DENVER • He took an interception back for a touchdown to salt away a Super Bowl and did the same thing to turn Peyton Manning’s debut in Denver into a rousing success.
Still, Tracy Porter has played cornerback for long enough in this league to know all days don’t end as well as those.
The defender who has enjoyed some of the highest highs over his five years in the NFL spent the second half last Sunday sitting on the bench, nursing a bruised knee and a bruised ego. Beaten twice for long touchdowns, Porter knows there’s no other choice but to get back out there.
He’ll be in the starting lineup Sunday when the Broncos (1-2) play the Oakland Raiders (1-2).
“Even though it’s your goal, week in and week out, to make big plays, those guys get paid, too,” Porter said. “They made plays. They capitalized on my mistakes and that’s just what happened. You put the game behind you. Win or lose, you make corrections and move on to the next week.”
To recap, it was Porter, who lines up opposite Champ Bailey on the Denver defense, who was in coverage when Andre Johnson slipped behind him and caught a 60-yard touchdown from Matt Schaub in the 31-25 loss to Houston last Sunday. A few minutes later, it was Porter again responsible for the coverage on the 52-yard touchdown connection between Schaub and Kevin Walter.
Oh, there were explanations. The Broncos barely got any pass rush on Schaub on either of the plays. And on the first touchdown, safety Mike Adams wasn’t there to help when he should have been.
Porter knows cornerbacks can’t make excuses.
“It was miscues on the back end, I was out of position on one of them,” he said. “They capitalized on it, simple as that. I watched the film over and over and saw the mistakes I made. It’s my job to eliminate them.”
After the second touchdown, Porter spent most of his time sitting on the bench, alone. No injury was ever announced. Only after the game did coach John Fox say Porter had irritated a bruised left knee that hampered his mobility. Porter said there is, indeed, an injury and that he’s been taking it slow, hoping to be at full health come Sunday.
“It’s very frustrating because I know what type of player I am,” he said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t have brought me here to play opposite of Champ.”
In the offseason, the Broncos signed Porter to a one-year, $4 million contract, hoping he could bring the coverage skills, to say nothing of the big-play ability, he displayed during his four seasons in New Orleans.
His highlight year, of course, was 2009. In the NFC championship game, with Brett Favre taking the Vikings into New Orleans territory trying for the winning score, Porter got the interception that sent the game into overtime. Then, in the Super Bowl, Porter short-circuited Manning’s comeback, intercepting a pass and returning it 74 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a 14-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
In his first game in Denver, he was on Manning’s side. He sealed Denver’s 31-19 win over Pittsburgh with a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown that earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He also had five pass breakups and eight tackles that day.
In the span of two weeks, so much changed. Such is life as a cornerback.
“We think he’s an outstanding player,” Fox said. “He’s played very well for us. If you haven’t been beat, you haven’t played. He’s had a great week of preparation and we expect big things Sunday.”
Broncos safety Quinton Carter was ruled out of Sunday’s game with a knee injury.