DENVER (AP) -- With the head coach peering over their shoulders,
Denver defenders responded with their best game of the season.
Mike Shanahan vowed to take a more active role in the defense
after a one-sided loss in Oakland last week, and his hands-on
approach helped produce a 26-16 win over the San Diego Chargers on
How big a difference does having a healthy Terrell Davis make for the Broncos?
It showed today. The Broncos had been struggling in recent weeks running the ball. But Davis gave them a ground game today. He looked strong and explosive to the hole. His running opened things up for quarterback Brian Griese and wide receiver Rod Smith. Davis also caught the ball coming out of the backfield (five catches).
ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.
"I'm only here to help," Shanahan insisted. "We've got a guy
as our defensive coordinator (Ray Rhodes) that I have the utmost
respect for. Just because we were down last week, I felt I could
give the defense some attention and a fresh look. Our defensive
coaches did a great job with the game plan."
The Broncos yielded just 243 total yards and nine first downs --
both season lows.
On the other side of the ball, Brian Griese eyed a wounded San
Diego defense and showed no mercy.
Griese threw two touchdown passes just 39 seconds apart late in
the first half, and the Broncos later overcame moments of
Denver (5-4), moving into a second-place tie with San Diego
(5-4) in the AFC West, capitalized on a sprained left knee
sustained by San Diego's leading tackler, safety Rodney Harrison,
and injuries to linebacker Orlando Ruff (stinger) and cornerback
Alex Molden (left ankle).
The Broncos built a 26-3 lead midway through the third quarter.
San Diego rallied with a long touchdown pass and a fumble recovery
for a touchdown, but Doug Flutie subsequently threw three
Griese completed 21 of 31 passes for 224 yards.
Terrell Davis, playing in his second straight game after a siege
of injuries for two seasons, rushed for 83 yards on 33 carries.
Jason Elam kicked four field goals for the Broncos, who took a
20-0 halftime lead on Griese's two TD throws -- in the final 1:07 of
the first half.
Both passes were to tight ends as Denver was short-handed at
wide receiver when Eddie Kennison was declared inactive for the
game after telling Shanahan he was retiring Saturday night.
Receiver Scottie Montgomery was sidelined with a twisted left knee
in the first half.
"I thought our tight ends and backup receivers did a great
job," Griese said.
San Diego lost Harrison in the first quarter. Kick returner
Ronney Jenkins (sprained neck) and backup running back Terrell
Fletcher (left ankle) also went down with injuries.
"They started faster than we did," Chargers coach Mike Riley
said. "We had absolutely nothing, no edge at the start of the
game. We just were outplayed."
Elam's 25-yard field goal capped Denver's first possession.
Early in the second quarter, Rod Smith turned a short pass into a
32-yard gain, setting up Elam's 29-yarder.
Moments later, San Diego crossed midfield for the only time in
the half, but on third down Flutie was sacked by Trevor Pryce for
an 18-yard loss.
Denver then went 77 yards in nine plays for the game's first
touchdown. Griese's 17-yard pass to Smith set up his 18-yarder to
tight end Desmond Clark in the corner of the end zone with 1:07
left in the half.
San Diego's Reggie Jones fumbled a punt at the Chargers 9,
setting up a Denver field goal early in the third quarter. Jones
atoned himself, returning the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to set up
San Diego's first score, Wade Richey's 29-yard field goal.
Chris Cole's 48-yard kickoff return helped set up Elam's 33-yard
field goal, putting Denver ahead 26-3.
The Broncos, however, looked about to give the game away early
in the fourth quarter. A blown coverage left Curtis Conway wide
open down the middle, and he hauled in Flutie's pass for a 72-yard
Four minutes later, Griese coughed up the ball while being
pressured by linebacker Gerald Dixon, and defensive end Raylee
Johnson lumbered 45 yards with the fumble recovery for a touchdown.
The 2-point conversion failed, and San Diego trailed 26-16 with
Griese became the fastest Denver quarterback to throw 50 TD
passes, doing it in 34 games. John Elway did it in 46 games. ...
Flutie completed 12 of 31 passes for 165 yards and one TD with four
interceptions, a passer rating of 27.7. ... LaDainian Tomlinson,
who ran for 75 yards, had three 100-yard rushing efforts in his
first four games but hasn't had one since. ... San Diego, which won
the first meeting with the Broncos 27-10 three weeks ago, hasn't
swept the annual two-game series since 1982.
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