The NFL cliché, a true one, is that a pass rush is the best pass defense; but when the Kansas City Chiefs rushed Plummer Sunday night, they didn't get there often enough in a game the Broncos won from their archrivals, 34-24.
The Broncos also confused the Kansas City defense with their running game, which on most big plays was based on what they call "reach" blocking. On reach plays, Denver's offensive linemen all rolled left or right at the same time, and when the Chiefs shifted with them — struggling to hold their defensive positions on the move — Bronco blockers reached some of them in time to open ample gaps for their new little running back, Quentin Griffin.
As Griffin and other Denver ballcarriers sprinted one way, Plummer sprinted the other way — sometimes with the ball, sometimes without — meaning that on a typical play he and Griffin were confronting the Kansas City defense from two directions at once. In his first start replacing Portis, the 5-7, 200-lb. Griffin gained 156 yards in 23 carries by comparison with Priest Holmes' 151 in 26 for Kansas City.
Shanahan during his Denver career has always employed highly respected running backs — from Terrell Davis to Portis to, now, Griffin, a clever, quick sprinter who obviously has much strength for his size. It gets more certain every year that it is Shanahan, not Portis or the other running backs he's had in Denver, piling up the ground-game yardage against the run blitz and the many other ploys conceived by NFL defensive coaches.
Broncos Win Bailey-for-Portis Trade
In the big trade of the year — offensive star Portis to Washington, defensive star Champ Bailey to Denver — the Broncos have stolen Bailey, their new shutdown cornerback. That in any case is the Week 1 judgment.
Portis in his Denver career ran the ball well for Shanahan, but who doesn't? On the Redskin team, he isn't rugged enough to be the every-down back Gibbs covets. On the Bronco team, Bailey fills a need that almost every NFL team has: the rare ability to single-handedly shut down any NFL wide receiver.
More than that, Bailey, on important occasions, was assigned to a tight end Sunday night and shut down Tony Gonzales, a Pro Bowl regular who is often called the best tight end in the league. Even more than that, Bailey played some offense and would like to play more.
The Broncos seemed stronger than advertised in most phases of football, notably on pass offense and defense. Their best receiver, Rod Smith, is still at the peak of his game, and Ashley Lelie finally seems to be getting the hang.
The Chiefs, however, competed strongly in total yards (with 318 to Denver's 413) and in touchdowns (with three to Denver's four) though not in big plays. The Broncos' little scooter, Griffin, a 2003 fourth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, slithered away on touchdown runs of 25 and 47 yards. And in the second quarter, when Plummer was having trouble scoring, pass receiver Griffin rescued him in the end zone to score Denver's first touchdown. Such is the Broncos' running game that if Griffin follows Portis out of the door to another employer, Shanahan can be relied on to find someone else.
Manning's Dancing Audibles Upset His Own Team
The Indianapolis Colts will oppose their most dangerous AFC South adversary, the Tennessee Titans, in Sunday's Game of the Week at Nashville in a September headliner that could well depend on whether Peyton Manning of the Colts, facing another great quarterback, Steve McNair, gives up on or lucks out on his audible-call foolishness.
He definitely didn't luck out against New England. On Indianapolis' final play of the game, Manning, though he had seemed to be getting the upper hand with his arm, cost his team the game with one of his dancing audibles.
Intending to confuse the defense, he confused, instead, his teammates, one of whom missed an easy assignment to block Patriot blitzer Willie McGinest. McGinest's sack knocked Manning and the Colts out of easy field-goal position and out of the game, preserving New England's three-point victory.
As always that time, Manning, when calling or faking an audibilized change of plays, strode up and down the line of scrimmage — and through his backfield — whispering the new numbers to the other folks on his team. In a road-game crisis, with the crowd on its feet and yelling along with the home side, that is as dumb a thing to do as it is foolish. For it forces teammates to focus not on their assignments but on what Manning is trying to say.
Football is difficult enough to play when you break from the huddle concentrating only on what you have to do next. It gets more difficult with any kind of audible. And when your quarterback is dancing around calling or feigning audibles, it gets to the point where at least one missed assignment is all but guaranteed.
This time, the guarantee opened up a clear lane for McGinest that was much wider than he is, and McGinest goes 270. At 33, the former USC star has slowed down. He still has the smarts and the old determination to win, to be sure, but he never would have gotten to Manning if any Colt had so much as stood briefly in his way.
Instead, lumbering in full bore, with nothing in his way but the night air, McGinest finally reached Manning from Manning's right while Manning was looking left for an open target. Boom. There went Manning and there, perhaps, went Indianapolis' season.