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Publish Date: 9/11/2005

Broncos in good hands
Denver secure with Plummer at the helm

ENGLEWOOD — Anti-Jake sentiment is rampant in this city.

There are plenty of fans not on board with Jake Plummer at the helm.

And you’ll hear the same reason why from those who don’t like the Denver Broncos’ quarterback: too many costly mistakes.

If you point out that Plummer threw for a team-record 4,089 yards last season, someone will counter with the fact he tossed 20 inter-

ceptions. Mention that he tied Denver’s single-season touchdown mark with 27, and someone will respond by saying he missed too many open receivers.

Plummer can’t win.

Yet he can. He’s 19-8 as a starter for Denver. Even better, Plummer may be turning the corner in his development. In three preseason games, he was 23 of 35 for 321 yards and three touchdowns. His quarterback rating was a robust 123.6. Here’s the eye-catching stat: Plummer threw no interceptions.

Big deal, you say. After all, he didn’t play full games. Still, that’s saying something: In eight seasons in the league, he’s had only three stretches in which he’s gone three games without an interception.

Maybe he has completely grasped this offense. Maybe he was worth the $6 million roster bonus he was given during the offseason to remain in town. One thing’s for sure: He’s the key ingredient to Denver’s success this season.

“We go as our quarterback goes,” said receiver Rod Smith, whose team will take on Miami today (11 a.m., Ch. 4). “When he’s efficient, the rest of us are efficient. He didn’t make any mistakes with the football (in the preseason). He did everything great. He ran when he had to run, he was safe when he had to be safe, and he threw it in the stands when he had to throw it in the stands.”

Plummer readily admits he feels more comfortable behind center. He knows precisely what’s going on now.

“I know what’s coming from the press box from (offensive coordinator Gary) Kubiak,” said Plummer, who took every snap last season. “I’m ready to go out there and do whatever they call.”

This will be an interesting test for Plummer and the offense. The Dolphins have traditionally been a solid defensive team, and they have made life miserable for Plummer. In two career games against Miami, both with Arizona, he has thrown six interceptions and no touchdowns. The Dolphins have also sacked him twice. Plummer’s quarterback rating against the Dolphins is an infinitesimal 26.2, his lowest rating against any team.

“From the history of their defense, they’ve manned you up, came after you and said, ‘Beat us. If you’re good enough, then you beat us,’” Plummer said. “We’ve got to be ready for anything.”

Plummer has a big fan in Miami coach Nick Saban, who has been singing Plummer’s praises all week long.

“He’s been outstanding,” Saban said during the preseason. “Jake makes good decisions in terms of managing their offense as well as making good choices about who he goes to with the ball.”

Wait, back up a second. Did Saban just compliment Plummer’s decision making? See, there’s proof he’s growing as a quarterback. Last year, the words “good” and “decision” were never linked with Plummer in the same sentence.

Then again, Saban would take just about anyone at this point. He struggled all preseason trying to find a quarterback for his team. Finally, he named former Denver QB Gus Frerotte his starter.

From the way he gushed, it sounded like Saban would love to have Plummer on board.

“I think Jake has done a great job,” Saban said.

So does Denver coach Mike Shanahan. He was pleased with Plummer’s ability to stay away from turnovers and make solid decisions in the preseason.

“Jake has played very consistently,” Shanahan said.

Now if it would only carry over into the regular season.

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