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The Morning After: Week 15

Posted Dec 20, 2010

Lance Ball and Tim Tebow saw a step up in production, and first-half turnovers inspired the defense early on in Oakland.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the aftermath of the Broncos' 39-23 loss to the Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, it's safe to say both teams loaded up on laundry detergent.

Clops of black mud streaked Denver's white road jerseys, speaking to the soupy field conditions created by the Northern California rain on Sunday.

Before they hopped on a plane, the Broncos considered the forecast in their game plan. Against the Raiders, they ran almost twice as many running plays as pass attempts.

"We anticipated the weather in this game, to be able to run the ball a little bit, so we had a strong part of that in our game plan," Interim Head Coach Eric Studesville said.

Knowshon Moreno left the game with a side injury before he could reach five carries, so the Broncos looked elsewhere for production on the ground.

Lance Ball logged a career-high 15 carries, rushing for 8 yards on his first touch of the day.

"After the hard work, they threw me a bone a little bit to get out there a play," Ball said. "It's always good to get out there and play, and it's a blessing to be healthy and try to help win some games."

Ball led the team in carries, but Tim Tebow tallied the most rushing yards for his team on Sunday. In his first career start, the rookie quarterback rushed for 78 yards, the second-highest number of yards in a single game by any quarterback in team history.

Tebow's 40-yard touchdown sprint in the first quarter counted as the longest run by an NFL quarterback in his first start.

With their top back on the sideline, the Broncos watched two young players pick up the slack.

"It's something to build on," Ball said. "Give us some playing time, see what's going on. But I think overall we've just got to go to practice, come to work every day and try to win us some ball games."

THE RIGHT MIX

By completing 50 percent of his passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, Tebow posted a 100.5 quarterback rating -- the highest rating in a first start of the seven rookie quarterbacks to start under center this season.

But the former Heisman Trophy winner attempted 11 less passes than anyone else on the list. That sat well with Studesville, who backed up the number on the basis of the team's plans for Tebow.

"We had enough throws in there," Studesville said. "We threw it with Tim when we felt like we needed to. We were trying to give him the things that he needed that complemented what we were doing in the run game -- play-action -- to give him the best chance."

Studesville also recognized that Tebow's skill set separates him from some of the other rookies to start at quarterback this season. As a Florida Gator, Tebow became the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns for the Southeastern Conference.

On Sunday at Oakland, only Darren McFadden totaled more rushing yards, and Tebow notched as many carries as completions.

"That's an advantage we have with Tim, that he can be an effective runner," Studesville said. "That's a different weapon, a unique weapon, that we have with him. Not something that we're calling to do a lot of those things, because we want him to play quarterback, but that is a skill that he has that's an advantage for us."

With two games left on the schedule, Tebow said he has no control on whether he will start again -- and if he does, in what capacity he'll be asked to play. He knows when he does see the field, he will greet any call from the playbook, run or pass.

"I'll try to get as ready as I can for whatever they ask me to do," Tebow said. "However that unfolds, I'll try to do my best and handle it as best I can."

NOSE FOR THE BALL

On Oakland's first play from scrimmage, Jason Campbell faked a handoff to Darren McFadden and pitched the ball to Jacoby Ford, who raced 71 yards into the end zone.

When the Raiders tried a similar play later in the first quarter, Jason Hunter forced a more favorable result for the Broncos. This time Campbell handed off to McFadden, who hurried the pitch to Ford with Hunter bearing down on him.

Hunter disrupted the timing of the play, forced a fumbled pitch and recovered the football to return possession to his team.

"I didn't know they were trying to run a reverse," Hunter said. "I just saw the ball carrier. I was trying to tackle McFadden, and I guess he tried to pitch the ball back and I was able to hit it and pick it up."

Hunter's forced fumble and subsequent recovery accounted for the second Raiders turnover in two consecutive possessions.

Less than four minutes earlier, Kevin Vickerson came away with a Jason Campbell pass, marking the first interception of his career and the first by a Denver defensive lineman since Marcus Thomas picked off a pass against Tampa Bay in 2008.

Both turnovers resulted in touchdowns for the Broncos, and the 14 points off of turnovers marked a season high for the team. Including Renaldo Hill's first-half interception, the defense's three takeaways tied for the second-most by the Broncos this year.

"It was just everybody doing their job, getting by the ball," Hunter said. "We got pressure on the interception and then Kevin Vickerson getting his hands up. And then I was in the right place at the right time. They were three big plays."

RUSH TO THE POLLS

Monday night marks your last chance to vote your favorite Broncos into the Pro Bowl. Balloting closes after the Monday Night Football game pitting the Chicago Bears against the Minnesota Vikings.

The teams will be announced at 2 p.m. MST on Tuesday, Dec. 28.

There are 12 Broncos nominated on offense, 11 on defense and four on special teams. Only one player is up for voting in two categories -- Eddie Royal, at wide receiver and kick returner.

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