Disappointing season ends with win for Broncos


DENVER (AP) -- Denver's season was all but over before the
Broncos even took the field. Rookie Clinton Portis proved he's just
getting started.

Which QB -- Jake Plummer or Brian Griese -- is more likely to be back with his current club?
Plummer, as strange as that sounds. The financial implications likely will affect the movement of either player. But the sentiment in Denver right now is that they can go with another quarterback and win without having to undergo a major building project.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

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

Following in the footsteps 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

"He looked like Terrell Davis,'' Denver defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "That's the biggest compliment you can give a running

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 on any level.

Portis had 120 yards on eight carries by halftime and scored on
a 4-yard run off left tackle to put the Broncos up 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.

Not bad for someone who didn't become the starter until the
fifth game of the season.

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

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 failed on a fourth-and-1 in the
closing seconds to lose 24-16.

Denver coach Mike Shanahan gave his team the news just before
kickoff, and the Broncos responded with 450 total yards and their
most lopsided victory of the season.

It still 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

"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.''

Arizona (5-11) closed out the season by losing 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. "The first thing
we have to do is get healthy.''

Beuerlein threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He opened the
third quarter by hitting Ashley Lelie for a 5-yard touchdown pass,
then connected with Rod Smith on a 10-yard score early in the
fourth to put Denver up 23-7.

Griese was benched after throwing two interceptions in the first
quarter of a 28-16 loss to Oakland last week, leaving his future
with the team in doubt.

"I'm not worried about next year. There are a lot of things
that go into that,'' Denver coach Mike Shanahan said of the
quarterback situation.

Jason Elam, a free agent who has said he will not return to
Denver next season, hit field goals of 44, 54 and 21 yards for
Denver's only points in the first half.

Arizona cut the lead to 9-7 on a 1-yard pass from Jake Plummer
to Kevin Kasper with 1 second left in the first half, one play
after an interception by Deltha O'Neal was overturned by a video

Kasper, who was released by Denver in October, had four catches
for 44 yards and 171 yards in kick returns.

Plummer was 13-for-27 for 132 yards in what was potentially his
final game with the Cardinals. He is a free agent and hasn't
indicated whether he will return to Arizona.

"I can't tell you what's going to happen,'' Plummer said.
"There's a scenario that could happen where I'm back, and a
scenario that I'm not back. I can sit here and try to ponder, but I
really don't know.''

Game notes
Griese didn't play, but still set a team record by hitting
66 percent of his passes this season. He set the previous record of
64 percent in 2000. ... Smith finished with 1,027 yards, extending
his own team record to six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. ... The
Cardinals finished with their fourth losing season since reaching
the playoffs in 1998. ... Anderson held Denver's previous rookie
records with 1,487 yards and 15 TDs.


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