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Walk-ing to Glory

Posted Nov 6, 2006

Javon Walker touched the football eight times Sunday, scoring three times and averaging 25.8 yards per touch in Denver's 31-20 win.

Offseason Pickup Helps Offense Find Big-Play Touch in Win

Javon Walker
Javon Walker gained an average of 25.8 yards on each touch of the football Sunday. "Whatever he's on, I'm going to start taking it tonight," fellow receiver Rod Smith said, "so I can get in that same zone he was in." PHOTO: ERIC LARS BAKKE 
Broncos TVSee what wide receiver Javon Walker had to say after he gained 206 yards from scrimmage and scored three times Sunday at Pittsburgh.

11/6: Broncos-Steelers Postgame
11/5: Postgame: Mike Shanahan
11/5: Postgame: Javon Walker
11/5: Postgame: Jake Plummer
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AudioListen to postgame audio snippets straight from the locker room in the moments after Denver's 31-20 victory over the Steelers. Click below to listen to streaming audio, or sign up for one of the podcast channels now available to get locker-room interviews and Broncos TV reports straight to your portable device.

11/5: Shanahan | Walker
11/5: Plummer | Bailey
11/5: Smith | Dar. Williams

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PITTSBURGH -- Redemption comes in many forms, at a multitude of different paces.

Sometimes it takes a lifetime.

For Javon Walker, it took 30 seconds.

Denver's game with the Pittsburgh Steelers was barely three minutes old when Jake Plummer turned to Walker as he ran a fade route to the right side of the end zone. The offseason acquisition couldn't hang on.

No problem. It was only second down. Walker trotted back to the huddle disappointed but confident that Head Coach Mike Shanahan would turn his way.

"I knew he was coming back to me again," Walker said.

Third-and-goal. Another chance. Same route. Touchdown, and a 14-0 lead that would be occasionally threatened, but never relinquished, in what would eventually be a 31-20 Broncos win that pushed them to 6-2 at the regular season's midway point.

"Obviously the first one didn't work out, but Coach Shanahan has seen practice, and he's like, 'If I give him another chance, he'll make that play. He'll make that play," Walker said. "I'm glad he did.

"Needless to say, touchdown."

And with that, Walker's biggest day as a Bronco was in flight. He touched the football eight times, scoring on three and gaining an average of 25.8 yards every time he made a play.

"Whatever he's on, I'm going to start taking it tonight," fellow receiver Rod Smith said, "so I can get in that same zone he was in."

And with that first touchdown catch, Walker was redeemed -- just like the offense itself.


As Walker kept getting open, providing one decisive play after another, Champ Bailey could only shake his head at what he witnessed from a Pittsburgh defense that tried to keep the receiver under control..

"(I would) stay deep," Bailey said. "Keep him in front of them. I don't know what they were doing. Obviously this guy's a good player, but, man -- I was a little surprised because they pride themselves on getting to the quarterback and not giving up those big plays, and he ate them up."

The Steelers sent cornerback left cornerback Ike Taylor to cover Walker one-on-one -- in what would become a one-sided duel.

"We weren't really picking on anybody," Shanahan said. "But when we did get one-on-one, we were going to give Javon a few shots."

The opportunities kept coming -- much to the shock of those who watch Walker daily, some of whom felt the Steelers should have utilized a different approach.

"I'd probably try losing something in his cleats or something," cornerback Domonique Foxworth said.

It was more than a one-man show, though. Plummer launched his passes for Walker with accuracy. The fade routes to the end zone -- which would be repeated in the final quarter on another 10-yard connection that put Denver in front 28-17 -- were ideal throws for that situation, positioned where only Walker could snag them and taking the potential for a turnover out of the equation.

"I think (Walker) and Jake are finally getting that chemistry," cornerback Darrent Williams noted. "Like I said at the beginning of the year, it's going to take some time, but they're getting it together. Teams are scoring some points on our defense, but now our offense is scoring points, so it's all coming full circle."

Added Foxworth: "They didn't have an answer for him today."


Walker redeemed himself after missing one potential touchdown by grabbing another. The offense redeemed itself with a second consecutive 31-point game -- and one that was accomplished in spite of facing one of the league's stingier rush defenses, which came into Sunday yielding an average of 3.4 yards per carry and 92.3 yards per game.

Denver bettered both of those, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and amassing 115 yards on 23 rushes. Of course, having Walker turn an end-around into the longest carry by an NFL wide receiver in over six years didn't hurt that pace, either.

"We're one of the best running football teams in the NFL. They had to stop that. They knew that," Smith said. "If they didn't, we would have pound the ball on them and ran the clock out on the ground."

But Walker's game-altering play demonstrated two tenets of what the Broncos offense believes it can do in 2006: that it can put the fifth-year receiver in position to make plays, and that it can continue its decade-plus consistency on the ground. The 72-yard sprint was the intersection of the two concepts.

A Steelers cornerback had a chance to snuff out the play, but this time it wasn't Taylor, but DeShea Townsend, who moved into the backfield from his right-side slot. He had position, and seemed poised to make a play that would continue a strong Steelers run that had seen them keep the Broncos from as much as a first down in the second quarter.

Walker, though, had other ideas.

One cut and Townsend went sprawling. Walker had his pass into the open field. Speed and vision did the rest as he scooted across the field and then up the right sideline to give the Broncos their first points in 28 minutes and two seconds of game-clock time.

"A great athlete made a guy miss and that doesn't happen very often," Shanahan said. "He was one-on-one with (Townsend) and took it inside and he did the rest."

Variations of the play have been around the Broncos' playbook for years. But no Denver wideout ever toted the football as long on one end-around as Walker did Sunday.

"I'm not so sure it was the call as much as it was the individual effort," Shanahan said.

But sometimes the right individual can make all the difference.

"That's why we brought him here," Foxworth said, "for times like that."

And Sunday was a time when he helped the offense redeem itself with a second straight prolific performance, putting the NFL on notice that the Broncos can win a point-a-minute shootout just as capably as a game decided by nothing but field goals.