It was a Titan-sized 26-20 win for the Denver Broncos.
As the Broncos returned to .500, Kyle Orton continued to carry the offense on his grass-stained shoulders. The Broncos all-time leader in passing yards through the first four games of the season racked up 341 yards on 35-50 attempts with 2 TDs and 1 INT against the Titans.
Those numbers are more similar to that of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady than of the Orton we knew last year. In the past two games, Orton has combined for 817 yards. Perhaps Chad Ochocinco should give the moniker “Ocho” to Orton.
This was not a walk-in-the-park type of game. The Titans brought bone crushing hits and pain that only a smooth Tennessee whiskey can numb. The Broncos equipment manager will be busy getting the stains out of number 8′s jersey. He was sacked 6 times for a loss of 33 yards.
The major beneficiaries of Orton’s passes were Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal who each had over 100 receiving yards. Royal tacked on a touchdown in the second quarter.
Fast Eddie Royal (Source: Yardbarker)
Defensively, the Broncos put a wall around running back Chris Johnson. Johnson, who was averaging 100 yards per game, was held to 55 yards on 19 carries, and fumbled once. The Broncos also allowed just 13 first downs, with two quick three and outs at the end of the game, giving the offense a chance to get back on the field. The Titans went 3-12 on third down conversions.
A major factor in the Broncos win today was special teams. Matt Prater went 4-4 on field goals, keeping the Broncos within constant striking distance when they failed to convert in the the red zone. Most notably, special teams came into play on a forced fumble during a Titan kick return. The Broncos had just regained the lead 23-20 with 1:33 left in the game when David Burton drilled Marc Mariani on the kickoff. Cassius Vaughn recovered the ball enabling Prater to kick his final field goal through the uprights.
The game started to look like Act 2 of a continuation of last week. Orton had to carry the load because the Broncos rushing attack lacked life. Orton was actually the Broncos leading rusher with 3 carries for 11 yards. Without his numbers bringing the Broncos average up to 1.0 yards per carry, the average would have been .47 yards per carry. Laurence Maroney and Correll Backhalter got the rest of the carries, but most of their production came in the form of receptions.
The Broncos also had a rough time converting on third down, going 3-15.
It helps when the opposing team’s penalties take up more than the length of an entire football field. The Titans had 10 penalties for 111 yards lost. The most critical of those penalties was a pass interference call that put the Broncos on the Titans’ 1-yard line in the final two minutes of the game.
While this win wasn’t pretty, the Broncos made big plays down the stretch. That’s impressive considering the team was trailing without the home crowd behind them.
Sometimes it’s the hard-nosed games that are football’s best lesson.
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