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Elam Kicks In to Back Up Defense of Broncos

October 13, 2003|From Associated Press

DENVER — The defense gave the Denver Broncos a chance to win. Jason Elam took advantage.

Elam hit a 47-yard field goal on the final play Sunday to lift Denver past Pittsburgh, 17-14, the Steelers' third consecutive loss.

"It wasn't a pretty game, but we didn't expect it to be pretty," Bronco defensive tackle Bert Berry said. "We knew it was going to be a battle, and there wouldn't be a moment where we could have a letdown."

Pittsburgh (2-4) tied the score, 14-14, on Jerome Bettis' one-yard dive and a two-point conversion, and the Broncos (5-1) got the ball at their 20 with 2:41 left.

Denver's Steve Beuerlein struggled in place of injured starter Jake Plummer, but was five of eight for 44 yards on the final drive. He got a break when safety Brent Alexander dropped an interception at the Steelers' 20 with 44 seconds left.

Elam trotted out four plays later and lined up with five seconds left. He hesitated for a bit after the kick, then raised his arms as the ball curled inside the right upright.

It was the 13th field goal of his career that won a game or tied a score.

Bettis appeared to have ruined any chance the Steelers had when he fumbled at Denver's 48. That led to an 11-yard pass from Beuerlein to Rod Smith, who beat Dewayne Washington on the touchdown, and on a 34-yard over-the-shoulder catch two plays earlier.

But Bettis made up for it on the next drive.

Pittsburgh moved 74 yards in 13 plays, capping the drive with a one-yard dive by Bettis. On the two-point conversion, Denver's Kelly Herndon tripped up Bettis, who fell on the back of guard Alan Faneca's legs and was towed into the end zone.

"We knew that we had to go down there and score, and we got it," receiver Plaxico Burress said.

Pittsburgh had only 215 yards, and their makeshift line had a hard time keeping the Broncos off quarterback Tommy Maddox. The Steelers failed to reach 100 yards rushing -- they finished with 85 -- for the third consecutive game and managed only 19 yards in 21 plays on Denver's side of the field.

Maddox did not have a pass intercepted for the first time in five games, but was sacked seven times in his first game at Denver since starting his career with the Broncos. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Week 3.

"I was trying to make the right decisions," said Maddox, who spent his first two seasons as John Elway's backup. "When you are under pressure, you don't want to throw any ill-advised throws."

Plummer didn't play after aggravating a shoulder injury against Kansas City last week.

"I wasn't in a rhythm at all, for whatever reason," said Beuerlein, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 172 yards. "Against a defense like that, if you don't play 100%, then they'll definitely make you pay for it."

The Broncos had the league's third-best rushing offense, but finished with only 77 yards in 18 carries. Clinton Portis had 47 yards in 15 carries and lost a fumble at Pittsburgh's 25 in the third quarter.

Denver had three turnovers and finished with 242 yards.

"We were stymied most of the game," Bronco Coach Mike Shanahan said.

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