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Bell has big game, but hurts shoulder

DENVER (AP) -- Jake Plummer went to the bench after a bad
interception and flashed an obscene gesture toward a jeering fan in
his home crowd. It was hardly what you'd expect from a winning
quarterback, but this was hardly a feel-good win for the Denver
Broncos.

Backup tailback Tatum Bell ran for 123 yards and Jason Elam
kicked a 50-yard field goal with 2:50 left Sunday to help the
Broncos overcome Plummer's two interceptions and eke out a
less-than-satisfying 20-17 victory over the woeful Miami Dolphins.

"We fought," was about the best thing Denver coach Mike
Shanahan could say about the win. "We just had to keep on fighting
until you get it done, and that is what I was proud of."

Bell replaced fumble-prone Reuben Droughns early in the game and
ran for two scores, but in the third quarter, Bell left with a
sprained shoulder that could end his season. That forced Droughns
back into the backfield after he had fumbled twice -- losing one --
on his first four carries.

Despite the injuries, the fumbles and Plummer's mediocre
performance, the Broncos (8-5) snapped a two-game losing streak and
kept pace with Baltimore for the AFC's final wild-card spot. They
stayed two games behind San Diego in the AFC West.

"We definitely needed that game to get some confidence back,
get some swagger back," Elam said. "It helps us feel good about
ourselves."

Really?

Plummer's first interception was greeted by boos -- not the first
time the embattled quarterback has heard them in his season-plus in
Denver. He responded by reaching his hand behind his head and
making an obscene gesture to a fan after he sat down on the bench.
The scene was caught by TV cameras.

"One guy got into my head a little bit, it shouldn't be that
way," Plummer said. "I'm an emotional guy. I apologize. ... I
would never direct that at our fans. We have the greatest fans in
the league."

It was that kind of day for the Broncos, who stayed in the
playoff hunt but hardly looked like a team that can hand Shanahan
his first playoff victory since the 1998 Super Bowl.

The lowly Dolphins (2-11) took this game to the wire, and didn't
bow out until A.J. Feeley threw incomplete to Derrius Thompson on
fourth-and-3 with 1:59 left -- a play on which Broncos corner Kelly
Herndon appeared to be draped all over Thompson before the ball
arrived.

"We should have had the catch," Miami coach Jim Bates said.
"The guy was wrapped on his back. The ball was thrown right
there."

Coming into the game, Denver got a good taste of the kind of
turmoil Miami has battled all season. With inaccurate rumors
swirling about a possible move to Notre Dame, Shanahan spent much
of the week fielding questions about his future in Denver. The
coach also was forced to defend Plummer against an unexpected
attack from former Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe.

Sharpe said Plummer was a mediocre quarterback who wouldn't
amount to much more, and on this day he was right. Plummer finished
16-of-30 for 219 yards and his two interceptions were both bad. The
first -- the one that led to the obscene gesture -- went to Jay
Williams, the fourth defensive lineman to intercept him this
season.

The second went to Sammy Knight on an ill-advised pass with the
game tied at 17 and the Broncos driving.

"That was a dumb throw at that point in the game," Plummer
said. "It was a play I shouldn't have tried to make."

Denver held after the interception and Droughns ran 21 yards to
set up Elam's winning field goal.

Droughns finished with 62 yards to surpass the 1,000-yard mark
for the season, but he hardly looked like the confident back who
took over when Quentin Griffin caught the fumbling bug earlier this
season.

Now, it's Droughns who has the bug, and after the second of his
two fumbles, Shanahan showed no inkling of wanting to put him back
in. Bell's shoulder injury is serious -- a third-degree sprain -- and
it should be interesting to gauge Droughns' confidence over the
upcoming week.

"Obviously, it's going to be frustrating," fullback Kyle
Johnson said. "But he battled back beautifully and finished up
strong."

Game notes
Miami FB Rob Konrad left in the first quarter with an
injured back. ... The Broncos lost DBs Roc Alexander (knee) and
Willie Middlebrooks (leg). ... This was Denver's first
regular-season win over Miami since 1968. ... Bell joined Griffin
and Droughns as Denver's third 100-yard rusher this season. The
last time Denver had three was in 1995: Terrell Davis, Glyn Milburn
and Aaron Craver.