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Shoowaa

Broncos playoff bound after beating the Colts

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Well looks like the Broncos finally are back in the playoffs since the 2000 season after beating Payton Manning and the mighty Colts last night.

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Playoff berth on 'Q'

Griffin's 136 help Broncos gain wild card

By Adam Schefter

Denver Post Sports Writer

Post / Helen H. Richardson

Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer scores from 6 yards out Sunday night in the first quarter of Denver’s playoff-clinching 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

PHOTO GALLERY

• Manning sacked

• Manning fumbles

• Plummer rushes

• Anderson tackled

• Griffin rushes

• Plummer scores

• Griffin runs

• Anderson jukes

• Smith's TD

• Colts interception

• Plummer

• Manning loses ball

• Smith reception

• Plummer

• Disappointed Colts fan

• Post-game cheer

INDIANAPOLIS - More unimaginable than Denver's biggest road win since its January 1998 AFC championship game victory in Pittsburgh was the scene that unfolded Sunday night in the Broncos' celebratory locker room after it.

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen stood in front of his team, grabbed a game ball and handed it off to pint-sized running back Quentin Griffin, the final handoff of the day to Denver's newest little big man.

"To my homeboy - 'Q"' Bowlen said to Griffin, one Oklahoma grad to another.

Before the Broncos' locker room burst into chants of "Q! Q! Q!", coach Mike Shana- han sighed and told his 10-5 team, "Boy, you know you've got it good when the owner calls you 'homeboy."'

To those who thought Denver lacked the firepower to run its own version of an Indianapolis 500 ...

To those who thought Denver could not beat a Super Bowl favorite, especially on the road ...

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To those who thought Denver would fall short of the NFL playoffs for the third consecutive season ...

Tune in Jan. 3 or Jan. 4, when the Broncos make their first postseason appearance since a cold December day in 2000.

"We're trying to keep our dream alive," Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith proclaimed.

It lives. The Broncos put away the Colts 31-17 at the RCA Dome and locked up a wild-card spot.

Chances are, they will be right back where they earned their playoff ticket - in Indianapolis, against the Colts. Facing a team they thumped in ways only the Broncos imagined.

"We're going to win this game," Denver defensive end Bertrand Berry boldly predicted last week. "We're going to win. You watch."

Berry's words were as golden as his team's performance.

Using a backup backfield and a fired-up demeanor, Denver demonstrated it has the right to think its postseason can extend beyond the opening wild-card weekend.

Denver didn't need running back Clinton Portis, who sat out because of an ankle injury. Nor injured right guard Daniel Neil. But it did need the type of all-star performances that had become the standard for the Colts, not the Broncos.

Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer outplayed MVP candidate Peyton Manning, running for two touchdowns, throwing for another and ringing up a 113.8 rating.

Griffin outplayed more celebrated veteran running back Edgerrin James, running in a manner that resembled Portis while churning out 136 yards - only three fewer than what Portis picked up the previous Sunday when he was injured against Cleveland.

BRONCOS WRAP

- DEN-IND box score

- NFL scoreboard

- Broncos schedule

- AFC standings

- NFC standings

- Player pages

- Team pages

- NFL notebook

Team stats

- Broncos

- Colts

- Gameday bits

Broncos Mailbag

- Most recent

- Pose questions

Postgame audio

- Mike Shanahan

- Jake Plummer

- Reggie Hayward

Other side of the story

- Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz shares his impressions of the Broncos-Colts game

"We don't need no stinkin' Portis," shouted Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe, loud enough for Portis to hear.

Broncos wide receiver Ashley Lelie outshined record-setting receiver Marvin Harrison, pulling in 115 yards worth of receptions, including a tone-setting 60-yarder in the first quarter that started Denver's comeback from a 7-0 deficit.

And the Denver defense improbably stifled the Indianapolis offense, holding it scoreless in the second half.

Of course, Denver's ball-hog skills helped. Denver held the ball for 9:34 on its fourth-quarter, 82-yard, field-goal drive, 13:03 overall in the fourth quarter and a remarkable 44:58 for the game.

Indianapolis' offense had the football for only 15:02 - barely more than a single quarter.

In the spirit of Portis' heavyweight belt, underdog Denver knocked out Indianapolis.

"What'd I tell you!" Berry screamed at a reporter after the victory. "What'd I tell you!"

A possible rematch between the Broncos and Colts awaits. Denver likely will be the AFC's No. 6 seed, Indianapolis the No. 3, while Kansas City salutes the normally despised Broncos.

Denver's victory provided Kansas City with the AFC's No. 2 seed and the inside track on the first-round bye that it thought it had lost Saturday at Minnesota. Any Chiefs who tuned in Sunday would have sensed it coming almost immediately.

Denver's five first-half possessions produced five touchdowns - one for the Colts, four for the Broncos.

After Plummer threw an interception that Colts linebacker Gary Brackett returned 31 yards for a touchdown on the Broncos' third play of the game, Denver played as if its postseason life was at stake.

On its next four possessions, Denver mounted chain-moving, time-consuming touchdown drives that achieved two goals: They kept Indianapolis' high-powered offense off the field and they kept Denver's on it.

In the midst of its offensive outburst, Denver received its first significant contribution from a member of the 2003 draft class.

Griffin, a fourth-round pick helping fill in for the injured and deactivated Portis, exploded on the scene the way other rookie Broncos running backs have.

Griffin shifted, juked and darted for 55 first-half yards, giving Denver the offensive lift it needed and the Broncos their first significant contribution from any member of their most recent draft class. But Plummer provided Denver with another jolt of energy.

He bounced back from his costly interception and, to close out the first half, completed nine of his next 10 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. Plummer also ran for another two, staking Denver to a 28-17 halftime lead.

By the time halftime rolled around, Denver had piled up numbers that illustrated its dominance of a game few predicted it could win.

The Broncos gained 299 yards, the Colts 85. The Broncos racked up 16 first downs, the Colts six. The Broncos rushed for 113 yards, the Colts 27. The Broncos controlled the ball for 22:41, the Colts 7:19. It was, in a word, dominance.

"Their offense got into a rhythm and kept the ball for a long time," said Manning, who threw for a season-low 146 yards. "Offensively for us, we were never able to maintain much of a rhythm. We had some big gaps in between our possessions. We got behind and it took us out of what we wanted to do with our run game. We just didn't get much going."

But the trick for Denver was maintaining it into and through the second half against a team that already had mounted memorable fourth-quarter comebacks this season against Tampa Bay and Buffalo.

It did. Easily.

"For us to be able to do that in this environment is special to our football team," Shanahan said.

GO BRONCOS!! :)

And btw HAPPY HOLIDAYS everyone! ;)

Albert (Shoowaa)

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I'm glad the Broncos are in because they are such a great franchise, great fans and one of the best venues in Mile High Stadium to see a football game!

btw- By beating the Colts they gave the Patriots a first round bye! Thank You Broncos!!! (hope we don't end up playin ya!! ;) )

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