for this game

Rookie QB Cutler makes debut for Broncos on Sunday night

Nov 29, 2006 - 1:10 AM Seattle (7-4) at Denver (7-4) Sunday 8:15 pm EST

DENVER (Ticker) -- Coach Mike Shanahan has made the switch to a rookie quarterback with his team fighting for a playoff berth.

Jay Cutler will make his first start on Sunday night when the Denver Broncos host the Seattle Seahawks in a marquee interconference matchup.

The 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Cutler was spectacular in the preseason, completing 40-of-62 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.

The plan was for Cutler to serve as a backup to veteran Jake Plummer for one year before taking over the starting job. But the time for Cutler arrived sooner than expected.

"It's a process as in evaluating any position on your football team," Shanahan said. "After every practice, every game, you make decisions on starting the players that you believe give you the best chance to win."

Plummer ranks 13th in the AFC with a quarterback rating of 70.5. He has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,994 yards and 11 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

Last season, Plummer completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 3,366 yards and 18 touchdowns with just seven interceptions as the Broncos won the AFC West title and beat New England in the playoffs before losing to Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game.

Cutler was a four-year starter at Vanderbilt and the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 2005, when he completed 59 percent of his passes for 3,073 yards and 21 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Denver is coming off back-to-back losses to division rivals San Diego and Kansas City. The Broncos trail first-place San Diego by two games and are tied with Kansas City for second place.

The Seahawks enjoy a two-game lead over San Francisco and St. Louis in the NFC West.

Seattle appears to be finally healthy. Reigning MVP and rushing champion Shaun Alexander missed six games with a broken bone in his foot and Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was sidelined for four games with a sprained knee ligament.

But both are back. Alexander rushed for 201 yards on a franchise-record 40 carries in the Seahawks' 34-24 win over Green Bay on a snowy Monday night.

"Any time you control the clock, you have a better chance to win," Alexander said.

Hasselbeck committed four turnovers in the first half but rebounded with three second-half touchdowns.

Cornerbacks Kelly Herndon, Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings each had an interception for Seattle.

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