Holes show in Colts, Broncos

Times Staff Writer

So, defense wins championships, right?

Well then, we can count the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts out of the Super Bowl race.

It wasn't that long ago that those two were penciled in for an AFC championship game showdown, but recent woes on defense have both teams reeling.

The Broncos lost, 48-20, Sunday to the San Diego Chargers, their fourth consecutive loss and fifth in their last seven games, dropping them to 7-6 and putting them in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.

The Colts were thrashed, 44-17, by the Jacksonville Jaguars and have lost three of their last four to fall to 10-3. They are now trying to hang on to a first-round playoff bye after a 9-0 start had them thinking about home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

"We will see what we are made of from here," Colts Coach Tony Dungy said.

The warning signs of each team's defensive demise were there.

The Colts are statistically the worst defense in the league against the run, and the Broncos have had trouble keeping teams out of the end zone ever since their dominant six-game run to start the season.

On Sunday, the Jaguars exploited the Colts' weakness and rushed for 375 yards -- tied for the second-most by a team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

The Colts have now given up 2,294 yards rushing this season -- 410 more than any other team -- and have given up 860 in their last four games.

"We are going to have to get it fixed to get where we want to go," Dungy said.

The Broncos gave up only 44 points and two touchdowns in their first six games, but on Sunday they gave up two touchdowns in each of the first, second and fourth quarters.

In their first six games, the Broncos gave up 7.3 points a game. In their last seven, they've given up 27.4, which would rank last in the NFL as a season average.

"Obviously a lot of things have got to change," said Broncos safety John Lynch. "We have to start doing a lot of things better."

Eating 'em up

Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee sat out much of the second quarter against the New York Jets because he was sick.

He spent most of the game making the Jets feel the same way, as he rushed for 125 yards and a 57-yard touchdown in a 31-13 Bills victory.

"It's not very often, in an NFL game, you see a player sitting on the bench eating a sandwich," Bills Coach Dick Jauron said. "But we had to get some food in him. He came back and obviously played really well."

Fickle Favre

Brett Favre has not announced whether he'll retire after this season, and that's probably because he changes his mind every week based on whether the Packers win or lose.

He said Sunday, when he passed for 293 yards in a 30-19 victory over San Francisco, that it felt much different than last week's 38-10 loss to the Jets.

"Days like [Sunday] make me think I could play 10 more seasons," Favre said. "After last week's game, I would have told you I should get the first bus out."

Favre improved his record over 15 years to 11-1 against the 49ers and has at least one touchdown pass in each game.

The real home team

Much has been made of the Houston Texans' passing over Vince Young in the draft and instead selecting defensive lineman Mario Williams.

Young, a Houston native, instead went to the Tennessee Titans with the third pick, but is 2-0 against his hometown team after leading a 26-20 overtime victory Sunday at Houston.

But Young said he is playing for his hometown team. "I really feel like the Tennessee Titans are the hometown team -- the Oilers," he said.

The Oilers left Houston for Tennessee in 1997, and the franchise became the Titans.


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 5-1 against the NFC South last season when they won the division. This season, they are 0-6 against the Falcons, Saints and Panthers and were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday's 17-6 loss to Atlanta.

"This is not the same team that went 5-1," Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden said. "Same helmets, same uniforms, but not the same team."

Baby steps

It's no secret that the Raiders have been struggling on offense, but they managed a breakthrough in a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati when quarterback Aaron Brooks connected with Ronald Curry for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

It was the Raiders' first fourth-quarter touchdown in nine games, and the offense has now scored 17 fourth-quarter points this season.

"We've got to get points on the board," Brooks said. "I think we have a chance every time we hit the field, especially with our defense. We've just got to take care of the ball better."

Injury report

Atlanta running backs Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood left Sunday's game and did not return. Dunn injured his calf, and Norwood injured his knee.... New England receiver Benjamin Watson injured his leg against Miami and did not return.... Detroit running back Kevin Jones injured his left foot late in the Lions' loss to Minnesota. The foot will be examined today.... Colts wide receiver Brandon Stokley injured his Achilles tendon and did not return against Jacksonville.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Another record day

While the Indianapolis defense was getting torched at Jacksonville, the Colts' Marvin Harrison quietly became the fourth receiver in NFL history with 1,000 receptions:

*--* PLAYER CATCHES YARDS TDS Jerry Rice 1,549 22,895 197 Cris Carter 1,101 13,899 130 Tim Brown 1,094 14,934 100 MARVIN HARRISON* 1,001 13,425 116


* -- active

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