Darting and dashing his way through Kansas City’s defense, Quentin Griffin ran for 156 yards and scored three touchdowns in his first game as Portis’ replacement, lifting the Broncos to a 34-24 victory over the Chiefs on Sunday night.
“He really stepped up,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “It’s nice to see Quentin come in and play at that level. It really didn’t surprise me.”
Denver traded Portis to Washington to get cornerback Champ Bailey, a potentially risky move because Portis rushed for over 1,500 yards in each of his first two seasons.
Portis was superb in his debut with the Redskins, rushing for 148 yards and touchdown in a 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay. Griffin was just as good.
The 5-foot-8 scatback juked his way to touchdown runs of 25 and 47 yards and caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Jake Plummer in the first quarter. Griffin even did Portis one better, breaking his team record for most yards on opening day. Portis had 120 last year, though Griffin isn’t ready to take over Portis’ self-proclaimed title of “world’s greatest running back.”
“I don’t think I’m ready for that,” Griffin said. “Clinton is a very good running back. I don’t think I’m the one to compare myself to him.”
Bailey made the trade look even better.
He tipped away a pass to Tony Gonzalez in the second quarter on the first ball thrown his direction, and intercepted another just before halftime when Trent Green scrambled and tried throw over his head. Bailey even got involved in the offense, lining up for a handful of plays and catching an 11-yard pass in the first half.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with a guy like that,” Plummer said. “He’s one of the great players to play in this league.”
The game was supposed to be more of a defensive matchup than in years past after both teams made changes.
It didn’t work out that way.
Kansas City’s defense ranked 29th in the league last season, costing defensive coordinator Greg Robinson his job. The Chiefs didn’t look any different under Gunther Cunningham.
Denver scored on its first three possessions, Plummer threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns and the Chiefs couldn’t keep up with Griffin’s jitterbug moves. Denver finished with 413 yards.
“They screwed us up with a lot of the different things they did,” Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. “A little different than what they’ve ever done and it screwed us up.”
Denver also gave up a 17-7 halftime lead 3 1/2 minutes into the third quarter, but that had more to do with Plummer than anything the defense did.
His first pass of the third quarter was intercepted by Monty Beisel, leading to Lawrence Tynes’ 50-yard field goal. Plummer then tried to throw left-handed to avoid a safety on the next drive. That one ended up in the hands of Shawn Barber and Holmes scored two plays later on a 4-yard run, tying the game at 17 as Plummer stood on the sideline shaking his head.
“We were fortunate that the game was that close,” Vermeil said. “If it hadn’t been for taking the ball away it wouldn’t have been that close because we were not doing anything offensively.”
The Broncos needed just 89 seconds to answer, with Griffin taking off through a big hole and shaking Greg Wesley near the 20 for a 47-yard touchdown run.
Kansas City came right back, blowing the Broncos off the line for 77 yards on seven straight runs. Holmes finished it off, bouncing off Lynch, planting his hand for balance and breaking two more tackles for a 33-yard touchdown run.
Denver took the lead back on Elam’s 45-yard field goal, then sealed it on Plummer’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Hape. Griffin had a hand in that one, too, juking his way to a 19-yard run.
“On that last drive, he made some people look foolish out there and helped us get that last touchdown,” Plummer said of Griffin.
Denver was hit with a group demonstration penalty after Bailey’s interception in the second quarter. … Denver’s Micah Knorr hit a 66-yard punt into a strong wind in the second quarter. … After Tynes missed a 63-yard field goal at the end of the half, the officials called both teams out of the locker room after realizing the ball hadn’t been spotted correctly. Tynes missed again, this time from 58 yards, after both teams returned and two stages for the halftime show were taken off the field.