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Tight ends proving deadly for defenses

DENVER -- Jacob Tamme has caught a few touchdowns from Peyton Manning in his career, but his 4-yard score in the second quarter on Sunday might have been his easiest.

"It was something we designed for that coverage and it worked out great," Tamme said. He added with a little laugh, "It ended up being pretty open. It's hard to get that open sometimes."

Tamme initially lined up on the right side of the line next to Julius Thomas, but motioned across the field to the inside of a bunch set with Demaryius Thomas and Andre Caldwell on the left side. Tamme ran a quick out while Caldwell ran a slant into press coverage from Chiefs corner Marcus Cooper. Cooper's decision to press created a pile of traffic between Tamme and the Chiefs defender responsible for covering him, leaving the tight end wide open for the touchdown with three Chiefs and Caldwell caught in a tangle.

After an early touchdown by Julius Thomas, Tamme's score was the fifth touchdown pass by Manning this season, with all five going to tight ends. Demaryius Thomas later broke the streak with a TD of his own, but the impact made by the trio of Julius Thomas, Tamme and Virgil Green -- who played 31 more snaps that Tamme in Week 1 -- can't be overstated.

With Wes Welker missing the first two games of the season with a suspension, the majority of Denver's snaps through two weeks have come out of two-tight end sets. That personnel offers more flexibility than formations with three wide receivers, as Tamme and Thomas can each flow freely from lining up on the line or out wide, as Tamme showed on his touchdown. The ability to spread opposing defenses out and then immediately run with power makes the Broncos' offense more capable of adapting to varied defensive looks.

During the 2012 season, when Welker was not yet a Bronco, Manning said the way that defenses treated Tamme -- covering him with a linebacker, safety or cornerback -- often dictated the offense's decision-making. That thought process seemed to be embraced once again on Sunday.

"We just kind of go off of what they're doing there and make our adjustments and try to put them in some situations they don't want to be in," Tamme said. "That's definitely a lot of fun for me, getting to play that role."

While the former Colt showed again that he's another handy tool on the offense's Swiss army knife, Julius Thomas needed less than four minutes to remind everyone how dangerous of a weapon he is.

Following up his three-touchdown performance in Week 1 with another score Sunday, Thomas has four TDs through two games for the second consecutive season and doesn't look to be slowing down now. He vowed in the offseason to be better than the Pro Bowler he was last year, and nobody is betting against him right now.

"I think his confidence level just grows with each game," Tamme said of Thomas. "I mean last year was really his first time playing in a major role and he really had a great year. Now, I think he's learned a lot, he's continued to develop and he's doing everything the right way."

When Welker returns, the offense may well go back to a steady diet of three-wide sets with Thomas as the primary tight end and less frequent snaps for Tamme and Green, but Sunday's performance is a reminder that those varied looks are an effective alternative. The opponent's scheme and potential injuries will also be a factor, making the Broncos' versatility on offense comforting.

"Each week kind of takes on its own personality with our offense," Tamme said. "We have so many different guys that can do so many different things." "I think as a tight end room, with Virgil, we all feel like we can get in and help us, help our offense," Tamme said. "We have a good room, a good group of guys, guys that can help us get it in the end zone."

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