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Portis heads attack

Denver climbs back into playoff race with rout of Chiefs

Posted: Sunday December 7, 2003 9:24PM; Updated: Sunday December 7, 2003 9:28PM
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  Clinton Portis
Clinton Portis nearly doubled his touchdown production for the season Sunday.
AP

DENVER (AP) -- Clinton Portis had already scored four touchdowns, so Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer figured it was time to pound the ball into the line and salt away the win.

But receiver Rod Smith had other ideas. He wanted Portis to score and finish things off right.

That's just what he did.

Portis scored from 53 yards for his team-record fifth touchdown and finished with 218 yards, helping Denver stay in the AFC playoff hunt with a wild 45-27 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

"Jake was like 'Just protect the ball, let's move the ball and we can run out the clock,'" said Portis who finished 10 yards short of his career high, set in the final game of 2002.

"Rod was like 'Just score.' And I did. I need to stop taking Jake's advice and listen to Rod more often."

Portis impressed teammates with a 34-carry, 170-yard game in the rain last week against Oakland, but was even better this time.

He had touchdown runs of 11 and 1 yards in the first half, then added scores of 59, 28 and the final 53-yarder in the second.

Portis had 188 yards after halftime and finished with his fifth consecutive 100-yard game -- third straight with at least 160 yards. He has 2,960 yards his first two seasons, moving past LaDainian Tomlinson (2,919) and Ottis Anderson (2,957) for fourth in league history.

"I kind of expect it, because every time he touches the ball he's got a chance to go the distance," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "He has made so many big plays and it seems like he gets stronger as the game goes on."

Portis' effort helped Denver (8-5) tie Miami for the final AFC playoff spot and prevented Kansas City (11-2) from winning its first division title since 1997.

Trent Green threw for 397 yards and Priest Holmes scored two touchdowns, but the Chiefs struggled after a big first half to lose for the second time in four weeks after a 9-0 start.

"I don't know what the problem was," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. "We couldn't make a first down, we couldn't stop them. When that happens, you're not going to win many football games."

Denver scored on three of four possessions in the first half, and kept rolling in the second to finish with 508 yards.

The Broncos opened the third quarter with a 78-yard scoring drive, capped by Reuben Droughns' 3-yard touchdown catch that put the Broncos up 24-21.

Portis took over from there.

He broke free up the middle on Denver's next drive, freezing safety Jerome Woods with a move around the 30 before going in for a 59-yard touchdown.

Portis seemed bottled up at the line on Denver's next drive, but waited for the hole to open and burst through for a 28-yard touchdown.

He completed the rout on Denver's next play from scrimmage, going off left tackle to put the Broncos up 45-21.

"It was an unbelievable day," Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield said. "It was his day. Not ours."

The second half was a contrast to the first, when the teams traded scores as though it was an Arena League game.

Portis opened with an 11-yard touchdown run on Denver's first drive. The Chiefs answered quickly, moving 66 yards in 13 plays for Holmes' 2-yard touchdown run.

Kansas City had an answer -- of course -- scoring on Holmes' 1-yard dive. Dante Hall set it up with a 61-yard kickoff return to Denver's 36.

Then something odd happened: Denver had to kick a field goal. Jason Elam's 47-yarder made it 17-14.

Kansas City followed with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Green to Eddie Kennison, who rankled the Broncos by predicting a Chiefs win and criticizing coach Mike Shanahan.

Kennison celebrated by winding up for a windmill spike behind the end zone, to the boos of the crowd. But it was Kansas City's final points until Green scored on a 1-yard run with :02 left.

"It was humbling," Green said. "We had energy coming at halftime and felt good about the position we had put ourselves. I'm sure no one would have anticipated the way the second half unfolded."

Notes: The NFL record for touchdowns in a game is six, held by Ernie Nevels, Dub Jones and Gale Sayers. ... Denver's Shannon Sharpe caught six passes to become the first tight end to reach 800 receptions (805). ... Kansas City G Will Shields played in his 172nd straight game, breaking Jack Rudnay's team record. ... Denver played without WR/PR Deltha O'Neal, who spent most of last week in the Bay Area with his father, who has cancer. ... The Broncos averaged 8.44 yards per carry -- 270 yards on 32 carries -- breaking the team record 8.09 set last Dec. 29 against Arizona.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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