Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Broncos battered heading into bye

NFL notebook

The Associated Press

DENVER - With a three-game losing streak and an injury list that includes nearly half the roster, the Denver Broncos need a break. It comes this week, but it might be too late to save the season.

"I'm not giving up," Broncos cornerback Lenny Walls said. "We may be 5-4, but that doesn't mean we can't make the playoffs."

Denver opened the season 4-0, but injuries and inconsistency have led to four losses in five games.

The Broncos appeared on their way out of the rut Monday night against New England, but a deliberate safety, a misplayed free kick and a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to David Givens with 30 seconds left led to a 30-26 loss. It was the Patriots' fifth straight victory.

The Broncos are 3 1/2 games behind Kansas City in the AFC West.

Injuries certainly haven't helped.

Denver entered Monday's game without its top two quarterbacks, two of its three starting linebackers, its left tackle and its third receiver. It only got worse.

The Broncos had one backup linebacker left after Donnie Spragan sprained his foot in the third quarter. Receiver Rod Smith didn't return after taking a hard shot in the fourth period. And Denver was forced to punt twice in New England's end of the field after kicker Jason Elam strained a groin muscle while practicing on the sideline.

Quarterback Jake Plummer said his broken foot is healing as expected and he plans to return Nov. 16 against San Diego.

STEELERS: Cornerback Dewayne Washington was benched and Deshea Townsend, a backup who plays extensively in the extra-back defenses, will start.

BILLS: Tight end Mark Campbell avoided becoming an unrestricted free agent by signing a multiyear contract extension with Buffalo. Terms were not disclosed.

DOLPHINS: Offensive tackle Mark Dixon was placed on injured reserve because of an ankle injury. He has not played this season.

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