<
>

Broncos' Cutler outduels Cards' Leinart in rookie battle

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Matt Leinart got the hype and the
Heisman. Jay Cutler might get his NFL team into the playoffs.

The two rookie quarterbacks with big expectations matched up for
the first time on Sunday, and this one went to Cutler and the
Denver Broncos.

He threw two touchdown passes in his first NFL victory, and the
Broncos (8-6) beat Leinart and the Arizona Cardinals 37-20 to snap
a four-game losing streak and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Cutler threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Javon Walker on the
Broncos' third play from scrimmage, then added a 10-yard scoring
pass to Rod Smith in the second half.

"You saw what he could do today," Denver coach Mike Shanahan
said. "It doesn't take a genius out there to figure out this guy
is very composed, can make all the throws, and plays with a lot of
confidence."

In his third start, Cutler completed 21 of 31 passes for 261
yards and was intercepted once.

"Those first two games were kind of rough," Cutler said. "I
wasn't seeing the field as well as I knew I could. Today I felt
comfortable and was seeing the field well."

Leinart was 20-of-35 for 214 yards with no touchdowns and two
interceptions, both by Champ Bailey. Leinart was sacked three times
and hit as he threw on several other occasions.

Leinart was the No. 10 pick in the draft and Cutler No. 11, but
both brushed aside suggestions that Sunday's personal matchup meant
anything.

"It has nothing to do with that. That didn't cross my mind,"
Leinart said. "I wasn't worried about a Matt vs. Jay contest."

A rookie who wasn't drafted at all, Mike Bell, rushed for 61
yards in 16 carries, including a pair of 1-yard TD runs, and Jason
Elam kicked three field goals in Denver's highest-scoring
performance of the season.

"They think they can be a playoff team and they're probably
right," Arizona coach Dennis Green said. "That's what Denver was
today."

It was a big day for Bell, who played high school football in
suburban Phoenix and at the University of Arizona, then made the
Broncos as an undrafted free agent.

"Coming home and being able to do that is just amazing," he
said.

The Cardinals (4-10) had won two straight and three of their
last four, but they were in trouble from the start in their final
home game of the season.

The Broncos outgained Arizona 240 yards to 60 in the first half
with a 14-3 first-down advantage, but led only 16-10 at the break.

The Cardinals had a chance to take the lead when Robert Griffith
intercepted Cutler's pass on the third play of the second half.
Griffith returned it 23 yards to the Denver 28, but Arizona
couldn't move the ball.

A holding penalty against Fred Wakefield negated Neil Rackers'
40-yard field goal, and Rackers then missed from 50.

Denver took over at its 40 and went 60 yards in six plays,
Cutler throwing to Smith for the score to put the Broncos up 23-10.

Bryant Johnson dropped what would have been a touchdown pass on
Arizona's next possession, leaving Rackers to kick a 38-yard field
goal to make it 23-13.

Quincy Morgan returned the subsequent kickoff 64 yards to the
Cardinals' 21. Six plays later -- on the third play of the fourth
quarter -- Bell scored from the 1 and Denver led 30-13.

Leinart's bad day got off to a rotten start. On Arizona's first
play from scrimmage, he was intercepted by Bailey. That led to
Elam's 30-yard field goal to put Denver ahead 10-0 with 8:51 left
in the first quarter.

The Broncos used up 16 minutes on two long first-half drives but
only came away with a pair of field goals.

Denver took nine minutes off the clock on a 17-play, 78-yard
drive that stalled on the Arizona 4, and Elam's 22-yarder boosted
the lead to 13-0.

Rackers' 49-yard field goal made it 13-3.

The Cardinals' first-half touchdown came after coach Dennis
Green challenged a 36-yard pass from Cutler to Smith, who fumbled
out of bounds. After the review, officials said Smith never had
control of the ball and called the pass incomplete.

On the next play, Tatum Bell was stripped of the ball by Chike
Okeafor and Antonio Smith returned it 4 yards for the score to cut
the lead to 13-10 with 7:53 left in the half.

The Broncos then went on a 13-play, 66-yard drive lasting nearly
7 minutes. Mike Bell was stopped for a 2-yard loss on third-and-one
at the 10, and Elam's 30-yard field goal put Denver up 16-10 less
than a minute before the break.

"Offensively we were zero-for-three in the first half in the
red zone," Shanahan said, "then we came back and found a way to
keep our poise and composure and went three-for-three in the second
half."

Game notes
Arizona's Anquan Boldin topped 1,000 yards receiving for
the third time in his four-year NFL career. ... Denver was without
CB Darrent Williams, out with a toe injury. ... Neither Boldin nor
Larry Fitzgerald caught a pass in the first half. ... Rackers
missed a 50-yarder and is 1-7 from 50 yards and beyond this season.
He was 6-for-7 last year.