Woes climb mile high in Denver

NFL Week 2 in review

Griese: 0-2 Broncos need attitude change

September 21, 1999|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

For the second time in a week, a prominent member of the Denver Broncos' offense said the defending Super Bowl champions are in need of an attitude adjustment.

In the wake of a 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback Brian Griese reiterated Sunday what tailback Terrell Davis said after a Week 1 loss to Miami.

"We need a change in attitude," Griese said after getting benched in his second NFL start. "We need to come out and play like we come to dominate the other team."

Instead, the Broncos, off to an unthinkable 0-2 start, are being dominated. They surrendered 188 rushing yards to the Chiefs in Week 2, and 111 of those yards came in the fourth quarter -- a quarter that once belonged to John Elway.

Not only that, but Davis, a 2,000-yard rusher a year ago, has yet to break 80 yards in a game this season. Used to facing eight-man fronts, he got just 79, on 21 carries, against Kansas City's seven-man front.

The Broncos are having trouble with the running game on both sides of the ball. They have given up 299 rushing yards already at a 4.0 yards-per-carry clip. Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac, who passed for 179 yards and beat ex-Kansas City cornerback Dale Carter for two big plays, said the Broncos' blitzing schemes no longer hold any mystery.

"People are catching up to their defense now," Grbac said. "We know their schemes now."

It had already been a disquieting summer for the Broncos with Elway's retirement and the release of veteran safety Steve Atwater.

Then came coach Mike Shanahan's decision to replace veteran journeyman Bubby Brister at quarterback with the unproven Griese. Denver's locker room has been reeling ever since.

There is plenty of time for the Broncos to resurrect their dream of a Super Bowl threepeat, of course. But they've already lost a potential home-field tiebreaker with the loss to Miami.

Now, they're the fourth Super Bowl champion to start the season 0-2, joining the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, the 1987 New York Giants and the 1982 San Francisco 49ers. Only the Cowboys recovered -- after getting Emmitt Smith back from a two-game holdout -- to make the playoffs, and they went on to win Super Bowl XXVIII.

It will get harder for Denver before it gets easier. The Broncos test what might be the NFL's best defense in Tampa Bay in Week 3. Their attitudes had better be adjusted.

In retreat, Part II

The same might be said of the Minnesota Vikings, who suffered a stunning 22-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders at the Metrodome. The Vikings visit Green Bay this week, bearing little resemblance to the offensive team that torched the league for a record 556 points a year ago.

The Vikings have scored a total of 34 points in their first two games. Last season, they averaged slightly over 34 points per game.

"We saw so many great things happen last year," said quarterback Randall Cunningham, "and we know we have the same players, but it's going to be different.

"Teams took the off-season to plan against us. We're at a point right now where we're going to have to squeak games out."

Like the Broncos, the Vikings are having trouble running the ball. They were held to minus-1 yard rushing in the second half by Oakland.

Class of '99 revisited

The quarterback Class of 1999 already is paying its dues. The Cleveland Browns' Tim Couch made the first start of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round this season. Outside of a 39-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Johnson, the 26-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans was not memorable. He completed 12 of 24 for 134 yards.

Three other members of the class also saw action. The Cincinnati Bengals' Akili Smith threw for 100 yards and an interception after replacing injured starter Jeff Blake in a 34-7 loss to San Diego.

Donovan McNabb made his debut for the Philadelphia Eagles, replacing Doug Pederson, but spent most of the second half running from Tampa Bay's defense.

He was sacked six times in a 19-5 loss. Then there was Chicago's Cade McNown, who threw only two passes in a cameo appearance in the Bears' 14-13 loss to Seattle.

By the numbers

The New York Giants are 3-for-24 on third-down conversion attempts this season. Great on grass, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre is only 12-27 on artificial turf with the loss in Detroit. Buffalo quarterback Doug Flutie beat the New York Jets more with his feet (67 yards rushing with a 24-yard TD) than his arm (160 yards). Of the six quarterbacks who ran the ball at least five times Sunday, four of them won -- Flutie, Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart, Oakland's Rich Gannon and Jacksonville's Mark Brunell. After losing four of five games to the NFC in Week 1, the AFC swept the four-game series in Week 2.

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