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The Morning After: Broncos at Jaguars

Posted Sep 13, 2010

Tim Tebow saw his first game action, and a trio of wide receivers shared the workload in the loss to Jacksonville on Sunday.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Less than two minutes had elapsed in Sunday's game at Jacksonville when Tim Tebow took the field.

The home crowd erupted when the University of Florida product jogged out to take his first regular season snap on the third play of the game in the stadium that hosts the Georgia vs. Florida game every year.

"It's cool for the first opportunity for me to play in a real game to be in Jacksonville, a place that I've played a lot of games," Tebow said. "That was a lot of fun."

No one outside of the Broncos locker room could know how much Head Coach Josh McDaniels planned to use the rookie, or if he would see the field at all.

But when Tebow handled a shotgun snap and thrust himself up the middle for a 1-yard gain on a quarterback keeper, the Broncos showed the league they wouldn't hesitate to test out plays designed for the quarterback who rushed for 2,947 yards and 57 touchdowns with the Gators

"With Tim's package, if it was something that gave them trouble, we would stay in it maybe a little bit more," McDaniels said. "But we had no predetermined number of plays for that."

Ultimately, Tebow saw three plays of action counting another 1-yard run and one play where he lined up at wide receiver.

"If it gives you an advantage -- great. If it doesn't, then you don't use it too much. And we didn't for the rest of the game," McDaniels said.

Kyle Orton said lining up split out wide for Tebow's early play didn't disrupt his game. He completed consecutive passes to Eddie Royal and Daniel Graham for 21 yards on the two plays after Tebow's exit.

"You can put me in the stands for a play and I'll come back and be fine with rhythm," Orton said.

McDaniels doesn't foresee Tebow's workload impinging on Orton's focus.

"We've got a good quarterback," the coach said. "If Tim is able to help us in certain ways -- then great. If not, we feel comfortable playing with Kyle Orton under center. That's really what the game plan is going to be every week."

'COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL'

The Broncos never held the lead in 24-17 loss, but they were tied 7-7 at the start of the third quarter when Matt Prater booted the kickoff to Jacksonville's Tiquan Underwood, who subsequently ran it back for a 46-yard gain.

The Jaguars took advantage of the field position by running the ball on seven straight plays and then scoring a touchdown on the only pass of the drive.

"That's complementary football," McDaniels said. "We talk about that a lot. The coverage teams have to do a good job of pinning them back there when we have an opportunity, then the defense gets off the field and the offense has field position."

After punts by both teams, the Broncos responded to Jacksonville's score with a rushing touchdown to tie the game at 14-14, but Underwood returned the ensuing kickoff for 53 yards.

He ended the day with three returns for 115 yards -- good for a 38.3 yard average. Jacksonville's punt returner Mike Thomas averaged 8.7 yards on his returns, including a 17-yard return -- shortened after an illegal block penalty -- that set up the Jaguars for their first score.

"They had some guys make us miss," McDaniels said. "They had a few returns that were really blocked very well, and in those situations they got a couple of us on the ground -- particularly on the punt return on the sideline."

Robert Ayers, who notched his first career sack on Sunday, refused to let Jacksonville's effective return game -- and the field position it provided -- excuse the defense allowing touchdowns.

"Where they start doesn't matter," he said. "Our job is to go out there and stop them. If that doesn't happen, then we didn't do our job. That's all I worry about."

THE TRIO

In the preseason Jabar Gaffney talked about how the receiving corps doesn't need a true No. 1 wide receiver because they all have the talents to distribute production within the group. On Sunday, Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd backed up Gaffney's statement.

Royal led the team in receptions with eight for 98 yards, and Lloyd posted a game-high 117 yards, averaging 23.4 yards-per-catch.

"We're forming our identity, and we'll keep doing that with each and every game that comes," Gaffney said.

He got in on the action when he scored his team's first touchdown of the game on an 8-yard pass from Orton with 20 seconds left in the first half.

"We're all our own little superstars," Gaffney said. "We just hype each other up and keep each other going and just make plays. Whether we get labeled as superstars or not, we're just going to keep coming to work every Sunday."

FIRST STARTS

J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles became the first rookies in team history to start the season opener at center and right tackle, respectively.

Left guard Stanley Daniels also registered his first start, making the Broncos the first team since the 2009 Bills to open the season by starting three offensive linemen with no regular-season starting experience.

The unit allowed three sacks, but Orton said he was pleased with his line when he was asked what the team could build on after the loss.

"I thought the guys up front played hard," he said. "I think they weren't overwhelmed at all. For the most part they blocked who I told them to block, which is always good on the road in a tough environment."

THE SWAMP

Toasty, humid conditions tested both teams on Sunday. The heat index climbed as high as 105 degrees and a thunderstorm rolled in to delay the game for 33 minutes just before the fourth quarter.

The Broncos had emphasized hydration all week to prepare for a Jaguars squad that would eventually run the football 34 times in the game.

"The nature of the game and the way Jacksonville plays, it was going to be physical," Brian Dawkins said. "Tough mental teams have to push through it. At the end of the day, they made more plays. The fatigue and heat had nothing to do with the loss."

The rain provided solace from the sun but drove each team off the field for more than half an hour when the officials saw lightning.

"I don't think there was any effect from the delay," McDaniels said. "They had the same situation we did. We just came back out and played."

Orton used the time to organize his team's strategy for the return to the field.

"It's kind of a good thing," he said. "You get to come in and say, 'OK, this is what we're going to do on our next three plays or our next four plays.'"

The weather did disrupt the quarterback's ability to communicate with his coaches on the sidelines via the helmet radio. Orton said at one point he was only receiving about one of every three plays in his earpiece, but those are the perils of playing on the road.

"That stuff happens during the course of the season, and you've just got to deal with it," he said.

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