Forget the Titans

Never mind the cheap shots, the wasting of their own efforts and how well the Broncos handled them. Forget the Titans. What do you say about Kyle Orton?

You’d probably have to start with the fact that very little fazes him. Not the 6 sacks that the Titans laid on him. Not the late hit below the waist. Not the outright hatred that a lot of misguided fans laid on him in the past year. Probably not even the number of late arrivals that are looking for a bandwagon to jump on. Mostly, Kyle Orton doesn’t care. He just does his job, drives his Prius and works with conservation groups. This is NOT normal star QB behavior. But then again, Orton has never been the big star QB.

But you have to say this - he’s got one of the top ten winning percentages since the 1970s. His work this year is the fourth time in franchise history a player has passed for more than 300 yards in three consecutive weeks and the first time since (ironically) Brian Griese, a former Bronco and former Bear himself, totaled four consecutive games with 300-plus yards in 2002. But Griese wasn’t putting up higher and higher numbers each year. Consider this from yesterdays’ Morning After column on www.denverbroncos.com:

Brandon Lloyd and Kyle Orton’s other favorite receiving targets have been consistently asked about the quarterback’s development since early in the offseason. From the start of OTAs through his fourth straight impressive game to start the 2010 regular season, the answers haven’t changed much.

After Orton continued his hot start in Sunday’s win at Tennessee with 341 passing yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 6-yard toss to Correll Buckhalter with 1:33 left, Lloyd offered a simple explanation for his quarterback’s success.

“Knowledge is power,” said Lloyd, who paced all receivers with a career-high 11 catches for 115 yards. “He is already a bright individual and then he just knows a lot about the game of football. This being his second year in (Head) Coach (Josh) McDaniels’ offense, he’s just applying all three of those things. He’s just turning out to be a really good quarterback.”

While he’s talking about knowledge being power, Lloyd had a lot of long, heart-to-heart talks with his captain and QB this year, and decided that he really needed to change the way he practices, plays and understands the game. You’d have to say that he’s done okay - he’s second in the league in receiving yards right now, and he’s getting even better. Lloyd and Eddie Royal are tied for the seventh-most receptions in the NFL, while Eddie is twelfth in yards. Meanwhile, Jabar Gaffney is tied for 13th in receptions and is 27th in yards. When you realize that Bay Bay (Demaryius Thomas), Eric Decker and Matthew Willis (nice work from Willis on blocking for DT’s runback of 65 yards) are also ready to step in, it’s an amazing feeling. Lloyd’s power is getting his head on straight - his physical skills took a while to catch up to.

Through four games, Kyle Orton has passed for 1,419 yards. Only Kurt Warner in 2000 has ever passed for more yards in his team’s first four contests. Orton has a 67.4% completion rate with a QB rating of 96.3 along with three INTs and 6 TDs. It’s the end of the first quarter of the season, and he’s already 50% ahead of last year’s pace in passing yardage.

By the way, that’s 354.75 yards per game so far. Orton’s most prolific stretch last year came in Weeks 4-6, a 267.3 average, and Denver won all three. This year he’s only won 2 of 4, but losing to Indy this early in the season is forgivable. So is losing to Jacksonville on the road for the opener - they just bull-whipped the Colts on Sunday. But beating the Titans in Nashville is a tough game. So will be next week’s, but win or lose, Orton will play his heart out and keep his head on straight.

Andrew Mason shared another interesting number today over at www.MaxDenver.com:

103: Passes thrown Kyle Orton the last two weeks, as he became the first quarterback in Broncos history with more than 50 pass attempts in consecutive games. Prior to this, the Broncos only had two quarterbacks log a pair of 50-attempt games in the same season: Frank Tripucka in 1960 (52 attempts on Nov. 6 and Nov. 20, both against the Houston Oilers) and Brian Griese in 2002 (53 attempts at Baltimore on Sep. 30 and 50 attempts at Kansas City on Oct. 20).

One of the stories that didn’t get enough praise was the job that Kevin Vickerson did on the day. For a guy who came in - ironically, from Tennessee: they got rid of him for not playing dirty enough (jk) and just took over Ryan McBean’s job, it’s begun a new competition - I love that. He was once the same size as McBean, but is up to 321 vs. McBean’s 297 and has, in the past two weeks,  out-practiced him. Vickerson had three solo tackles, but drove the pile into Johnson/Young’s area repeatedly, while Jason Hunter and/or Robert Ayers closed off the edges and swooped back to make the tackles.

Speaking of the LBs, they looked like All-Pros on Sunday. They were smashing in from the edges, wrapping up Chris Johnson, catching his legs and waist, and Ayers in the 1st quarter just wrapped his torso and flung him to the turf: this time, underneath Ayers so it didn’t draw the body-slam flag. Those two had a great day, and the addition of Vickerson on the DL has made everyone’s job a little easier. Big thanks to a couple of very large linebackers. With Ray Rice coming at Denver next week, Wink will have to find even more ways to stop him - you know that Baltimore’s coaching staff is watching film from the Broncos and are metaphorically glued to the sets. Vickerson got a game ball - with the other, not surprisingly, going to Orton.

How about this guy: Demaryius Thomas finished the day with four returns for 144 yards, providing the spark that McDaniels hoped to see when he gave him the opportunity. Denver really needs to improve STs, and he could play a big role. He also has 11 receptions on the year and 8 of them went for 1st downs. Anyone for a 73% 1st-down rate? Didn’t think so….DT added a reception Sunday, one catch out of 4 targets. We’ll forgive him. He’s a remarkable young man. Word from Dove Valley is that they are making some personnel changes on STs this week. I’m shocked. Truly. Okay, maybe not…..

Eddie Royal brought in 113 yards receiving and added a TD. Brandon Lloyd had more catches - 11, and 115 yards receiving, although no TDs. That’s okay - Correll Buckhalter couldn’t run the ball for gold on Sunday, but his receiving was good (5 catches for 38 yards), and he brought in the second TD that Orton threw. Jabar Gaffney’s 5 receptions for 51 yards took him to 4,040 total yards for his career. Couldn’t happen to a nicer receiver - I hope I’m around when he breaks 5,000.

It’s nice to bask in the glow of the game, but it’s quickly going to be time to forget the Titans. The Baltimore Ravens are next on the schedule, and we have to travel to their nest to play them. Considering that they destroyed Denver last year, this will be a great game to find out how much the team has improved. I’m suspecting that this will be a brawl.

Go Broncos!

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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