Broncos 35, Titans 10

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DENVER (AP)—Mike Bell made another big blunder and got another earful on the sideline.

Last week, the undrafted, unheralded rookie running back fumbled away the football just days after his dazzling rise through the depth chart to become the Broncos’ top tailback.

He redeemed himself by scoring two touchdowns in Denver’s 35-10 rout of Tennessee on a wet and chilly Saturday night, when he rumbled for 73 yards on 10 carries.

Still, he had some more explaining to do.

Wide receiver Rod Smith chastised him for going out of bounds at the end of a 34-yard run instead of burying his helmet into safety Lamont Thompson.

“There is no one on our football team who has the right to run out of bounds on his own unless it’s the quarterback,” Smith said. “You always fight for the extra yard. You never know. They might miss the tackle. They might slip. So, he didn’t know that, so we let him slide on that one.”

Smith intercepted a fuming running backs coach Bobby Turner and convinced him that the admonition should come from a teammate.

“The guy got like 30 yards. You can’t be mad at him,” Smith said. “But at the same time, you’re like, ‘Look, man, don’t ever run out of bounds again. That sideline is not for us; it’s for the quarterbacks.”

Which is something Denver coach Mike Shanahan had to remind Jake Plummer when he took a big hit from linebacker David Thornton while trying to score on a scramble to the pylon in the second quarter.

“I’ve got to be smart in the preseason to make sure I’m not taking those hits,” Plummer said. “It wasn’t like I got hit that hard but, still, the head coach doesn’t like to see me take those hits in the preseason if I don’t have to, so next week you won’t see me do that again. I don’t want to get yelled at.”

Neither does Bell, who said he didn’t know about the Broncos’ rule that nobody goes out of bounds on their own accord unless they’re the one taking the snap.

“I didn’t know about that, but as a running back, that’s like the golden rule: you never go out of bounds. I don’t know what I was thinking,” Bell said. “I’m definitely never going to do it again. So, you live and you learn, right?”

Sandwiched in between Bell’s 1-yard dive and 1-yard dart into the end zone was a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from Plummer to tight end Nate Jackson after the Broncos got the ball at midfield on safety Nick Ferguson’s interception of Billy Volek’s pass.

Plummer kept the Titans off-balance with a bevy of rollouts, and completed 7 of 9 passes for 97 yards before giving way to backup Jay Cutler, the Broncos’ top draft pick, who led Denver on touchdown drives on his first two possessions.

Denver didn’t punt until the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter and led 35-3 before Vince Young, the No. 3 pick in the draft, led the Titans on a late scoring drive.

The Broncos’ defense was almost as efficient and impressive as its offense. Despite missing linemen Courtney Brown (knee) and Gerard Warren (toe), the Broncos registered three sacks of Volek, two by Demetrin Veal, who started in place of Warren.

Two Broncos defensive captains, cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker Al Wilson, were held for breaking curfew Friday night: “If you miss curfew, you don’t play,” Shanahan said. “We’ve got rules, and they’re good for everybody.”

The Titans trailed 35-3 before they finally got into the end zone, and even that was an adventure.

Young recovered his own fumble at the goal line after Hamza Abdullah punched the ball loose following an 11-yard scramble up the middle in the fourth quarter.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been hit like that,” said Young, who led Texas to the national championship last year.

Young completed 11 of 19 passes for 125 yards against second- and third-stringers. He also had an interception that was wiped out by a penalty. Fellow rookie LenDale White, a Denver native, led the Titans with 28 yards on seven rushes in his NFL debut after sitting out last week for spitting on a teammate during practice.

“All I could say about tonight’s performance is I’m glad it was preseason,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We played a really good team tonight and didn’t do a good job of matching up.”

Notes

Tennessee DE Antwan Odom sprained his right knee making a tackle in the first quarter and was carted off the field. He’ll undergo an MRI on Monday. … Broncos WR Javon Walker didn’t have any passes thrown his way in his first start since blowing out his right knee in Green Bay’s season opener last year.

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