Broncos, Plummer try to stop slide against woeful Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Playing an opponent that has given up 171 points in a four-game skid would seem the perfect prescription for a struggling team trying to keep its playoff hopes alive.Not for the Denver Broncos.The franchise with a growing reputation for late-season slumps is doing it again. The Broncos (8-6) have lost three of their past four, including two to teams with losing records, and they are tied with three other teams for the AFC’s final wild-card spot.Now they will be spending Christmas away from their families for a game Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans (4-10), where the only thing that will seem like home will be temperatures in the low 20s.”We are worried about ourselves,” Denver quarterback Jake Plummer said. “We know it is a Christmas Day game, and all of the distractions we have to put aside and get ready to play Tennessee and hopefully get a win.”The Titans say they will be playing to win even though losing out could bump them up to No. 3 in next April’s draft.”We know it doesn’t have any implications on our season, but you know what? It’s a win, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Titans defensive lineman Kevin Carter said.This game is only the second meeting between Denver coach Mike Shanahan and Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, two of the three coaches in the NFL who have been with their teams the past decade. Fisher won that first game in 1995 when his then-Oilers downed the Broncos 42-33.Shanahan was even college roommates with Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who joined Tennessee after five years as Denver’s receivers coach.Fisher said he and Heimerdinger smiled at each other when the schedule came out, thinking the prime-time game would have playoff implications.”And it does,” Fisher said. “It halfway does.”The Broncos’ biggest challenge will be seeing if they can score on the Titans like everyone else has since Tennessee lost right cornerback Samari Rolle for the season to an injured left knee. But Plummer has been struggling, with more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (two) over the past four games.Plummer, fined last week for making an obscene gesture toward the crowd, said the Broncos just need to finish drives with touchdowns, and he knows the pressure falls squarely on him.”Right now I should be playing better, so the blame is fine. I have to take it, forget about it and go out there and get ready to play better,” Plummer said.With Plummer having 19 interceptions, tied with Vinny Testeverde for the NFL lead, the Titans want to help themselves by continuing his streak of bad luck.”That will make the mistakes that we make look minimal,” Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said of a defense that has missed six starters the past month. “If we can make them make mistakes, they can help us get through some of the rough spots that we’ve been having in the prior weeks.”Tennessee also will get to find out how good backup quarterback Billy Volek is against a solid defense.Volek has become the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 2,000 yards through his first seven career starts, and he has thrown for eight touchdowns and only one interception in the past two games. But he has faced three of the league’s four worst passing defenses over the past three weeks.Denver features the NFL’s 10th-best passing defense, a unit allowing only 191.9 yards per game and anchored by Pro Bowlers Champ Bailey and John Lynch.”They are going to try and confuse us and try to confuse Billy,” Fisher said. “This will be Billy’s biggest challenge to date without a doubt.”
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