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The Morning After: Week 4

Posted Oct 4, 2010

Kyle Orton continued his hot start to the 2010 regular season on Sunday and led the Broncos to a comeback win in Tennessee.


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Brandon Lloyd and Kyle Orton's other favorite receiving targets have been consistently asked about the quarterback's development since early in the offseason. From the start of OTAs through his fourth straight impressive game to start the 2010 regular season, the answers haven't changed much.

After Orton continued his hot start in Sunday's win at Tennessee with 341 passing yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 6-yard toss to Correll Buckhalter with 1:33 left, Lloyd offered a simple explanation for his quarterback's success.

"Knowledge is power," said Lloyd, who paced all receivers with a career-high 11 catches for 115 yards. "He is already a bright individual and then he just knows a lot about the game of football. This being his second year in (Head) Coach (Josh) McDaniels' offense, he's just applying all three of those things. He's just turning out to be a really good quarterback."

Even in the face of a Titans pass rush that sacked him six times, Orton completed 35 of his 50 pass attempts en route to topping the 300-yard passing mark for the third straight game.

Through four games, the quarterback has passed for 1,419 yards. Only Kurt Warner in 2000 has ever passed for more yards in his team's first four contests. It is the fourth time in franchise history a player has passed for more than 300 yards in three consecutive weeks and the first time since Brian Griese totaled four consecutive games with 300-plus yards in 2002.

Orton took particular satisfaction in Sunday's performance because of what didn't go right.

After their first three drives of the game netted just 15 total yards and a pair of first downs, Orton and the offense rounded into form. A first quarter that included as many pass completions as sacks -- three of each -- gave way to an efficient final three quarters.

The big play on the winning drive turned out to be a 49-yard pass interference penalty on which Orton dodged pressure and heaved a pass for Gaffney with the team facing a second-and-25 at midfield. By the time he found Buckhalter with the game-winning touchdown pass, Orton had managed to turn a forgettable start into a memorable comeback win.

"Offensively, it was probably the most adversity we've faced all season," Orton said. "Three-and-out to start the game, a turnover (a third-quarter interception), so we did face adversity but we stuck together as a unit and we played well down the stretch."

The Broncos inability to establish a ground game also added to Orton's performance. For the game, the Broncos averaged just 1 yard per carry with Orton finishing as the team's leading rusher with 11 yards.

McDaniels credited his quarterback for hanging tough in a difficult situation on the road while the running game rounds into form.

"Certainly, we're not helping him one bit with the running game right now," McDaniels said. "That's difficult to continue to take that burden on and really move the football only through the air. But if that's what we have to do while we continue to try to work on that other part of our game, that's what we got to do, and Kyle has been up to the challenge."

Most importantly, Orton found a way to help the Broncos earn their first road win of the season. While his 476-yard, career-high performance last week against Indianapolis ended with a loss to the defending AFC Champions, Orton's big day at LP Field helped his team complete a comeback.

Along the way, he showed that the characteristics that have impressed his receivers and other offensive teammates for months. And afterward, Orton made sure to point the credit back at them as well.

"Any time you can give yourself a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter on the road against a good football team, we'll take it," Orton said. "When it got down to it, we made the plays."

SPECIAL TEAMS STANDOUTS

With a stiff wind blowing at LP Field throughout Sunday's game, McDaniels knew the conditions would pose some challenges for the kick return teams. The head coach made sure to go over the importance of being ready for a fair catch if a short kick got hung up in the wind and gave the coverage team a chance to make a play on the ball.

When that precise situation played out on Matt Prater's fourth quarter kickoff, it was the Broncos coverage unit that had a chance to make a play -- and executed it to perfection.

As Prater's kickoff following the go ahead touchdown hit down short and took a high bounce, David Bruton blasted Titans returner Marc Mariani and Cassius Vaughn recovered the football. The forced turnover allowed the Broncos to burn valuable time off the clock and set up Prater's fourth field goal of the game -- which gave the Broncos a 26-20 lead and established their final margin of victory.

"I thought that was good awareness on their part to really be there and try and get the football because once it hit the ground, it certainly was live," McDaniels said. "It was an enormous play in the game."

That play capped an up-and-down day for the Broncos special teams unit with a big momentum boost.

Earlier, Mariani slashed through the unit for a 98-yard touchdown on a kickoff return -- the first special teams touchdown the unit has allowed this season.

On the ensuing kickoff, Demaryius Thomas -- who returned kicks for the first time in his NFL career -- broke off a 65-yard return to set up a Prater field goal.

Thomas finished the day with four returns for 144 yards, providing the spark that McDaniels hoped to see when he gave him the opportunity.

"He's a guy that really hasn't done that much in his career up to this point, but when he catches it and gets going, that's a big man to be running that fast, and have to try to tackle him on the kickoff team," McDaniels said. "The biggest thing is making sure we field the ball on a windy day, so we had a little bit of hesitation when we went out there at the beginning, but he caught them well in pregame, and he certainly made enough of an impact today that I think he'll be back there again."

Despite the tough wind conditions, the Broncos kickers also provided a boost as Prater remained perfect on the season and Colquitt averaged 41.6 yards on his five punts, including two inside the 20-yard line.

Even with the kick return touchdown, the special teams play helped the Broncos play the sort of complementary football that McDaniels has continued to preach this season.

That wouldn't have been possible without Thomas' returns or Bruton's hit and Vaughn's fumble recovery.

"We had some young guys step up and understand what this game is like," Mario Haggan said. "That's what we need to do each week. As the year goes on, the more they play they understand the importance of it. And once again they came up big today -- huge."

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