DENVER -- Wes Welker is not with an NFL club right now, but the former Bronco's presence is still felt with his former team -- never moreso than when Jordan Norwood runs a route with the first team out of the slot.
Norwood's cuts are crisp. His ability to find space underneath and on intermediate routes improves with every opportunity. And with Emmanuel Sanders nursing a hamstring injury, Norwood has become a constant presence in the first team's three-wide receiver package, which the Broncos used to good effect in their 19-12 preseason win over the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.
The Broncos defense has been dominant so far in the first half with a safety.
Ever the coach's son -- his father, Brian, is the associate head coach at Tulsa -- Norwood studied Welker last summer before he succumbed to a torn anterior cruciate ligament during a joint practice with the Houston Texans. But his search for ideas from the standard-bearer of slot receivers in recent times goes back years.
"I have a lot of Wes Welker film on my iPad right now that, if I'm looking for something to watch, I'll just watch 2007 Wes Welker film, literally," Norwood said. "He's somebody that I look up to."
The results are obvious. His back-to-back receptions nine minutes into the third quarter turned second-and-17 into a first down, and he led all Broncos with 38 yards on four receptions.
His extensive work on the first team has allowed him to build cohesion with QB Peyton Manning -- perhaps the most crucial aspect to success in this offense for a wide receiver.
"I think it's repetition," Norwood said. "It takes a little bit for a quarterback and a receiver to get some chemistry. Hopefully we're building that."
- Andrew Mason
Offense builds rhythm in fourth quarter
The biggest play of the Broncos' game-winning drive was an incomplete pass.
On third down needing two yards from the 28-yard line, Brock Osweiler took the snap out of the shotgun and chucked a pass deep to the left corner of the end zone. 49ers cornerback Mylan Hicks had turned and could not sense when the ball would arrive. Wide receiver Jordan Taylor tracked the ball well and though he couldn't come down with the ball, he drew a pass interference penalty. The flag would set the Broncos up with a first down on the 1-yard line and on the ensuing play, Juwan Thompson plowed ahead for the score.
"I think the difference between the third and fourth quarter is just getting into a rhythm," Brock Osweiler said. "Coming in cold, in the third quarter, it takes a little bit to get your juices flowing and what not. Once we did that, I think we did some good things."
Though Taylor didn't set out looking to draw a penalty on his defender, it was welcome all the same for keeping the drive alive.
"The No. 1 thing regardless, is I'm thinking, Go get the ball, make a play," he said. "I know that when a DB doesn't look back when you jump back into him and [if you] try to make a good play on him, the refs usually throw a [pass interference] call on that. So I wasn't thinking that. I was thinking, Go get the ball and get a touchdown. It just happened to work out like that. That's what it is."
And with the culmination of the drive on Thompson's touchdown run, and then a two-point conversion, the Broncos took a seven-point lead that would end up giving the Broncos the victory.
"Any time offensively you can get into the end zone, it's big," Osweiler said. "That's what we're coming out here to do is score as many points as possible. To finish a drive in the end zone, that's our goal every time."
- Ben Swanson
After an offseason and training camp spent learning from his two Pro Bowl mentors, Shane Ray joined their ranks on Saturday when he got his first solo sack on the same night Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware had one apiece of their own.
After getting his sack on Blaine Gabbert, Ray took a page out of Miller's book and showcased a dance to celebrate the moment.
That specific dance, however, did not impress his proud teachers, though it did make them laugh. With a chuckle, Ware told reporters that he gave the dance a zero while Miller graded it a bit higher with a five out of 10.
"I don't have any names for my dances," Ray said. "It's all fun. It's football. I learned from my big bro Von and DeMarcus and their celebrations, and when you get a sack, it's a lot of hard work that goes into it, so it's often fun just to go out there and just turn up a little bit, just have a little fun."
Miller, a maestro of post-sack moves, tried to teach Ray. Relax, Miller said he told him.
"When we first got in, I told him I had to give him an example," Miller said. "You have to relax a little bit. You've got to relax and make sure everybody's watching. Then you do the sack dance. You do it too quick and nobody sees it, you know?"
Though Miller thought a little bit more of Ray's dance than Ware, he still said the rookie has much to learn. Rookie humbling takes no breaks.
"He beat me to the punch," Miller admitted. "I had that one so I'll give him a five for that. I would have made it look better but I did have that in the arsenal. He already beat me to it."
- Ben Swanson
Also, with Saturday's win over the 49ers, the following promotions are available:
Papa John's: Because the Broncos beat the 49ers, all Colorado locations of Papa John's will offer 50% off all orders Sunday, Aug. 30.
McDonald's: The day after any Broncos game, get $1 Big Mac sandwiches or $1 Sausage Egg McMuffins at McDonald's, in addition to 30% off any jersey in the Broncos Team Store if you bring your McDonald's receipt.