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Publish Date: 10/23/2005

A turn for the worse
Plummer’s poise meets toughest test

ENGLEWOOD — Jake Plummer’s scraggily beard is back.

The turnovers are not.

The Denver Broncos quarterback has played far better than the grizzly beard looks. He has been great during the Broncos’ five-game winning streak. He’s minimizing mistakes, making good decisions and looking like a quarterback who finally has a grasp on the offense.

Because of Plummer’s improved play, the Broncos haven’t turned the ball over in more than 264 minutes. They’ve gone 17 full quarters without so much as a pick or fumble. The last turnover was an interception by San Diego’s Bhawoh Jue in the third quarter Sept. 18.

“It’s really pretty remarkable,” Denver tight end Stephen Alexander said of the streak.

This will be where the rubber meets the road. The New York Giants will put the string to the test today (2:15 p.m., Ch. 4) at Giants Stadium. New York leads the NFC in takeaways with 18. The Giants have recovered nine fumbles and intercepted nine passes. Something must give.

“We just have to keep playing like we have been,” Plummer said.

Here’s the funny thing: The Broncos’ defensive players are paying attention to Plummer’s error-free ways.

“I haven’t watched too much of Jake, but just from listening and reading the newspapers, I think he’s making the proper decisions,” defensive tackle Gerard Warren said. “He knows when to take a sack or throw the ball away or when to try to make something happen with his legs. He’s making good choices.”

In the past, Plummer and good choices haven’t exactly been synonymous. But this is the new and vastly improved Plummer. However, he can’t tell you why he’s playing so well right now.

As for the streak, he says it’s just fortunate bounces.

“Last week against New England, the ball got tipped, and it bounced up in the air and was just hanging there,” Plummer said. “But it fell down and hit the ground.”

Last year, that would’ve gone in the books as an interception. Of Plummer’s 20 picks, many came off tipped passes.

“You take those breaks and you roll with them,” he said.

Good fortune isn’t the only reason why Denver has gone a franchise-record time period without a miscue. Plummer doesn’t try to make things happen when they’re not there.

“There were some times when I tried to force some balls,” said Plummer, who hasn’t thrown a pick in 107 pass attempts. “I am not trying to go out there and not throw interceptions. It’s just that things are happening for us right now.”

The Broncos can sense a more confident Plummer. When receivers are covered, he’s throwing the ball to the fan in Row 10.

“He’s been very wise with the football,” fullback Kyle Johnson said.

A wise man knows on which side his bread is buttered, and Denver’s bread and butter remains its running game. The Broncos’ ability to gain 4.9 yards a carry opens things up for Plummer and the passing game. That’s why opponents see a steady dose of running backs Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell.

“When everybody is on the same page and we’re all working together, this is what happens,” Alexander said of Denver’s 5-1 start. “It’s working so far for us. We’re not turning the ball over, which is something we really emphasized.”

Just don’t ask Johnson about the turnover string. He’ll quickly clam up.

“You don’t talk to your pitcher during a no-hitter,” he said. “The Giants have made a lot of turnovers, so you have to respect them and know that they’re trying to snatch the ball out. Hopefully, we can just continue to try to be effective on offense.”

The whole time he was talking, Johnson was looking around for something made of wood to knock on.

He doesn’t want to jinx the offense by talking about the streak. Not when it’s playing this well.

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