In start, Frerotte has day to forget

Knee injury only adds to pain of performance for Denver quarterback

January 01, 2001|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

When Denver Broncos quarterback Gus Frerotte discovered Saturday he would get the nod as starter for the playoff game against the Ravens yesterday, he wanted to come in and do a bang-up job.

Instead, as in his previous game in Maryland, he simply got banged up in a 21-3 loss.

"You don't get to the playoffs too many times, and you're lucky if you get to go again," said Frerotte, who was sacked five times a year ago as the starter for the Detroit Lions in a playoff loss to the Washington Redskins in Landover. "I wanted to make the most of it."

But he didn't, as the Broncos were held without a touchdown in a playoff game for the first time in franchise history.

As a Redskin, Frerotte once gave himself a concussion after head-butting a wall to celebrate a touchdown. On another occasion, he suffered a fractured hip.

But his seventh start in 11 appearances for this season's Broncos was supposed to be different. Frerotte was coming off a 38-9 rout of the San Francisco 49ers, during which he was 18-for-29 for 205 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a score after replacing injured starter Brian Griese on the first series.

But against the Ravens' No. 2-ranked defense, Frerotte suffered not only a hyper-extended lower left knee, but a fractured ego to boot.

"I'm really ticked off that I didn't play better," said Frerotte, a seventh-year veteran who entered the game having completed 138 of 232 passes for nine touchdowns against eight interceptions. "I didn't get the job done offensively. I didn't play the way I know I can play. I apologized to my teammates."

Frerotte completed 13 of 28 passes for 124 yards and an interception yesterday. He recovered from the knee injury, the result of big hit late in the game, and returned to play. But Frerotte also had to recover his own fumble after a snap on the Broncos' third possession of the game, losing 14 yards.

It didn't help that the Broncos faced wind gusts reaching 27 mph in the second half. But it was the Ravens who, in the end, were a true force of nature: Frerotte was sacked two times by defensive end Michael McCrary and once each by defensive end Rob Burnett and linebacker Peter Boulware.

Defensive tackles Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams knocked down two passes each. And linebacker Ray Lewis intercepted a pass on the Broncos' second play from scrimmage.

"They had a pick [interception] early. They did a good job, knocking down some balls at the line. We had some balls thrown behind [receivers]," Frerotte said. "But we didn't get it done offensively, and I'm putting it all on me because I think I could have played better."

Baltimore set the tone early, as Lewis got his interception after the ball slipped past intended receiver Ed McCaffrey.

The Ravens didn't score until early in the second quarter, but the tempo was established. Frerotte went 0-for-3 passing in the first quarter, when Denver had only 17 rushing yards.

"We tried to run the ball, [to] keep them in a scenario where they at least had to respect the run so they couldn't tee off and go right after the quarterback," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "But you allow a team to put you into a one-dimensional game and you're in for a long day."

The second half began similarly to the first, with Frerotte throwing an incomplete pass on first down from his own 38. After Denver was penalized for a false start, the Broncos' Rod Smith was dropped by Burnett for a 4-yard loss.

Then, on third down, Adams knocked down a pass.

"We got behind the eight-ball and had to keep throwing the ball," Frerotte said. "I missed some throws today, and I'd love to have some things back. It's a tough place to come and play. It's hard to end the season like this."

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