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Archive for Sunday, November 2, 2003

Patriots’ defense could stifle sluggish Broncos

November 2, 2003

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— The New England Patriots used a variety of defensive formations and disguised coverages to fluster and confuse Cleveland quarterbacks Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb.

Just imagine what they're going to do Monday night against Denver's Danny Kanell in his second start in three years.

"The thing that makes them unique is they throw so many looks at you," said Kanell, Denver's starter now that Jake Plummer and Steve Beuerlein are injured. "You just don't know what you're going to get. They kind of throw the kitchen sink at you."

He's not kidding. Just ask the Browns.

New England managed just Adam Vinatieri's three field goals, but it was plenty with the way the defense was playing. The Patriots had four sacks, held Cleveland to 203 yards and limited the Browns to one first-half field goal in a 9-3 victory.

New England (6-2) has allowed one touchdown and 22 points in its past three games, leading to its first four-game winning streak since ending the 2001 season with six straight wins on the way to the championship.

Not that Denver's defense has been shabby.

A slew of injuries have the Broncos (5-3) backpedaling after a 4-0 start, but the defense has been consistent from the first game.

Denver has allowed one 100-yard rusher and has held four opponents to 14 points or less. The Broncos gave up 28 points in a loss to Minnesota two weeks ago and 26 to Baltimore last Sunday, but three touchdowns were set up by turnovers.

The Broncos are second in the league in total defense, allowing 271 yards per game, but the real proof is how they tighten up in key situations.

It just hasn't been enough to make up for the struggles on offense.

The Broncos were clicking to open the season, scoring 30 or more points in their first three games. But they've had to scale back the offense since Plummer broke his foot three weeks ago.

Beuerlein was stagnant in the pocket before breaking his finger against Minnesota Oct. 19. Kanell isn't exactly fleet footed, meaning teams could stack the line to stop running back Clinton Portis.

Last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year went over 100 yards in three of his first four games despite a bruised sternum, but he's averaged just 71 yards the past three games.

With Plummer, the Broncos averaged 371 yards and 28 points per game. In the three games without him, Denver has produced just 252 yards and 14 points per game.

"The numbers are what they are," Broncos tight Shannon Sharpe said. "You can't lie."

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