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Solid Plummer, Broncos pick apart Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Jake Plummer broke out of his slump with
a nearly perfect start and kept the Denver Broncos in the playoff
race.

Plummer threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns, and Reuben Droughns scored three TDs as the Broncos beat the Tennessee Titans
37-16 Saturday night to stay in at least a tie for the AFC's final
wild-card slot going into the final week of the season.

Denver (9-6) had lost three of its last four games with two of
those losses to teams with losing records, including last week's
45-17 rout at Kansas City. Plummer hurt Denver more than he helped
with nine interceptions and only two touchdowns during that
stretch.

Against a defense missing six starters, Plummer was intercepted
once, giving him an NFL-high 20 this season. But otherwise, he was
superb.

"I'm just happy we got a win. Hey, I can actually say Merry
Christmas now and mean it," Plummer said.

The Broncos gave coach Mike Shanahan his 100th career
regular-season victory with the franchise by handing his friend,
Titans coach Jeff Fisher, his worst home loss in six seasons at The
Coliseum. Seeing such a performance from his heavily criticized
quarterback didn't hurt either.

"For him to come back and fight the way he did under the
circumstances, I was pleased," Shanahan said.

The past month hadn't been easy for Plummer, who struggled both
on the field and off, even paying a fine last week for an obscene
gesture. He couldn't have started this game much better.

He completed his first eight passes, had a perfect passer rating
of 158.3 in the first quarter and was 10-of-11 for 144 yards early
in the second. He helped Denver score on its first three
possessions for a 17-3 lead. He had a 23-yard TD pass to Droughns
on the first drive for a lead the Broncos never relinquished.

Plummer was not sacked and finished 21-for-26.

"It is always good for a quarterback to have confidence,
especially after all of the criticism," Denver receiver Ashley
Lelie said. "For him to step up and play like he did just shows
what type of character he has. We all thank Jake for playing as
well as he did."

Denver handed the Titans (4-11) their fifth straight loss by
shutting down Billy Volek, who was trying to become the first
quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in three
consecutive games.

Reggie Hayward had three of the Broncos' six sacks, and the
defense also forced two turnovers and limited Tennessee to a
season-low 153 yards of offense. The Titans dropped to 1-6 at home
this season before a stadium that was nearly empty in the final
minutes on the cold Christmas night.

"We wanted to bounce back," Hayward said. "We got embarrassed
last week. We wanted to come back with a strong showing against
Tennessee."

The Broncos even knocked Volek out of the game in the fourth
quarter with a bruised left knee, forcing the Titans to use Doug
Johnson for the first time this season, with Steve McNair wearing
street clothes on the sideline because of his bruised chest.

Volek was 8-of-20 for 111 yards. X-rays of his knee were
negative.

"It's the Bad News Bears this year," Volek said. "I don't
know what's going on, but everybody's banged up."

The Broncos held the ball for more than 39 minutes and rolled up
496 yards. Droughns rushed 22 times for 91 yards, scored on a
23-yard pass from Plummer and had TD runs of 8 and 23 yards. Jason
Elam kicked field goals of 22, 22 and 30 yards.

"We didn't make enough plays to stay on the field," Titans
left tackle Brad Hopkins said. "They controlled the clock. They
did everything we were trying to do, which is a rare thing for this
football team."

The Titans have given up at least 31 points in each game during
this skid, the franchise's longest since an 11-game streak in 1994.

Denver led 24-16 at halftime because Titans linebacker Keith
Bulluck picked off Plummer's pass and set up punter Craig Hentrich
for a career-long 50-yard field goal as time expired. Gary Anderson
also kicked field goals of 44 and 43 yards.

Tennessee, which lost two more starting linemen to injuries,
didn't score again.

Game notes
Denver DE Trevor Pryce was deactivated for the game. ...
Hayward's three-sack game was the first for Denver since Bertrand
Berry had three on Dec. 7, 2003, against Kansas City. ... Elam has
scored in 187 consecutive games, giving him sole possession of
second place ahead of Jim Breach (186, 1979-82). ... Hentrich's
field goal was his first since Sept. 7, 2003, against Oakland. ...
The Titans' previous worst loss at home was 31-14 to Washington on
Oct. 6, 2002. ... Titans returner Jason McAddley tied a franchise
record with eight kickoff returns, matching Bobby Jancik's mark in
1963.

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