Titan defense folds in Denver loss
By: By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) — A bunch of big plays and one big win led to some mighty strong words from Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall.
Marshall was one of four Denver players to score a long touchdown Monday night in a 34-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans that moved the Broncos into a first-place tie with San Diego in the AFC West at 5-5.
“This is our division,” Marshall said. “San Diego, Kansas City, they don’t have the talent like us in the locker room. They have the star players, but can’t get it done like us.”
Little-known Andre Hall had a 62-yard touchdown run and Glenn Martinez, another Broncos player who could walk through downtown Denver unnoticed, returned a punt 80 yards.
“Couldn’t have picked a better time,” Hall said with a grin.
Denver’s offense finally broke out, piling up 359 yards. The Broncos scored four touchdowns of at least 40 yards for the first time in franchise history.
“We’ve just been holding back a little bit,” said Marshall, who had a 41-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. “We thought that we could definitely have some big plays and we did.”
The game gave Jay Cutler a chance to square off with Vince Young, the quarterback picked eight spots ahead of him in the 2006 draft.
And while Young had splashier numbers — 305 yards — Cutler got the victory.
Cutler finished 16-for-21 for 200 yards and two touchdowns with a gaudy 137.0 passer rating.
“Jay is going to be one of the best in this league,” Marshall said.
Young also ran for a season-high 74 yards and a four-yard score. But his career passing night was offset by two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
Had his receivers not dropped at least four easy passes, Young’s numbers could’ve been even more impressive, and the Titans (6-4) might have avoided their second straight loss. The first drop came on the game’s first drive, after receiver Brandon Jones slipped behind Champ Bailey but bobbled the easy catch.
“You can’t do anything about it,” Young said. “I just tell them, ‘I’m coming right back to you.’ Even though it’s a drop, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to throw you the ball.”
Young and Cutler were the headliners coming into the game, but the Broncos found a few more after it started.
Hall, the first-year player out of South Florida, was filling in for Selvin Young, who sprained his knee in the second half.
With Travis Henry already sitting out due to a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament, the Broncos didn’t have many options.
Hall finished with 89 yards on seven carries.
“I don’t get many chances,” said Hall, who had eight carries all season coming into the game. “For me to be able to make a big run like that is huge.”
Martinez felt the same way. His eyes lit up when Craig Hentrich kicked a low liner right at him.
“They gave me a crease and that’s all I needed to take it home,” Martinez said.
Martinez also muffed a punt that led to a Tennessee touchdown late in the third quarter to make the score 27-17.
That four-yard run by Young came after the second of two ill-advised timeouts called by Denver.
Linebacker Nate Webster called a timeout just before the snap on third-and-goal from the 1, a play in which Young came up short of the end zone as he reached for the pylon.
But because of the timeout, the play didn’t count, and Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher had a chance to review the previous play, in which Young scored but was ruled out at the 1.
Fisher’s challenge was upheld, giving the Titans the score instead of fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan also called timeout just before Rob Bironas missed a 56-yard field goal near the end of the first half. Bironas was given a second chance and made the kick.
The ploy worked for Shanahan in an overtime win over the Oakland Raiders earlier this season. He signaled timeout just before Sebastian Janikowski made a 52-yarder. Janikowski’s subsequent kick bounced off the left upright, and Denver would go on to kick a game-winning field goal.
“Don’t anybody ever question me about those field goals and timeouts again,” Shanahan said. “I told you this would happen sooner or later. You live by the sword and die by the sword.”
At least he could laugh about it.
The Titans, meanwhile, brought the second-ranked defense into the game but struggled against Denver in part because they played without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (right hamstring) and cornerback Nick Harper (concussion).
They missed a couple tackles on Brandon Stokley’s 48-yard touchdown catch and run that opened the scoring. There were more missed tackles to come.
“This was our worst day of tackling,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “This was disgusting.”
Notes: Broncos K Jason Elam connected on field goals of 21 and 39 yards, giving him 384 and putting him fifth on the career list. … Titans RB LenDale White, a Denver native, had 42 yards and a fumble in his return home. … Tennessee OL Benji Olson was a late scratch when he woke up Monday with a stiff back.