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The Morning After: Week 14

Posted Dec 13, 2010

Kyle Orton talked about lack of production in the passing game, and two special-teamers posted career days at Arizona.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Through the first 12 weeks of the season, Kyle Orton threw at least one touchdown pass in every game and passed for at least 200 yards in every contest but one.

In the past two weeks on the road at Kansas City and Arizona, the quarterback has not thrown for a touchdown and has posted a third of his interception total for the season. For the first 12 games, Orton's lowest quarterback rating came when he posted a score of 71.8 against the Jets. In the past two weeks, the sum of his quarterback ratings is 73.4.

For his part, Orton has accepted accountability for the recent lack of production through the air.

"The past couple weeks the passing game hasn't got going," he said. "I've got to be better. I've got to make better reads, make better decisions and make better throws to get this passing game going again."

Despite passing for 117 yards against the Chiefs and 166 yards against the Cardinals, Orton still ranks fourth in the league in passing yards. He held the lead in that race more than once this year, eventually falling behind Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees.

A tough week at Arrowhead Stadium carried over to Arizona. Both 3-4 defenses disrupted Denver's offensive rhythm by mixing up double-coverage schemes with pressure plays.

"We're getting some tough looks to throw the football into -- no question about it," Orton said. "They're either dropping everybody out or bringing the blitz. Like always in the NFL, until you show you can actually stop that blueprint and fix and correct the things that you struggled with the last week, that's probably what we're going to get the next week as well. We've got to figure it out and be better."

Orton took a shot to the ribs that forced him to the sideline for treatment, but the quarterback returned to the game and refused to let the hit keep him from attempting to rally the team.

"(It was) not an issue," he said. "As long as my teammates are out there, I'm going to be out there and fighting with them. If that means getting your butt kicked, then I'm going to get my butt kicked with them."

While the quarterback took responsibility for the offense's struggles, rookie wide receiver Eric Decker acknowledged the lack of offense as a team effort.

Decker, who lost a fumble on his only reception, said the offense has a week of self-scrutinizing ahead of it. Through film study, the players can identify the differences between their performance in the past two weeks and when the passing game was speeding ahead at full-throttle.

"It's a combination of things," he said. "We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and obviously go back to what we were doing when we were having success. It's not just one guy or one thing. It's a team effort. Obviously, we've got to evaluate and make some changes."


Although he contributed to the team's six turnovers on offense, Decker solidified his place in a different phase of the game on Sunday.

He returned seven kickoffs for 211 yards, averaging 30.1 yards per return with a long of 51 yards. His average would have been boosted by his 81-yard return on the opening kickoff, but the officials negated most of those yards by calling a holding penalty.

The contest marked just the second game in which Decker played the role of returner for the team.

"You've got to be able to see how the blocks are made, where the seam is and react in seconds," Decker said. "To be honest, I never did it in college, so it's something new to me. But it's exciting. It's a way for me to help the team out."

He posted 21 yards per return a week earlier at Kansas City, taking over for his roommate, fellow rookie receiver Demaryius Thomas.

Since Thomas has been out the past two games, Decker has posted the highest kick-return average of any rookie with at least 10 returns. But he would not compare himself to Chicago's veteran returner, Devin Hester, who has four kick returns for touchdowns in his career.

"I don't know if I'm in that elite league, but I've got to give credit to my teammates," Decker said. "Obviously, (Special Teams Coordinator Mike) Priefer did a good job setting things up. We studied them throughout the week and saw we could take advantage of a few things, and I hit a few seams. But I give all the credit to my guys up front blocking."


Along with Decker, Britton Colquitt highlighted the special teams unit, breaking a team record in the process.

He averaged 56.2 yards on his five punts, setting the franchise mark for punting average in a road game by player with at least four punts. With that performance, Colquitt also posted the third-highest punting average for a single game in club history.

"I think it was definitely my most consistent day," he said. "I just felt like this is a great place to kick, obviously, and I felt like the ball came off my foot well. I felt like I had a good rhythm, we had great protection and we had really good coverage on a few that I felt like I might've outkicked my coverage a little bit."

Mike Horan still holds the crown in single-game punting average for the Broncos, setting the record with a 57.2-yard average in Denver against the Los Angeles Raiders on Sept. 6, 1988. Colquitt bested two of Horan's marks, one from 1990 and one from 1991, to rank third in franchise annals for punting average.

But Colquitt said he could not fully enjoy his performance in defeat.

"It's bittersweet, because you wanted to help your team win," he said. "Hopefully I at least helped us as much as I could. But it's just tough."