INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Clinton Portis just knew his teammates would take Denver into the playoffs.
With an injured Portis cheering from the sideline, Griffin ran for 136 yards, Anderson added 56 yards and a touchdown and Plummer ran for two scores as the Broncos’ pounded Indianapolis 31-17.
“I think I’m playing for my job,” Portis joked. “These guys went out and played great.”
It was the Broncos’ fourth straight victory and completed what seemed an improbable playoff run just a month ago when they were just 6-5. Denver (10-5) will make its first playoff appearance since 2000 and just its second since John Elway retired following the 1998 season.
For the Colts (11-4), it was a gut-wrenching loss. They could have wrapped up the AFC South title at home and put themselves in position for a first-round bye.
Indianapolis still can win the division next week, with a win at Houston or a Tennessee loss, but will have to play in the first round because New England (13-2) will have a better overall record and Kansas City (12-3) is guaranteed of a better conference record.
If Sunday’s game was any indication, the Colts could be in for another long day.
“We have to look at that because it looks like there’s a good chance we could play these guys down the road,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “We’re going to have to see how we can play them the next time.”
Denver ran nearly twice as many plays as the Colts, 71-37, produced 227 yards on the ground and held the ball for 44:58—even without Portis, the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,591 yards. Portis was inactive after spraining his right knee and ankle last week against Cleveland.
But he was a part of the action. Wearing orange shoes, orange and white gloves and a baseball cap, Portis constantly prodded his teammates.
Anderson, the 2000 offensive rookie of the year, was the Broncos power runner, Griffin the speedster and Plummer the trickster as he scrambled effectively and gained yardage of quarterback draws.
“We were just going to try to change it up,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “The second half, we had the lead, so we tried to control the clock some.”
The Colts had no answers.
Griffin averaged nearly five yards on his 28 carries, Anderson continually ran through tackles and the Colts’ defense couldn’t get off the field.
“We knew they were going to come in here and try to run the ball, and we were trying to stop them,” linebacker Gary Brackett said. “They were the better team.”
Indianapolis’ offense also struggled.
It never had a sustained drive in the second half and spent most of the night watching.
While Peyton Manning became the first NFL quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in five straight seasons, Marvin Harrison became the league’s 21st player to top 10,000 yards receiving and kicker Mike Vanderjagt moved within one kick of tying Gary Anderson’s record for most consecutive field goals, it was still one of the Colts’ poorest performances of the season.
Manning completed just 12 of 23 passes for 146 yards and Harrison had six catches for 85 yards. Edgerrin James carried 10 times for 42 yards.
The results showed.
After Brackett picked off Plummer’s first pass of the game and ran it back 31 yards for a touchdown, it was all Broncos.
Plummer hooked up with Ashley Lelie for a 60-yard completion on the next series.
“We wanted to challenge them early,” Shanahan said. “It was a big-time throw and a big-time catch.”
Five plays later, Anderson plowed in from the 2 to tie it. Lelie had five catches for 115 yards, while Plummer completed 14 of 17 for 238 yards.
The Broncos took the lead on a nifty 6-yard run by Plummer, who dived across the goal line to make it 14-7.
After Indianapolis tied it on James’ 16-yard run, Denver used nearly eight minutes before Plummer took it in from 1 for a 21-14 lead.
“This is big,” Griffin said. “Getting into the playoffs and helping theteam get their especially. I had to be ready.”
Tight end Shannon Sharpe caught two passes to move past Henry Ellard and into ninth on the career receptions list. Sharpe has 815 catches. … The Colts moved within three points of breaking their single-season scoring record. They have 427 points this year. They scored 429 in 2000. … Vanderjagt broke his own single-season scoring record with an extra point in the second quarter. He has 149 points this year. .. Denver blocked its first punt since Oct. 20,2002.