OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Kerry Collins has thrown 12 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. Jake Plummer’s line is identical.

Neither quarterback is making the kind of mistakes that plagued him last season.

After a rocky start for the Oakland Raiders a year ago – when he was thrust into the starting lineup after Rich Gannon broke his neck – Collins has improved in accuracy and decision-making.

Same goes for Plummer, a ninth-year NFL quarterback in his third year with the Denver Broncos. He threw 20 interceptions in 2004, his fifth season with 20 or more picks. But Plummer also passed for 27 touchdowns and set Denver’s single-season record with 4,089 yards in the air.

The quarterback who can be most consistent likely will end up on the winning side when their teams meet today in a matchup of longtime AFC West rivals.

“I think both of them are doing the things they have been asked to do in terms of managing the team, managing the game and eliminating some of the problems,” Raiders coach Norv Turner said. “Both guys have obviously done a great job eliminating the turnovers and interceptions, and that is a big part of it.”

Collins also had 20 interceptions last season, to 21 TDs. He was sacked 25 times, too.

Oakland’s defense has struggled to pick off opposing quarterbacks, managing only two interceptions in the season’s first half. Denver’s defense has seven interceptions.

Plummer has worked tirelessly to cut down on his mistakes. He knew he didn’t have much choice, and he constantly reminds himself not to force things.

“Obviously, there’s times that you’ve got to make a play,” Plummer said. “I’m sure Kerry will tell you that not every interception he threw last year was a bad read by him. The ball bounces strange sometimes. This year, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a few that have been in the other team’s hands that have hit the ground. You’ve just got to go right back and keep fighting.”

Last November, Collins threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns as the Raiders pulled off a 25-24 road upset.

And after Oakland took the lead, Plummer drove the Broncos to the Raiders 25 to set up a field-goal attempt by Jason Elam, but the snap was high. Elam kicked the laces-side of the ball and Langston Walker blocked the kick to preserve the win.

The Broncos, 11-point favorites coming in, suddenly were 7-4, instead of 8-3. They had already beaten the Raiders 31-3 in Oakland that October.

“This is a different year,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “You really can’t think about what you’ve done in the past. You go through the real good years, the average years and the poor years, and the main thing you have to focus on is not what has been done in the past but what you can do today and this week in your preparation for the game.”

The Raiders don’t seem concerned about putting week’s loss behind them. Oakland’s roster of a year ago seemed to dwell on the problems rather than look for solutions.

Collins talks about the improved chemistry in the locker room, a feel-good proclamation signifying a giant step from the internal issues this franchise has faced in recent seasons. Even Jerry Rice couldn’t handle a reduced role in the offense and bolted for Seattle during the 2004 season.

Almost everyone in the Oakland organization will say the Raiders are better off than they were in Turner’s first year as coach in 2004.

“Oh yeah, without question,” Collins said. “I think we’ve got more chemistry on this team, the leadership is better than it was last year. I think guys are taking more pride in what we do. Certainly, there have been instances this year where we’ve been able to respond to situations that last year we probably wouldn’t have been able to.”

Collins’ improvement is a big reason players are more upbeat. In addition, linebacker Danny Clark stood up and told his teammates back in March they all needed to look inside themselves and vow to end the losing.

“Any game we face this year is big for us right now,” Clark said. “We’re down to an eight-game streak. I feel like if anybody can do it, we can do it. It starts off with Denver.”

AP-ES-11-10-05 1625EST


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