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Broncos vs. Bears: Notebook

Posted Dec 11, 2011

Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker kept battling after early drops; Quinton Carter got advice from 'big brother' Brian Dawkins; Matt Prater continued his clutch streak.

KEEPING THEIR HEADS UP

DENVER -- The ball was right there in Demaryius Thomas' grasp.

Early in the third quarter, Tim Tebow lofted a ball downfield from his own 45-yard line, and it looked like his fellow 2010 first-round draft pick was about to bring home a 55-yard touchdown.

But the ball grazed off Thomas' fingertips for an incompletion.

"If a ball’s coming your way, you’re supposed to catch it," Thomas said. "That’s why you play receiver."

He dropped his head for a moment as he walked to the sideline, disappointed in himself.

Tebow saw that.

He walked right up to the second-year receiver and told him, "Don't worry about it. You're going to score the game-winning touchdown."

By the end of the game, Thomas had caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown for the team's first points in the eventual 13-10 overtime victory.

"He scored the one to get us within three, and then he came up with a bunch of huge plays to help us win it," Tebow said, smiling. "He didn't technically score the game-winning touchdown, but I'll still give him credit."

It's that belief from his quarterback that Thomas said he appreciates most.

He and Eric Decker both took credit for a handful of drops early in Sunday's game, as the Broncos offense couldn't muster any points until late in the fourth quarter.

"The first half was ugly for us," Decker said.

But when it counted, the receivers were there to make plays -- and their quarterback trusted them enough to put them in position to make them.

"That’s all you can ask for, an opportunity," said Decker, who caught three passes for 33 yards. "You’re going to make some mistakes. The best thing is just the character of everybody on this team. It’s never-say-never, it’s never fold. It’s always, let’s get the next one.”

Thomas caught two more passes in overtime, and that was all it took, as Matt Prater knocked home the game-winning 51-yard field goal.

Head Coach John Fox said he was proud of the way the offense continued to battle after a rough start.

"We had some drops, but a guy that dropped a couple passes caught (a huge) touchdown," Fox said. "That's kind of the M.O. on this bunch. I want to thank the good Lord for that locker room and that staff, because they've kept fighting and done a heck of a job."

A 'BIG BROTHER' ON THE SIDELINE

When Brian Dawkins left Sunday's game with a neck injury, Quinton Carter moved into the veteran's spot at strong safety, and Rahim Moore stepped in at free safety.

But even though Dawkins wasn't on the field, he was plenty involved in the game.

"He’s over there coaching me up, different checks, I’m trying to learn it on the fly," Carter said. "That’s really what was going on. I just settled down, this check, that check, move here, move there, and pretty much Dawk being a big brother."

Dawkins said he was simply trying to help the rookie safeties relax, so they could make adjustments and make plays.

"With the pressure the way it was, you can understand how things can be running full-speed upstairs," he said. "I was just trying to get both of them to calm down. Just relax and play ball."

Carter, who finished with two tackles and a special teams stop, said he "didn't play a good game," but having Dawkins helping him consistently on the sideline made it that much better.

"Words can’t explain it," he said. "I’m not sure if any other guy would’ve been over there really just calm, pumping us up, making sure we stay focused and settling us down. As a leader, legendary player, it’s an honor playing next to him."

Dawkins said he'll "bust (his) behind" to get back on the field next week, but he was happy with how his rookie replacements fared.

"Those young guys did a great job," he said.

PRATER DOES IT AGAIN

For the third consecutive week, the Broncos had a walk-off win.

In Week 12 in San Diego, Prater drilled an overtime game-winning field goal. In Week 13, Prater did the job in Minnesota as time expired in regulation. Sunday, his 59-yarder sent the game to overtime, and his 51-yarder won it in the extra frame.

"You can't say enough about Prater and how clutch he is and how much he means to our team," Tebow said. "He's a great guy, a great person and a great player, and I'm proud that he's on our team."

Prater admitted his "heart was definitely beating a bit" this week, as the team battled its way back down 10-0 to a tough Chicago Bears squad.

But he was confident in both of his 50-plus-yard kicks.

"I knew I hit them both pretty well as soon as I hit them," he said. "Once I looked up I saw they were going down the middle. It felt good."

Prater had a 28-yard field goal blocked in the second quarter, but he was ready when his name was called with the game on the line.

"This year I’ve had more (pressure kicks) then I’ve had in my whole career," he said. "When my number is called I hope to come through. That’s my job."

Carter said he had no doubt his kicker would come through.

"Prater's got the juice," Carter smiled. "As soon as he kicked the winner I ran on the field screaming."