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The Morning After: Week 6

Posted Oct 18, 2010

In this week's The Morning After, read about how the 2010 draft class shined in Sunday's loss to the Jets, Matt Prater's unconventional afternoon and the team's readiness to move into AFC West play next week.

DENVER -- The Broncos' 2010 draft class filled the stat sheet on Sunday -- two touchdowns, a forced fumble and an interception.

It all got started when Tim Tebow, taking his first reps since the season opener, took a snap on first-and-goal at the 5-yard line, sprinted to his right and found the end zone for the first time in his career, giving the Broncos their first points of the day.

On the day, the first-round pick ran the ball six times for 23 yards, and handed the ball off in the backfield to Correll Buckhalter on three more occasions for a net of 17 yards.

"Anytime you can do some things that are a little different, it forces the defense to not only play tough and physical, but also think," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "That's what we were trying to get at -- they do the same thing. They did it to us, we did it to them and we both got some production out of that."

But the rookies were far from finished.

Seventh-rounder Syd'Quan Thompson was next to chime in. With the Jets driving deep into Broncos territory, the rookie stepped in front of a Mark Sanchez pass intended for tight end Dustin Keller, returning his first career interception 18 yards to the Denver 35-yard line.

The Broncos capitalized on the turnover, driving 24 yards in six plays before Matt Prater knocked home a career-long, 59-yard field goal to give the Broncos a three-point lead at halftime.

It was Sanchez's second interception of the day. The sophomore signal caller hadn't thrown an interception all season entering Sunday.

In the third quarter, Demaryius Thomas made his presence felt as well. The team's top pick had just one catch on the day, but made it count -- a 17-yard strike from Kyle Orton for his second touchdown of the season, giving the Broncos the lead.

The ensuing Jets drive was cut short by another Broncos rookie, as Perrish Cox -- one of two first-year players to start the game for the Broncos, along with Zane Beadles -- stripped Santonio Holmes to force a fumble that was recovered by Renaldo Hill.

It was one of three turnovers created by the Denver defense.

Cox was proud of the big game the rookie class put together, but disappointed in the way it ended.

"It should've been bigger," the fifth-rounder said. "We could've come out on top -- should've come out on top. We did the best that we can. It was a good team we played today, and they came out and made a few more plays than we did, and they came out on top this game."

PRATER'S UNCONVENTIONAL AFTERNOON

After Prater's opening kickoff sailed out of the back of the end zone for a touchback, it seemed he was in for a typical day. It turned out to be anything but.

Midway through the first quarter, the Broncos had a chance to put the first points on the board when the kicker trotted out to attempt a 28-yard field goal. But Britton Colquitt couldn't get a handle on Lonie Paxton's snap, and the aborted play resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Prater -- the first fumble recovery of his career.

When the Broncos found the end zone early in the second quarter, Prater knocked home the extra point, and it seemed all was back to normal again.

But on the ensuing kickoff, while the Broncos lined up as if they would boot it downfield, Prater quickly changed directions and sent his kick just 15 yards, where Nate Jones was able to recover the onside kick and give the Broncos an extra possession.

"The onside kick was strictly because this was the best team in football to run it against," McDaniels said. "When they give you the opportunity, you take it and they gave us the opportunity, like we studied on film, and it worked out exactly like we thought it would."

Though the team couldn't convert with a score, Prater did his job.

Just about 10-and-a-half minutes later, the kicker did his job again with the Broncos facing a fourth-and-10 at the Jets 41-yard line just before halftime.

He sent the ball through the uprights with room to spare, converting a 59-yarder for his new career high. It was the second-longest kick in Broncos history, behind Jason Elam's NFL-long 63-yarder.

"I can't believe that's not a record their guy kicked right before halftime," Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan said. "Man, the guy crushed it."

Prater has converted 9-of 11 field goals of 50 yards or more in his career -- a success rate of 81.8, which is the best percentage with a minimum of 10 attempts in NFL history since the merger.

Though Prater missed a 48-yarder in the third quarter that snapped his streak of 18 consecutive made field goals, he knocked home a 49-yarder in the fourth quarter that gave the Broncos a lead that held up until the Jets' game-clincher with 1:13 remaining in the game.

Prater is now 11-of-12 on field goals for the season.

DIVISIONAL BATTLE

The Broncos are 2-4 heading into Week 7, but the team has yet to face anyone within the division.

That changes this Sunday when the Oakland Raiders pay a visit to INVESCO Field at Mile High.

"We'll be excited to play another home game here in the division, start our divisional games and our focus has got to be continuing to get better," McDaniels said.

While Sunday's loss to the Jets was a tough pill to swallow, Mario Haggan knows there's no time to "sulk" with a big game in the AFC West up next. All four divisional teams lost on Sunday, so the Broncos remain tied for second in the division two games behind the first-place Kansas City Chiefs.

"I'm excited to move on, get ready for Oakland, get into our division and have a great second half of the season," Orton said.

After a hard-fought loss, Haggan said there is reason for optimism heading into next week.

"It's disheartening right now, but we start our division play next week and if we can keep the momentum that we had today and play just a little bit better, I think we'll be OK," he said.

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