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Walker sparkles; Broncos stop Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Sept. 24, 2006) -- Jake Plummer and Javon Walker gave the Broncos enough offense to keep the finicky Denver fans at bay -- for another week, at least.

Denver's defense did the rest.

Plummer, the quick target of Denver boo-birds after two bad performances, threw touchdown passes of 83 and 32 yards to Walker as the Broncos beat the New England Patriots 17-7. They were Plummer's first two TD passes of the season, and only the second and third touchdowns Denver has scored.

"There was no difference; just go out and play," Plummer said. "We had a good game plan ... it just happened to work this week."

But the credit goes as much to a Denver defense that shut down Tom Brady and a Patriots offense that was without several of its few options -- rookie receiver Chad Jackson, the team's only deep threat, was out with a hamstring problem and running back Corey Dillon left in the first half with an arm injury.

Even when Dillon was in the game, New England's offense was rendered ineffective by a defense that finally surrendered its first touchdown of the season with a little over nine minutes left. That came on an 8-yard pass from Brady to Doug Gabriel at the end of an 80-yard, 10-play drive after the Broncos had opened up a 17-0 lead.

Denver coach Mike Shanahan said the key was shutting down the run -- the Patriots gained only 50 yards on the ground.

"We felt like if we could do that, we could just react to the pass," he said.

Walker said: "I look at the defense. When guys are making plays, they make it contagious."

As good as Denver was, the Patriots said they were as much as fault for their first loss of the season.

"It comes down to execution and consistency and we didn't have it tonight," Patriots center Dan Koppen said. "They played well and we didn't."

The victory was the fifth for the Broncos (2-1) in their past six games against the Patriots (2-1), including a 27-13 playoff victory in Denver last season.

The offense did its share, too.

Pinned three times inside its own 5 by Josh Miller punts, Denver consistently moved the ball far enough to give Paul Ernster room to kick it back out of danger. That was largely the work of Tatum Bell, who gained 123 yards on 27 carries -- and the efficiency of Plummer, who hit two third-down passes in the first half to move the ball out of danger.

Perhaps more important, he didn't make the mistakes he is sometimes prone to making.

Plummer, who entered the game with no TD passes, four interceptions and a dismal passer rating of 38.6, finally threw his first TD pass of the season with 56 seconds left in the half, less than three minutes after rookie Stephen Gostkowski's 37-yard field-goal attempt for New England was blocked by Dominique Foxworth. It was the second successive blocked kick for Gostkowski, who saw one stuffed by the Jets last week.

Denver's drive was highlighted by a 19-yard run by Bell on the first play after the blocked kick. On third-and-1 from the New England 32, Plummer hit Walker perfectly in the corner of the end zone for the receiver's first TD as a Bronco.

The second TD was a strike down the left sideline to Walker, who was obtained in a draft-day trade from Green Bay to give the Broncos a big-play receiver. He eluded Asante Samuel and James Sanders and ran almost untouched to the end zone.

"We took it upon ourselves for everyone to be liable for their mistakes, step up when it's time to step up," Walker said. "You know, just listen to the game plan and come out here and make plays."

Plummer was 15-for-30 for 256 yards, the kind of percentage that had Broncos fans calling for Jay Cutler, Denver's first pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. But that 50 percent was much better than his 50 percent work in his first two efforts.

"Jake really managed the game well," said Shanahan, who last week said he had no intention of benching his QB. "He made a couple of big plays, a couple of big throws at opportune times."

Brady, hampered by a running game that produced only 50 yards, was 31-for-55 for 320 yards, much of it late against a prevent defense.


The 83-yard TD pass was the ninth longest in Broncos history. ... Denver center Tom Nalen, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who grew up in Foxborough and played at Boston College, was called for two holding penalties. ... One of New England's best chances to get back in the game was nullified in the third quarter on a play on which three penalties were called -- two on Denver -- after Kevin Faulk returned a punt to the Broncos 36. After the re-kick, the Patriots started at their own 40, a 24-yard loss.

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