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Building Off a Loss

Posted Aug 22, 2010

Kyle Orton and the first-team offense continued to shine Saturday night at INVESCO Field at Mile High, but the Broncos came up short against Detroit.

DENVER -- In a Friday media session to address his recent contract extension, Kyle Orton said only his play -- and not a new deal -- could keep building his teammates' respect. The sixth-year quarterback coming off a career season added that he just hoped the signing was a prelude to some even better football.

A day later, Orton's quest toward those goals got off to a great start.

In Saturday's preseason home opener against Detroit, the signal caller led a pair of second-quarter touchdown drives, including a two-minute drill that ended with a touchdown pass to Marquez Branson three seconds before halftime.

The Broncos fell to the Lions 25-20 at INVESCO Field at Mile High Stadium, but Orton's continued progress in the offense and the first-team offense's improving chemistry again proved major highlights.

"Orton has so much command of the offense, it's just great," said Branson, who hauled in an 11-yard scoring pass on Orton's final pass of the evening. "When we were out there, he's just telling us where to go and what to do. He's so confident you just feel the confidence, so we just moved the ball right on down the field."

A week after scoring a pair of first-quarter touchdowns in Cincinnati, the first-team offense took a little longer to get going. An interception on a tipped pass and a punt ended the Broncos first two drives as the Lions jumped to an early lead.

But Orton, who now boasts a 107.6 passer rating through two preseason games, was at his best on his final two series.

First, the quarterback hit on 7-of-8 passes to lead a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Orton continued the march with a fourth-and-6 conversion to Jabar Gaffney in Detroit territory. He finished it with a 15-yard touchdown pass Lance Ball, punctuated when the running back dodged a defender and leaped into the end zone.

After Detroit's Steven Hauschka hit one of his four field goals to put the visitors up 16-7 with 59 seconds left, Orton orchestrated a masterful 80-yard drive that found the end zone seconds before intermission.

On those two drives, Orton combined to complete 12-of-15 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. In the half, the signal-caller utilized eight different receivers, most notably Gaffney, who grabbed six passes for 98 yards.

"(Orton is) confident in what we're doing and he knows exactly where to go with the ball," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "He saw the defense well every snap and knew exactly what he was dealing with, and the ball went to the right place."

In the second half, Brady Quinn continued that quarterback efficiency, hitting on 11-of-17 passes for 115 yards and leading the offense to two field goals.

But in a back-and-forth game that featured four second-half lead changes, Detroit came up with the last blow.

Lions quarterback Drew Stanton burst through the line on a designed run and scored from 25 yards out to put the Lions ahead with 1:53 left, and Detroit's defense derailed the Broncos' comeback bid.

In his own hurry-up drill, Quinn hit 5-of-8 passes to move the Broncos to the Lions' 33-yard line. But on the next play, Willie Young knocked the ball away from Quinn with a hit from behind and former Bronco Korey Bosworth fell on the fumble with 15 seconds remaining.

"Brady led a great two-minute drive, and we didn't execute on that last play," said Matthew Willis, who notched three catches for 32 yards. "We had an opportunity to score to win the game, and it just comes down to executing again."

In the end, the Broncos left their second straight loss to start their preseason slate encouraged by several other bright spots.

Brian Dawkins, Jarvis Moss, Eric Decker, Justin Fargas and the newly signed Worrell Williams were among the players who made their preseason debuts.

Decker made his first NFL appearance, playing his first game of any kind since injuring his foot last October. The third-round pick finished with five catches for 66 yards.

Moss, coming off a hand injury suffered during training camp, proved a disruptive force in the second half, including a third-quarter sack and forced fumble that gave the Broncos possession in Lions territory.

"It was a good feeling just to be back out there," Moss said. "I was kind of down a few weeks ago about harming my hand, but I'm blessed."

Perrish Cox also provided some excitement, returning a third-quarter punt 65 yards to set up a field goal.

The first-team defense allowed quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions to score on all four of their first half positions. But McDaniels said he's hopeful that holding Detroit to field goals on all three first-half trips inside their 20-yard line represents his team turning a 2009 weakness into a strength. That effort included a red zone trip derailed by a sack by Robert Ayers and new Bronco Justin Bannan.

"Obviously you want to win all the games, but sometimes it doesn't go that way," Bannan said. "The main thing is that we learn and we move forward week in and week out, and we learn to come together. As a defense we've got some new faces out there, a new defensive coordinator, and this is where we've got to build our chemistry and come together and learn to play together as a unit. It happens during camp and preseason. This is where we've got to make it happen."

The Broncos still have two more preseason games to work toward that progress, starting next Sunday when they host Pittsburgh. McDaniels said the plan going forward remains to build off the positives, while addressing some of the mistakes and sloppy play.

Orton and the offense just hope they can continue to build on the momentum they've gained the last two weeks.

For the quarterback, who has thrown four touchdown passes to four different receivers this preseason, that's another goal that has nothing to do with his new contract.

"I feel like I go out and try to prove myself every week and prove myself to my teammates and my coaches every week," Orton said. "I kind of went about the same approach this week."