DENVER --As the Broncos' offense raced out of the gates to a torrid start in Monday night's 37-21 win over the Raiders, wide receiver Eric Decker's hot hands played a big role in sparking the fire.
Decker hauled in three catches on the Broncos' opening possession – including a 2-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Peyton Manning that gave Denver an initial lead that it would never relinquish – and he was only warming up.
Decker finished the game with eight catches for 133 yards, including a pivotal, 61-yard catch-and-run midway through the second quarter that set up Julius Thomas' 13-yard touchdown reception from Manning, which gave the Broncos a 24-7 lead.
"He played outstanding today," wide receiver Wes Welker said. "He made a lot of big plays in critical situations and the comeback where he turned it into a big gain for us really kind of changed the momentum and got things going. He had a heck of a game tonight and we expect to see that from him all the time."
"He had a great game," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas added. "He went out there, got open, made some plays and got into the end zone."
After the game, Decker — who was just one catch and three yards shy of two personal bests — noted that the fast start was something the team emphasized heavily in preparing for the game.
"That is a big thing that we stressed, is to start fast," Decker said. "Any time you can start fast, put some points on the board, it puts a lot of pressure on the opponent. I thought we did a great job of playing all four quarters and really finishing the game."
Decker established himself as a dependable target from the get-go, hauling in consecutive passes for 12- and 17-yard gains on the Broncos' opening drive.
He capped the eight-play, 55-yard drive with his touchdown catch – and the swift score set the tone for the offense for the rest of the game.
"We got that touchdown right away, moved the ball well, I thought throughout the game," Decker said.
He never moved the ball more effectively than on his 61-yard odyssey in the second quarter, when he hauled in Manning's pass and weaved to and from defenders, ultimately breaking into the open field for a big gain.
The catch — which was a career-long for Decker — came on the first play from scrimmage after Oakland cut the Broncos' lead to 17-7. After the game, Manning credited Decker's nimble open-field running with spurring Denver's offense on the drive and providing an answer to the Raiders.
"That was like an 18-yard comeback, but to break that tackle and take it for 50-60 yards – those are the types of plays that really help the drives get going," Manning said.
Decker, along with his counterparts in the passing attack – Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas – exploited the middle of the field throughout the evening. And after the game, Decker noted that shedding single coverage and finding open space was crucial to succeeding against the Raiders' defense.
"We have to find the open holes and lanes," Decker said. "Against a zone coverage, against safeties that give a little depth, you have to complete some passes in the middle of the field. Again, we did a good job with run after the catch and just moving the chains and scoring in the red area."
And while Decker shined brightly on Monday night, he was ultimately one cog in a potent passing attack involving multiple targets who all worked together to pick apart the Raiders.
Demaryius Thomas hauled in a team-high 10 catches for 94 yards, Welker caught eight passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, and Julius Thomas reeled in three catches for 34 yards and another score.
It was the type of unified performance that Head Coach John Fox said his receiving corps expects to contribute on offense – a true team effort.
"Everybody talked about whether there'd be in-fighting and all that kind of stuff, who gets the ball and whatnot – we don't have those types of guys," Fox said. "All they care about is winning and how they can contribute. Each week I think it's going to vary. A lot of it is what the defense gives you or what they decide to take away. Obviously I was happy to see Eric get in that mix in a big way."