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Broncos buck Raiders

Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2003

DENVER Jake Plummer no longer has to be a pretend John Elway. He's already had a game that rivaled the master.

Plummer threw two first-quarter touchdown passes and ran for another score Monday night as Denver improved its unbeaten record by routing Oakland 31-10. He also broke one of Elway's team records with a 40-yard scramble that set up a field goal. Elway's longest run of his 16-year career was 34 yards.

''That was a lot of fun,'' said Plummer, who spent his first six seasons with an Arizona team that was almost always weak. ''I've had a lot of fun in the past, but the games didn't always come out the way I hoped they would.''

This game did.

It was all but over by the end of a first period in which the Broncos (3-0) took a 21-0 lead, outgaining the Raiders 170 yards to seven and scoring on all three of their possessions.

The scores came on an 18-yard pass from Plummer to Shannon Sharpe; a 44-yard pass to Ashley Lelie and a 6-yard scramble set up by another 44-yard pass to Lelie. The first TD was a short flip, but the two long setup strikes were proof that the right shoulder that Plummer separated in San Diego last week is healthy.

''There's always room for improvement nobody can be perfect,'' Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. ''But I thought Jake did a great job. He made some great moves out of the pocket. He made the big plays when we needed them.''

Said Oakland coach Bill Callahan: ''Our offense put the defense in a bad spot by going three and out three times.''

Plummer, signed in the offseason, has been considered by some Denver fans to be the next Elway, although his career with the Cardinals hardly portends that. He had 90 TDs and 114 interceptions in the desert, and his career passer rating of 69.1 was decidedly mediocre.

But on this night he was a reasonable facsimile, especially on the 40-yard scamper in which he evaded a rush, cut through a hole and ran out of bounds at the Oakland 15. He finished 14-of-21 for 197 yards and ran five times for 48 yards, then summed up the difference in teams by saying: ''It's great to be 3-0.''

He got help from Clinton Portis, who had 43 yards rushing when he left in the second quarter with a sore chest. The defense chipped in with five sacks, 2 1/2 by Bertrand Berry and two by Reggie Hayward, and later held the Raiders on the 10 after they threatened to cut the lead to 14 points after a blocked punt with 11 minutes left.

''We have a lot to fix,'' said former Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski, one of five Oakland starters age 37 or over. ''For every finger you have pointing at somebody, you have four pointing back at yourself. Everybody has to pick their game up.''

Portis returned in the fourth quarter after the Broncos announced that he was being held out of the game on a ''coach's decision.'' That was a tactful way to avoid the problems of last week when Shanahan said after the game that the ''concussion'' that caused Plummer to leave in the second quarter was really a slightly separated shoulder.

Shanahan said he had ''fibbed'' because he didn't want the Chargers to know Plummer couldn't throw if he had to re-enter the game.

Mike Anderson, who moved from fullback to tailback, finished with 14 carries for 70 yards, including a 44-yard run that set up his 1-yard TD run in the third quarter that made it 31-0. That came seven minutes before Oakland (1-2) finally got on the board on a 4-yard run by Zack Crockett at the end of an 80-yard drive.

Sebastian Janikowski, arrested in a bar fight last Saturday night, kicked a 41-yard fourth-quarter field goal that made it 34-10.

The game was payback for the Broncos, who lost twice to the Raiders last season, including a Monday night game here won by Oakland 34-10 when the Broncos were 6-2 and the Raiders 4-4 and on a four-game losing streak. It turned around the season for both teams the Broncos missed the playoffs, and Oakland lost only one game on the way to the AFC championship.

Notes: Oakland's Rod Smith was ejected in the second quarter for throwing a punch aimed at an Oakland player that hit umpire Undrey Wash. ... Oakland safety Rod Woodson returned two weeks after injuring his knee against Tennessee. He was expected to be out longer. ... Denver safety Kenoy Kennedy left in the third quarter with a twisted left ankle. ... Oakland's Jerry Rice extended his NFL record string of consecutive games with a reception to 260, and teammate Tim Brown extended his to 160.



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