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Gray Matter Mailbag: Welker Out


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With the Broncos on Thursday Night Football, the Gray Matter mailbag comes a little early this week.

We talk Wes Welker's absence, the running back distribution and another Broncos record.

Thanks as always for your questions, which you can send all week long to @GrayCaldwell on Twitter using the hashtag #GrayMatter.

Let's get to it.

@GrayCaldwell #GrayMatter With Welker out for Thursday, will we see primarily Tamme? Primarily Caldwell? Or a mix of both? — Metal Mushin (@metalheadmushin) December 11, 2013

Jacob Tamme will likely be the primary replacement. He did, after all, see 51 percent of the offensive snaps last Sunday when Wes Welker was lost to a concussion in the second quarter. That marked his highest snap count of the season, including the Patriots game when he filled in for an injured Julius Thomas.

Tamme caught all four of his passes in the Titans win for 47 yards after Welker was injured.

According to Andrew Mason in his latest "Upon Further Review," Tamme has been targeted once every 7.46 snaps in the last three games, a figure that is on par with the season-long rates of Welker (once every 7.00 snaps), Demaryius Thomas (once every 7.84 snaps) and Eric Decker (once every 7.87 snaps).

"I think once Wes went out, Jacob, I thought he stepped up big the last few weeks with the injury to Julius," Head Coach John Fox said. "I know Peyton (Manning) has great confidence in him. He's the consummate pro. He's going to be the right depth; he's going to do everything right and that definitely helps."

In his press session Tuesday, Manning said Tamme "has a chance to play more down the home stretch."

Andre Caldwell will play a role as well, but it seems Tamme will serve as the main Welker fill-in.

"He really plays the tight end spot but fills a receiver role, as well," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said of Tamme. "Being able to flex him outside – and you're not afraid to work him with a corner – that is unusual to have a guy like that."

@GrayCaldwell How will the team regulate carries for Knowshon and Montee Ball going forward now that playoffs are clinched? — Dan (@officialddrury) December 11, 2013

Another good question.

The coaches haven't been shy about mentioning the importance of limiting Knowshon Moreno's reps down the home stretch of the regular season so that he's fresh for the playoffs.

That's why when Montee Ball ran for 117 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13, Gase said it was huge for the offense.

"We have (three) regular-season games and hopefully more than that — three more after that — and we need him for the whole way," Gase said of Moreno. "We need to make sure he plays the rest of the way out and if Montee can cut those reps in half for Knowshon that would be big for our offense."

Head Coach John Fox addressed the issue as well last week, noting that Moreno has "answered the bell" all season long, and the team wants to make sure he's not worn down by the time the postseason arrives.

"You do try to keep your players fresh," Fox said. "I think Montee Ball is starting to take that step. That helps take some of the reps off. We've been pleased with both of them and we'll continue to try to grow some of those young guys as well."

Against the Titans, Ball carried the ball 15 times for 77 yards and a touchdown. Moreno carried it 14 times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Ball saw 44.2 percent of the offensive snaps -- his most all season -- and Moreno got the other 55.8 percent.

It wouldn't be surprising if that near-even split continues the rest of the regular season.

@GrayCaldwell between last season and today, are we in the midst of the longest home winning streak? — Jon Humbert (@jonhumbert) December 11, 2013

The Broncos are on track for a lot of records this season, but that's not one of them. Denver was undefeated at home in the 1996, '97 and '98 regular seasons -- which is why the record for most consecutive home wins stands at 24.

Currently, Denver is on a 13-game regular-season home winning streak, and a win Thursday would mark the sixth perfect home regular-season record in team history and move this current stretch into the second-longest in franchise annals.

The Broncos do have a chance to tie a different record with a win Thursday -- the longest win streak against divisional opponents in club history. In 1997 and '98, the team won 11 straight against the AFC West. Currently, Denver has 10 consecutive victories against the division.

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