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Portis Runs Over Hapless Cardinals

From Associated Press

Denver’s season was all but over before the Broncos even took the field. Rookie Clinton Portis proved he’s only getting started.

Portis secured his spot as the latest in a long line of superb Denver rookie backs, running for a career-high 228 yards and two touchdowns as the Broncos defeated the Arizona Cardinals, 37-7, on Sunday.

Following the tradition of Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson, Portis set team rookie records with 1,508 yards and 17 touchdowns.

He finished with seven 100-yard games, had the fifth-highest rushing total by a rookie in league history and has a good chance to become Denver’s second offensive rookie of the year in three seasons.

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“He looked like Terrell Davis,” Denver defensive end Trevor Pryce said. “That’s the biggest compliment you can give a running back.”

The Broncos (9-7) started the game knowing they were already out of the postseason, but it didn’t stop Portis from getting his first 200-yard game.

Portis had 120 yards in eight carries by halftime and scored on a four-yard run off left tackle to put the Broncos ahead, 30-7, midway through the fourth.

He added a 12-yard touchdown run late, taking off around right end and dancing his way through the middle before working his way back to the left side of the end zone.

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Not bad for someone who didn’t become the starter until the fifth game.

“You look back and think that things happen for a reason,” Portis said. “What if I would have actually played in those games?”

For one, the Broncos might have secured a playoff spot early instead of watching the scoreboard before their last game.

Denver’s postseason hopes hinged on Atlanta beating Cleveland earlier in the day, but the Falcons lost, 24-16.

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Denver Coach Mike Shanahan gave his team the news just before kickoff, and the Broncos responded with 450 total yards.

It couldn’t mask the disappointment of what many players felt was a wasted season.

Denver lost five of eight after a 6-2 start to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years since winning consecutive Super Bowls.

“Nobody is going to make any excuses,” said Steve Beuerlein, who started in place of Brian Griese. “We know we blew it and the disappointment was evident.”

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Arizona (5-11) lost nine of 10 after a 4-2 start. The injury-plagued Cardinals lost at least 11 games for the eighth time in their 15 seasons in Arizona.

“You found out that these guys will fight, but at the same time we’ve got to get better in some areas,” said Arizona Coach Dave McGinnis, who had 13 players out for the season.


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