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Plummer Rebounds to Keep Broncos in Race

Broncos 37, Titans 16

Associated Press
Sunday, December 26, 2004; Page E08

NASHVILLE, Dec. 25 -- Jake Plummer broke out of his slump and kept the Denver Broncos in the playoff race.

Plummer threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns and Reuben Droughns scored three touchdowns as the Broncos beat the Tennessee Titans, 37-16, Saturday night to stay in at least a tie for the AFC's final wild-card slot going into the final week of the season.

Broncos' Reuben Droughns eludes Titans cornerback Michael Waddell to score on a 23-yard pass play in the first quarter. Droughns also rushed for two scores. (Mark Humphrey -- AP)

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Denver (9-6) had lost three of its last four games with two of those losses to teams with losing records, including last week's 45-17 rout at Kansas City. Plummer hurt Denver more than he helped with nine interceptions and only two touchdowns in that stretch.

Against a Titans defense that was missing six starters, Plummer was intercepted once, giving him an NFL-high 20 interceptions this season. But he otherwise was superb.

The Broncos gave Coach Mike Shanahan his 100th career regular-season victory with the franchise at the expense of his friend, Titans Coach Jeff Fisher.

Denver handed the Titans (4-11) their fifth straight loss by shutting down Billy Volek, who was trying to become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in three consecutive games.

Reggie Hayward had three of the Broncos' six sacks, and the defense also forced two turnovers and limited Tennessee to a season-low 153 offensive yards. The Titans dropped to 1-6 at home this season before a stadium that was nearly empty in the final minutes on the cold Christmas night.

Volek was 8 of 20 for 111 yards before being knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised left knee, forcing the Titans to use Doug Johnson for the first time this season. Steve McNair was in street clothes because of his bruised chest.

Plummer completed his first eight passes and was 10 of 11 for 144 yards early in the second quarter in helping Denver score on its first three possessions for a 17-3 lead. He had a 23-yard touchdown pass to Droughns on the first drive for a lead the Broncos never lost.

Plummer finished 21 for 26.

The Broncos held the ball for more than 39 minutes and gained 496 yards. Droughns rushed 22 times for 91 yards, and Jason Elam kicked field goals of 22, 22 and 30 yards.

The Titans now have given up at least 31 points in each game during their skid, the franchise's longest since an 11-game streak in 1994.

Denver led 24-16 at the half because Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck picked off Plummer's pass and set up punter Craig Hentrich for a career-long 50-yard field goal as time expired. Gary Anderson added field goals of 44 and 43 yards.

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