Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Bronco looking to buck trend

Plummer anxious to take on Colts

DENVER -- Peyton Manning isn't the only league-leading quarterback appearing in this weekend's Colts-Broncos playoff game. Nobody in the NFL threw more interceptions than Jake Plummer this season.

And Manning, he of the commercial in which he fawns over everyday citizens with cheers like "Cut that meat" and "Let's go insurance adjusters," isn't the only QB who has found a special way to relate to fans. Plummer fashioned his own version of the Mile High Salute in a recent home game.

But before drawing the conclusion that every comparison between Manning and Plummer is a negative one for the Bronco, remember this: Manning and Plummer have played in the same number of Super Bowls -- zero. And with both in the primes of their careers, Manning has exactly one more playoff victory than Plummer does.

Plummer, whose lone postseason win came six years ago when he was with the Arizona Cardinals, has a chance to even that count Sunday, and maybe start his own legacy.

"You don't talk about many quarterbacks that have done nothing in the playoffs or the Super Bowl," said Plummer, answering a question Manning has become familiar with over the last few years. "Obviously, the playoffs are where it is made. That's where you have to perform and play well."

Those who give the Broncos little or no chance against the Colts -- they are 10-point underdogs -- should remember that while Plummer is no John Elway and has never professed to be, when "Good Jake" shows up, he can be very good.

He threw for 4,089 yards this season, more than anyone in Broncos history, including you-know-who. He threw for 27 touchdowns, matching Elway for the franchise single-season mark.

And while the obscene gesture Plummer flashed to fans and that scruffy, woodsman-like beard haven't bought him a lot of friends, he did take a stand when it came to honoring former teammate Pat Tillman (killed in Afghanistan) with a helmet sticker that violated the NFL dress code.

All of it has been part of a crazy, eclectic year for a quarterback (he called off his wedding on the day of the ceremony last March) who, despite it all, helped the Broncos to 10 wins and a trip to the playoffs for the second straight season.

Coach Mike Shanahan, one of Plummer's biggest supporters, doesn't shirk from the reality that Plummer needs a big performance in a playoff game to break through.

"I don't think there's any question if you talk about greatness, it's what you do in the playoffs," Shanahan said.

Whatever Plummer does, it seems sure he'll be in a Broncos uniform next season and for some time to come. He is owed a $6 million roster bonus on March 1, and both Shanahan and owner Pat Bowlen have professed their intention to keep Plummer.

Much of the hand-wringing around Denver has to do with the league-high 20 interceptions Plummer threw and his inability to make good choices on a consistent basis.

Earlier this season, it was former teammate Shannon Sharpe chiming in, insisting Plummer would never be more than a middle-of-the-road quarterback. Since then, all Plummer had to do is turn on a radio or open a paper to find more critics.

He insists he does neither.

Nor does he shy from the pressure cooker of being Broncos quarterback. Through all the tough times with the Broncos, he has stood and answered the questions. He knows more is expected of him in Denver than was in Arizona, where those few loyal Cardinals fans surely just laugh and shake their heads knowingly when they see the travails Plummer has been through this season.

"The pressure is on. It's a playoff game," he said. "The pressure is on every single week. It's been on the last couple weeks."

Needing to win the last two regular-season games to stay in the playoff hunt, Plummer came through both times. Last week, he played one of his best games of the season, going 17-for-30 for 246 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

For that effort, Plummer was the AFC offensive player of the week. On the same day, Manning was voted the NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Indeed, nobody has ever mistaken Plummer for Manning.

On Sunday in the playoffs, though, Jake the Snake has a chance to close the gap a little.

"I haven't had a lot of opportunities in my career," Plummer said, "so I am looking forward to this one."

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives