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  1. JakeGirl

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    Foxborough, Mass. - Jake Plummer didn't have to roll out, didn't need the shotgun, didn't have to engage in another argument with his head coach.
    Instead, wonder of wonders, Plummer dropped straight back from the New England 32-yard line. His feet set, the Broncos beleaguered quarterback lofted a nice spiral to the far right of the goal line. Running simultaneously to the spot where the ball would fall were New England Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs and Broncos receiver Javon Walker.

    The only way Walker could catch it is if the ball was thrown perfectly. Touchdown, Javon Walker.

    It was the first of two touchdown connections between Plummer and Walker, the key plays in the Broncos' surprising 17-7 whipping of the formerly undefeated, formerly invincible New England Patriots.

    Plummer picked this game, in front of a nationally televised Sunday night audience, to throw his best passes of the season.

    Exhale, Broncos fans. Mike Shanahan did. For the third time this season, the Broncos coach was seen chewing out Plummer on the sidelines. This time, it was because the quarterback failed to quickly deliver a goal-line pass early in the second quarter that fell incomplete. That drive ended with a short, Jason Elam field goal. In that same sideline discussion, Plummer was seen arguing back.

    The next series, all was right with the Broncos. Plummer hit Walker. The Broncos were up 10-0. The defense had little problem thwarting the dink-and-dunk attack of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. After becoming the first team since 1942 to open the season by not allowing a touchdown through its first 11 quarters, the defense watched Plummer and Walker connect for a game-clinching, 83-yard touchdown pass and run early in the fourth quarter.

    Brady broke the Broncos defense's spell without yielding a touchdown with an 8-yard pass to Doug Gabriel with 9:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.

    As they break for their bye week, the Broncos are 2-1 and again playing like they may well have what it takes to contend for the Super Bowl.

    On an unseasonably warm, humid, autumn night in New England, a sellout crowd at Gillette Stadium, and presumably a large viewing audience back home, had one question answered and another one raised.

    When will Jay Cutler replace Plummer at quarterback? That question, perhaps, for the first time this season, has been given a rest.

    Come again why the Patriots are such a big deal? This could be a legitimate inquiry.

    The Broncos own the Patriots. Shanahan, the Mastermind, continually outmaneuvers the Genius, Bill Belichick. Now for the final New England insult: Plummer has Brady's number.

    Since Brady became the starting quarterback in 2001, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls, but are 1-5 against the Broncos. And in that one win, Plummer was hurt and the Broncos were forced to play backup quarterback




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    Danny Kanell. The Broncos still almost won before falling, 30-26.
    Head to head, Plummer is 3-0 against Brady. Perhaps that statement can be more appropriately worded. Plummer and the Broncos defense are 3-0 against Brady and the Pats.

    There are two clear differences between this Patriots' team and the one that has epitomized championship play in recent years - their passing game and kicking. Not so coincidentally, the Patriots no longer have their two best receivers from recent years, Deion Branch and David Givens, or their clutch placekicker Adam Vinatieri.

    After Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey burned Brady with a 100-yard interception return that resulted in a 14-point swing during last season's AFC second-round playoff game, the Patriots employed a conservative passing game in the rematch.

    They get some first downs but could not sustain their drives. When the Man Who Would Not Replace Vinatieri, Stephen Gostkowski, had his low, 37-yard field goal attempt deflected first by Domonique Foxworth flying in from the left flank, and then by the meaty hands of the Broncos' linemen up front, the din at Gillette turned into momentum-killing silence.

    It was on the next drive that the Broncos drove down for a touchdown. Tatum Bell, promoted to the role of a non-rotation, primary back, dashed off a cut for 19 yards. Bell had 96 yards on 19 carries through three quarters, while co-back Mike Bell had just 12 yards on three carries.

    Three plays later, Plummer kept the drive going by connecting with Rod Smith, who had a nice comeback from a concussion, for 11 yards. Another three plays later, the Broncos had third-and-1 at the Pats' 32.

    No doubt expecting a run, the Pats left Hobbs alone to cover Walker. Hobbs did a good job, too. As Plummer dropped back and quickly flicked, Hobbs was with Walker stride for stride.

    But Walker has four inches and roughly 20 pounds on Hobbs, and the receiver used every bit it off to haul in his first Broncos touchdown pass.

    The defense needed no more. But Walker gave them more, anyhow. He caught a Plummer pass on the left sideline, split two defenders, and sprinted up the middle of the field for his second touchdown in a Broncos uniform.

    Make no mistake, Broncoland, Denver has a big-play threat.
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