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Griese has fun at Browns expense

The Associated Press

DENVER – Brian Griese’s banner day had only one bummer moment.

Monday, October 16, 2000

DENVER – Brian Griese’s banner day had only one bummer moment.

After passing for 304 yards in the first half alone and throwing his third touchdown pass late in the third quarter, Griese was removed from the game.

”I told them on the sideline, ‘You’re taking me out just when I’m starting to have fun. I need games like this,”’ Griese said after leading the Denver Broncos to a 44-10 romp over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Such games are becoming commonplace for the third-year pro, who is the AFC’s top-rated passer and who has thrown for more than 300 yards on three occasions this season.

With 1,720 yards, Griese, who missed one game because of torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder, is on pace to finish with 4,300 yards this season, which would be a Broncos record, eclipsing the 4,030 of John Elway in 1993.

”Nothing Brian does surprises me because of his work ethic,” said wide receiver Rod Smith, who caught all three of Griese’s scoring passes. ”I wanted him to have 400 yards and seven touchdowns today.

”I look around the league and they’re always talking about this quarterback’s hot and that quarterback’s hot. I know for a fact that Brian Griese is hot, and we’re very fortunate in the way he’s playing.”

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said the Browns ”played an eight-man front, sometimes nine, trying to take our running game away. They gave us the opportunity to make some big plays, and Brian took advantage of it.”

Griese completed 19 of 34 passes and finished with 336 yards, with no interceptions.

His 61-yard pass to Ed McCaffrey on the game’s second play from scrimmage set up a field goal by Jason Elam.

After throwing a 36-yarder to McCaffrey, Griese connected with Smith on a 22-yard scoring pass midway through the second quarter. Moments later, he hit Smith again on a 17-yarder to make it 17-3.

Griese completed five passes to set up Elam’s 45-yard field goal just before the half.

After the Browns cut the deficit to 20-10 early in the third quarter on Tim Couch’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Travis Prentice, Denver’s Deltha O’Neal returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards, setting up Mike Anderson’s 26-yard scoring burst.

With 4:48 left in the period, Griese rolled right and passed 32 yards to Smith to make it 34-10.

Despite mounting injuries that forced them to adjust their offensive sets, the Broncos (4-3) generated 499 yards compared to 278 for the Browns (2-5), who dropped their fourth straight game.

Griese, who doesn’t practice on Wednesdays to ease the strain on his injured shoulder, operated in front of a battered backfield on Sunday.

The Broncos were without starting running back Terrell Davis and fullback Howard Griffith, who were sidelined with ankle and knee injuries, respectively. Griffith’s backup, Detron Smith, was limited to special-teams duty because of a leg injury, and Anderson’s backup, KaRon Coleman, was inactive because of a sprained foot.

”We went into the game with just one fullback, two running backs and three wide receivers,” Shanahan said, explaining the Broncos’ decision to go with a one-back offense without a fullback and using four tight ends.

Griese said the Broncos ”didn’t have a fullback, basically, so it was a new offense for us.”

Cleveland’s Tim Couch was 24-for-40 for 266 yards with one touchdown. The Broncos sacked him five times and intercepted three of his passes, one of which was returned 36 yards for a TD by safety Billy Jenkins.

”I thought when we scored to make it 20-10, we would make it a little bit of a game,” Cleveland coach Chris Palmer said. ”Then they had the return past midfield, and that was demoralizing. Griese threw the ball well, they ran it when they had to and they blitzed us heavily.”