DENVER (AP) – Mark Brunell drove the Redskins 94 yards for a touchdown and it looked like Washington’s charmed season was in for another nice ending. A missed 2-point conversion ruined that story, and the Denver Broncos walked away feeling fortunate.

Ian Gold knocked away Brunell’s pass on the 2-point attempt with 1:09 left Sunday to help the Broncos hang onto their fourth straight win, 21-19 over the Redskins on a sloppy, rain-soaked day in the Rockies.

While Gold’s big play saved the game, Tatum Bell made the difference for Denver (4-1) the rest of the time, rushing for 127 yards and two long scores to help Denver to a 21-10 lead.

In the first quarter, Bell took a toss on fourth-and-1 and faked out Redskins lineman Phillip Daniels en route to a 34-yard score.

That stood as Bell’s longest career run until the third quarter, when he burst through the Washington defense on a sweep for a 55-yard touchdown to put the Broncos ahead by 11.

The Redskins (3-1) rallied, using a blocked punt to set up a field goal to pull within eight, then going 94 yards in 3:28 – helped by two Denver penalties – and capping the drive with an 11-yard pass from Brunell to Chris Cooley.

Gold deflected the 2-point pass to preserve the fourth straight win for the Broncos (4-1) on a day in which cornerback Champ Bailey was not available.

Bailey missed his second straight game with a sore hamstring and put a damper on what was supposed to be the first meeting between him and Clinton Portis since the Redskins and Broncos pulled off a blockbuster trade and swapped the two stars before last season.

Portis, a flamboyant and temperamental playmaker during his two years in Denver, ran for 103 yards on 20 carries for the Redskins and was greeted by boos pretty much every time he touched the ball.

He wasn’t nearly as big a factor as Bell.

The Broncos acquired Bell last year with a second-round pick Washington threw in to complete the Bailey-Portis trade, and Bell finally cashed in on the potential he showed signs of during his injury-plagued rookie season.

His big plays were needed.

Denver gained only 257 yards and managed 11 first downs. Jake Plummer went 10-for-25 for 92 yards, a sloppy showing that wasn’t nearly as efficient as he’d been in Denver’s last two wins.

Brunell, meanwhile, threw for 322 yards and kept the Washington offense on the field for 34 minutes, but the fantastic finishes that helped the Redskins win their first three games by a total of six points weren’t there this time.

Washington had plenty of missed opportunities to bemoan in such a close game.

A false-start penalty nullified what would have been a 54-yard field goal by Nick Novak – a darn good kick given the conditions – at the end of the first half. In the third quarter, Washington moved into field goal range again, but Trevor Pryce got a hand on Novak’s kick.

Three plays later, Bell got loose to give the Broncos breathing room.

AP-ES-10-09-05 2004EDT


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