- Aug 18, 2005
-- KICKOFF: 1:15 p.m. Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High
-- SERIES: Denver leads 50-39-1. The teams split two games last year, with the host Chargers winning the last meeting 20-17.
PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Jake Plummer
Plummer can make big plays and has been known for fourth-quarter rallies since his college days, but he's also erratic and unpredictable. Last season, he threw for 27 touchdowns and set a Broncos record for passing yards in a season (4,089), joining John Elway as the only 4,000-yard passers in team history. But Plummer also served up 20 interceptions, had a QB rating of just 84.5 and once tried a left-handed pass under pressure that was picked off. Needless to say, he is streaky. In last week's opening 34-10 loss in Miami, Plummer passed for 251 yards, but most of that came after the game was out of reach. Through three quarters, he was 8-for-23 for 89 yards.
While Plummer's performance seems to affect the outcome for the Broncos, it's the running game they rely on to set the tone. But their ground attack was nonexistent last week, as Denver collected only 70 yards on the ground; 30 of those came on a single carry by Tatum Bell. The Broncos tried to establish the run early and were stymied, as only two of their first nine possessions lasted more than five plays and their goal-line offense was denied five times from the 3-yard line. Starting RB Mike Anderson suffered torn cartilage in his ribs after only four carries for 5 yards, and Bell was ineffective in his place. Anderson, a former Camp Pendleton Marine, hopes to face the Chargers after an MRI showed no cracked ribs. The offensive line, long a Denver strong point, has been taking much of the heat, and some are predicting a major overhaul of the veteran group after this season. RT George Foster (338) is the only starter who weighs more than 300 pounds. Rod Smith is still a dangerous receiver, but young Ashley Lelie is still suffering growing pains; he caught only two passes against Miami and couldn't come up with any of the first eight passes aimed his way. The Broncos converted only 1 of 12 third-down situations and were only 1-for-4 in the red zone, continuing a pair of problems that plagued them last season as well.
The big concern is star CB Champ Bailey, who dislocated his left shoulder against Miami and is a "long shot'' to play against the Chargers. Although he gets beat deep from time to time, Bailey has the ability to take away half the field for the offense. If he can't go, rookie Domonique Foxworth takes his place. Without Bailey for the second half, journeyman Dolphins QB Gus Frerotte was able to complete 24-of-36 passes for 275 yards and two TDs. The Broncos have solid linebackers in Ian Gold, Al Wilson and D.J. Williams and a force at DE in Trevor Pryce. The rest of the starting defensive line consists of three players all signed as free agents from the Cleveland Browns ---- tackles Gerald Warren and Michael Myers and end Courtney Brown. Denver remains difficult to run on, which makes for an interesting matchup against the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson. The Broncos surrendered 151 yards rushing against Miami, but 61 of those came on an end-around by WR Chris Chambers; Miami running backs had only 88 yards on 29 carries. The Broncos did allow TE Randy McMichael to catch six passes, but this weekend they will have to deal with the return of previously suspended Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates.
The Broncos (0-1) have started 0-2 only four times and ended up with a losing season each time. ... Of 36 playoff teams from the past three years, only three have started 0-2. .... Denver is 19-3 at home in the first month of a season over the last decade. ... Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is seventh among active coaches with 109 victories. ... Denver safety John Lynch is a Torrey Pines High graduate. ... Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was Denver's head coach in 1993-94. Denver TE Stephen Alexander played for the Chargers from 2002-03 and reserve defensive lineman Marco Coleman was with the Chargers from 1996-98. ... Broncos punter Todd Sauerbrun averaged an impressive 45.4 yards for seven punts last week, but his net was only 30.6.