DENVER (AP) -- The debate around Denver will be sweet, mainly
because the Broncos won.
Or does Champ Bailey deserve the credit for salvaging Denver
from a debacle of a first half that had Broncos fans booing?
Dayne came off the bench and ran six times for 38 yards in the
drive that set up Jason Elam's game-winning 41-yard field goal with
5 seconds left.
Bailey, meanwhile, opened the third quarter with a 25-yard
interception return for a score that started the rally, cutting
Denver's 11-point halftime deficit to 14-10.
"Champ Bailey won the game. Let's call it like it is,"
defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "It shows how one play can make
such a big difference."
Sparked by that play, the Broncos allowed San Diego's offense
only 41 yards in the second half, thus avoiding an 0-2 start that
would have put them, as Pryce put it, "so far behind the 8-ball,
we would've been behind the pool table."
Dayne, meanwhile, was a surprise star -- coming off the bench
after spending the first game on the inactive list and most of this
one watching Mike Anderson run.
On the winning drive, Dayne ran for 13, 8, 3, 3 and 1 yards.
Then, on fourth-and-1 from the San Diego 33, he took a pitch around
left end for 10 to set up Elam's kick.
"It was a no-brainer to me, and our confidence level was
there," coach Mike Shanahan said of the fourth-down gamble.
"There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to go for it."
Asked how many times he was given the chance to come through big
in his five disappointing seasons with the Giants, the 1999 Heisman
Trophy winner paused for a moment.
"Probably never," Dayne said.
While the Broncos celebrated a win, the Chargers fell to 0-2 and
lost for the 10th time in their last 11 games in Denver. This one
came on the heels of a tough 28-24 loss last week to the Cowboys.
"We have to finish games better," coach Marty Schottenheimer
The loss spoiled a record-setting day for LaDainian Tomlinson,
who ran for both San Diego scores in the second quarter.
The first gave Tomlinson the NFL record with a rushing touchdown
in 14 straight games. The second gave the Chargers a 14-3 lead and
a few minutes later, the Broncos headed into halftime being
showered by boos.
"They made some great adjustments in the second half,"
Tomlinson said. "We obviously didn't do a good enough job in
After Bailey's pick, defense and special teams kept the Broncos
in great field position through the third quarter, but the offense
struggled and Elam missed a pair of 53-yard field-goal attempts.
Midway in the fourth quarter, Broncos rookie Darrent Williams
burst through untouched on a punt return for what looked like a
touchdown. But the Broncos were penalized for too many men on the
field, the result of players running off the sideline to celebrate
before Williams reached the end zone.
"I've paid enough money to the National Football League without
getting into that," Shanahan said of the call. "I don't want to
be fined anymore."
The Broncos staved off major embarrassment by scoring on that
drive to go ahead 17-14 and the Chargers answered with a field goal
-- their only decent drive of the second half -- that tied the score
and set things up for Dayne.
He was viewed as a longshot to make the roster, almost an
afterthought in a training camp that included Maurice Clarett and
Jerry Rice. And even when Dayne made the team, questions persisted
when Shanahan made him inactive for Denver's 34-10 loss to Miami on
On Sunday, though, he was suited up and did some damage after
spending most of the game watching Anderson -- who came back after
hurting his ribs last week -- get held to 49 yards on 15 carries.
"I was just happy to get the opportunity to play, and to help
my team win," Dayne said.
Bailey felt the same way. He dislocated his shoulder last week,
but came back and led a defense that held Drew Brees to 175 yards
and Tomlinson to 52 yards rushing and no receptions.
"We've got a great defense, a great front-seven," Bailey said.
"There's no way we shouldn't play the way we did in the second
half every week."
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