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Denver's defense reigns again

CLEVELAND (Oct. 22, 2006) -- Kenard Lang knotted his striped tie, buttoned his jacket and fastened the latch on his suitcase.

Moments earlier, Denver's defensive lineman zipped his mouth shut and warned his Broncos teammates to do the same.

The scoreboard said it all for them.

Denver's stingy defense held its fifth consecutive opponent to single digits and quarterback Jake Plummer did just enough to keep the Broncos' offense moving in a 17-7 victory against the Cleveland Browns.

The Broncos (5-1), who have given up an NFL-low 44 points, came within 12 minutes of their first road shutout in 14 years when Plummer's interception led to a short Cleveland touchdown pass in the fourth quarter -- only the second TD allowed by Denver this season.

"Guys were ticked off when we gave up that shutout," safety John Lynch said. "That was good to see."

Denver's easy victory was especially satisfying for several Broncos, including Lang, Gerard Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban, Michael Myers and Quincy Morgan -- a quintet now known as the Browncos -- who were all traded or released by Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel in the past two years.

But none of them gloated afterward. They were on strict orders not to.

"We won, but I thought our defense could have played better," said Myers, who was then interrupted by Lang.

"No," the normally verbose Lang hollered. "We ain't talking. None of us. It's over. We agreed no one on the D-line is talking."

Earlier in the week, a few of the Browncos took swipes at the Browns (1-5), who never posed much of a threat despite having two weeks to plan for Denver's impressive and impenetrable defense.

Cleveland's offense, which has sputtered under embattled coordinator Maurice Carthon since Week 1, didn't move the ball inside Denver's 42-yard line until the final play of the third quarter.

But on the next play, Denver cornerback Champ Bailey picked off Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye in the end zone.

"It was a disappointing loss," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "It's a tough one. We had a good week of practice and felt like we could get something done."

Frye got dinged early in the game and then was sacked three times in the fourth quarter when Denver's defense pinned back its ears to put the game away.

Following the game, Frye, who sustained a mild concussion, was advised to answer only two questions by doctors because he was groggy.

His 6-yard scoring pass to Joe Jurevicius with 11:43 left brought Cleveland within 17-7, and the Browns got the ball back. But several dropped passes and Denver's pressure kept Cleveland from making it close.

Plummer, who registered four interceptions and no TDs in his first two games, finished 20-for-41 for 209 yards and tossed a 9-yard scoring pass to rookie Brandon Marshall to put Denver up 17-0 in the third quarter.

Plummer's performance is unlikely to silence some Broncos fans who want to see the club give rookie Jay Cutler a shot.

"At the end of the game, I didn't make good decisions," Plummer said. "We need to get better there. There is some room for improvement."

It's tough to find any fault with Denver's defense. Its two touchdowns allowed in the first six games are the fewest since the 1934 Detroit Lions shut out their first seven opponents. Before Frye's scoring toss, the Broncos hadn't give up a TD in 11 quarters. "All that matters is that we won," Bailey said. "Yes, we take a lot of pride in not giving up touchdowns, but the win is more important. We'll go into next week and see if we can do better."

Next week, the Broncos will have their hands full when they play host to the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts.

Denver's defense held Cleveland to 165 yards, including 34 on the ground.

Tatum Bell rushed 24 times for 115 yards and a TD, and Javon Walker had nine catches for 107 yards.

About the only blemish for the Broncos was Warren. Taunted by fans in the Dawg Pound during pregame warmups, he injured his right big toe on the first series and didn't return. He struggled to put his shoe on after the game and left the stadium on crutches.

Cleveland, too, saw a big-name player go down. Cornerback Gary Baxter sustained a possible serious injury to his left knee while breaking up a deep pass intended for Walker late in the second quarter. Baxter has played in only seven games in two seasons since signing a six-year free-agent contract.

GAME NOTES:

Broncos OT Matt Lepsis injured his right knee in the first half and didn't return. ... Browns WR Dennis Northcutt (ribs) and CB Leigh Bodden (ankle) were inactive. With Northcutt out, Joshua Cribbs handled punt return duties. ... Shanahan got his 135th career victory, passing Weeb Ewbank for 18th place on the career list. Next up is Hank Stram with 136.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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