Gary Brackett
said. "They were the better team."

Indianapolis' offense also struggled.

It never had a sustained drive in the second half and spent most
of the night watching.

While Peyton Manning became the first NFL quarterback to pass
for 4,000 yards in five straight seasons, Marvin Harrison became
the league's 21st player to top 10,000 yards receiving and kicker
Mike Vanderjagt moved within one kick of tying Gary Anderson's
record for most consecutive field goals, it was still one of the
Colts' poorest performances of the season.

Manning completed just 12 of 23 passes for 146 yards and
Harrison had six catches for 85 yards. Edgerrin James carried 10
times for 42 yards.

The results showed.

After Brackett picked off Plummer's first pass of the game and
ran it back 31 yards for a touchdown, it was all Broncos.

Plummer hooked up with Ashley Lelie for a 60-yard completion on
the next series.

"We wanted to challenge them early," Shanahan said. "It was a
big-time throw and a big-time catch."

Five plays later, Anderson plowed in from the 2 to tie it. Lelie
had five catches for 115 yards, while Plummer completed 14 of 17
for 238 yards.

The Broncos took the lead on a nifty 6-yard run by Plummer, who
dived across the goal line to make it 14-7.

After Indianapolis tied it on James' 16-yard run, Denver used
nearly eight minutes before Plummer took it in from 1 for a 21-14
lead.

Plummer's 15-yard TD pass to Rod Smith made it 28-14 and Denver
sealed the game with a 9:34 drive that ended with Jason Elam's
24-yard field goal.

"This is big," Griffin said. "Getting into the playoffs and
helping the team get their especially. I had to be ready."

Game notes
Tight end Shannon Sharpe caught two passes to move past
Henry Ellard and into ninth on the career receptions list. Sharpe
has 815 catches. ... The Colts moved within three points of
breaking their single-season scoring record. They have 427 points
this year. They scored 429 in 2000. ... Vanderjagt broke his own
single-season scoring record with an extra point in the second
quarter. He has 149 points this year. .. Denver blocked its first
punt since Oct. 20, 2002.