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Old 10-11-2005, 02:44 PM   #1
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ESPN - Pastabelli


Bell tolls for Broncos
The Washington-Denver game was billed all last week as a battle between Redskins tailback Clinton Portis and Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. The two were the major components in the March 4, 2004, megatrade in which the Broncos got a defender some people in the NFL considered the league's best all-around cornerback and the Redskins got a back who had twice rushed for over 1,500 yards. Turns out, unfortunately, that the much ballyhooed Portis-Bailey meeting never occurred on Sunday, because the Denver corner sat out the game with an injury. Funny thing, though, how it's sometimes the third piece of the puzzle, the overlooked element of a transaction, that becomes a big key in what are supposed to be high profile tete-a-tetes. That was the case on Sunday as Broncos reserve tailback Tatum Bell out-Portised the Redskins' star back, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns on just a dozen carries as Denver held off Washington, 21-19, securing the victory when linebacker Ian Gold knocked away a two-point conversion try. Portis, by the way, carried 20 times for 103 yards in his first trip back to the city where he began his excellent career.

But what does Tatum Bell have to do with the Portis-Bailey trade? Uh-huh, therein lies the twist, dear readers, that makes for some nifty intrigue. Remember how all the naysayers, in analyzing the deal, insisted that the Redskins gave up way too much for Portis, even given his first two brilliant NFL seasons? Well, Bell, as it turns out, was part of the "way too much." In addition to Bailey, a perennial Pro Bowl player at a high-premium position, the Redskins also included a second-round choice in the 2004 draft in the package they shipped to the Broncos to land Portis. Now, if you've been paying attention, you can pretty much figure out the player the Broncos selected with that extra second-round pick. If you guessed Tatum Bell, well, you win a cheroot. Denver snatched Bell with the 41st overall pick in 2004 and, while the former Oklahoma State star has been inconsistent and often disappointing, he was arguably the difference in Sunday's postponed Portis-Bailey clash, scoring on runs of 34 and 55 yards.

Bell is kind of a low-slung slasher, a runner the Denver coaches privately contend is their best back, but who often needs a kick in the behind to get him motivated. The Broncos made Mike Anderson the starter in training camp, in part at least, to try to light a fire under Bell. Not until Sunday, though, with Anderson struggling, did Bell ignite the Broncos' run game. In the first 18 games of his career, Bell ran for 550 yards and three touchdowns on 108 attempts. His performance against a pretty tough Washington defense, a unit that once again totally ignored linebacker LaVar Arrington, accounted for 18.9 percent of his career production. Not bad.

Oh, by the way, the Redskins apparently don't acknowledge the second-round pick that was part of the Bailey-Portis deal, and certainly Bell, as part of the big swap. In the Portis biography, on page 134 of this year's Redskins media guide, it notes the fourth-year runner was "acquired in a trade with the Denver Broncos in exchange for cornerback Champ Bailey." Seems the Redskins forgot about the second-round choice they threw into the deal. Too bad, based on Sunday's results, they didn't forget about it when they made the trade, huh?
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