Plummer showed no signs of rust in his first game in a month, throwing for 253 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Broncos to a 37-8 rout over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
"There's no question you try to minimize the situation when one of your guys go out," said tight end Shannon Sharpe, who caught all three of Plummer's touchdown passes. "But Jake brings us to a dimension we don't have unless he's in the ball game."
With Plummer back after missing four games with foot and shoulder injuries, Denver (6-4) came flying out of its bye week.
The Broncos dominated from the start, scoring on five of seven first-half possessions to take a 27-0 lead. Denver had 448 total yards and held the ball on offense for an amazing 44:11 -- believed to be a team record -- to end a three-game losing streak.
"Today was a big step for us because we came out and made plays for the first time in a while," Plummer said.
They sure did.
Sharpe caught seven passes for 101 yards and passed Jerry Smith's league record for touchdowns by a tight end with 61. He's already the all-time leader in receptions and yards at his position.
Rod Smith had a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown and caught 10 passes for 84 yards to become the 29th player in league history to eclipse 600 receptions (608).
Clinton Portis added 106 yards on 25 carries, and Jason Elam hit two field goals with a strained groin.
Plummer played like he never left, hitting 23 of 34 passes to improve to 5-1 as Denver's starter.
"They kept getting first down after first down and there was nothing we could do about it," Chargers cornerback Sammy Davis said.
San Diego's offense was even worse, one week after Doug Flutie led an improbable victory.
The Chargers (2-8) managed just 96 yards -- three in the second and third quarters -- after gaining a season-high 458 in a 42-28 win over Minnesota last week. San Diego also had four turnovers and went 37:47 between their first and second first downs.
Flutie was phenomenal against the Vikings, accounting for four touchdowns, but wasn't so great against the Broncos.
He was 9-for-25 for 70 yards with an interception and two fumbles. He at least improved over the first half, when he was 3-for-12 for 15 yards with a quarterback rating of 4.9.
"Things didn't go well," Flutie said. "We aren't all smiles and happy. It was frustrating not to be able to make a play."
LaDainian Tomlinson, the league's fourth-leading rusher, was held to 29 yards on eight carries.
"It is very disappointing, one of the most disappointing losses I've been involved with," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "We're out there turning the ball over four times, we can't hand it off, take the snap, we're dropping balls. It's very, very disappointing."
And it was bad from the start.
Flutie missed badly on a screen the first play of the game, then fumbled a snap that Denver's Al Wilson recovered at the Chargers 23-yard line.
Denver failed to convert -- Portis was stopped on fourth-and-inches -- but Tomlinson fumbled on the next play when Flutie's handoff came in too high.
The Broncos took advantage this time, scoring on Plummer's 11-yard pass to Sharpe, who celebrated by beating up Denver's Bronco mascot behind the end zone.
Elam gingerly kicked a 42-yard field goal to put Denver up 10-0, then followed with a 22-yarder early in the second quarter.
The rout was on four plays later when Smith took off up the middle for his first career punt return for a touchdown. That put the Broncos up 20-0 with over eight minutes still left in the half.
Sharpe capped the first half with a 26-yard touchdown catch, stiff-arming Terrence Kiel the final 5 yards, then adding a diving 26-yard touchdown in the third that made it 34-0.
"We just had to make some plays," Sharpe said. "The situation today was that we made the big plays."
- Denver WR Ed McCaffrey missed his fourth straight game with a quadriceps tendon injury.
- Denver swept the season series for the 13th time. The Broncos beat San Diego 37-13 on Sept. 14.
- Denver did not punt for the third time in team history, first since Nov. 4, 1990, against Minnesota.
- San Diego has not won in Denver since beating the Broncos 12-6 the final game of 1999. The Chargers have one win there since 1994.
- Punter Micah Knorr replaced Elam for Denver's final field goal, hitting from 27 yards in the fourth quarter for the first of his career.
The Associated Press News Service
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