Kanell takes his medicine as target of Ravens' defense

Broncos' third-string QB struggles under pressure

Ravens 26, Broncos 6

October 27, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Denver Broncos quarterback Danny Kanell knew he would be hit, harassed and hurried by the Ravens' defense yesterday.

And there was little he could do about it.

Making his first start since the 2000 season when he was with the Atlanta Falcons, Kanell threw two interceptions, was sacked twice by linebacker Peter Boulware and earned a passer rating of 33.5 in the Broncos' 26-6 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Afterward, it was hard to tell if the tired look on Kanell's face stemmed from a flu bug that forced him to go to a Denver hospital on Friday for intravenous fluids, or from consistent pressure from a defense that ranked ninth in the NFL.

"I think it was obvious what they were going to try to do to me," Kanell said. "Being a quarterback who hasn't been back there in a while, they were going to put a lot of guys on the line of scrimmage. They're a tough defense."

A smart one, too. Aware that the Broncos would hand the ball off to running back Clinton Portis -- last season's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year -- early and often, the Ravens stacked the line of scrimmage and practically dared Kanell to beat them through the air.

The strategy worked. Although Portis carried 22 times for 86 yards, 10 of those rushes gained 2 yards or fewer.

Of Kanell's 16 completions, only two exceeded 10 yards. Of Denver's 12 first downs, only four were converted through the air. And Kanell threw fourth-quarter interceptions to middle linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Gary Baxter that the Ravens turned into touchdowns.

"We knew their quarterback situation," Lewis said. "We understood ... that they were going to feed Clinton Portis. We just flew to the ball."

The cards seemed stacked against Kanell before he guided an offense that managed just 194 yards yesterday. The team's No. 3 quarterback before injuries to starter Jake Plummer and backup Steve Beuerlein shoved him into the spotlight, Kanell had been out of the NFL since the 2000 season.

The flu forced Kanell to the hospital, where he lost a few pounds and perhaps a little strength.

"I obviously would've liked to have a little more energy," Kanell said. "But I was ready to play. ... It didn't hinder the way I played."

It also didn't change Broncos coach Mike Shanahan's thoughts about Kanell. Shanahan said he never considered pulling Kanell for backup Jarious Jackson.

"I think Danny hung in there," Shanahan said. "For a guy to come back and play the whole game like he did, I thought that took a lot of courage. ... He'd probably like to have a throw back or two, but I was pleased with his effort. I was just disappointed in our execution."

Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe also backed Kanell.

"From an offensive standpoint, there's enough blame to go around for everybody," Sharpe said. "We're not going to sit here and say it was this person or that person. If you play offense, you're equally responsible for what transpired out there today."

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