Broncos putting ‘D’ back in Denver
OAKLAND – Kyle Orton, Josh McDaniels and a newfound dominant defense have quieted all the talk of offseason disfunction in Denver with a 3-0 start.
Orton threw a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall, the defense kept a second straight opponent out of the end zone and the Broncos overwhelmed the Oakland Raiders 23-3 Sunday.
“We’re happy with where we’re at, 3-0,” Orton said. “We’ve been improving every single week.”
The performance to start the season is a far cry from the offseason. McDaniels caused an immediate stir when he was hired to replace the fired Mike Shanahan as coach in Denver last offseason. He alienated Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler before trading him to Chicago for Orton, then suspended Marshall in the preseason.
But once the season started, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Broncos. They capitalized on a lucky bounce to win the opener at Cincinnati and followed that with convincing wins over Cleveland and Oakland (1-2).
“There’s no vindication because there’s nothing to be vindicated about,” McDaniels said.
The schedule gets considerably tougher starting next week against Dallas, but the Broncos have to be pleased with where they stand now.
Rookie Knowshon Moreno ran for 90 yards and a score and Correll Buckhalter added 108 yards on 14 carries for the Broncos. Matt Prater added three field goals as Denver won its AFC West opener for a 10th straight year.
Orton again played mistake-free football, going 13 for 23 for 157 yards. He has not thrown an interception in three games, quite a change from the flashier Cutler, who made more big plays last season but also more mistakes with 18 interceptions.
“I thought it was a clean game,” Orton said. “We got off to a good start, no turnovers again and we made plays in the passing game when we needed to. That’s kind of the formula we wanted to take into this week and we executed it.”
The Broncos have committed just one offensive turnover all season, and even that didn’t end up hurting them. Two plays after Buckhalter fumbled deep in Denver territory, Darren McFadden gave it right back to Denver with a fumble of his own.
That recovery by Brian Dawkins was just one of many big plays from coordinator Mike Nolan’s defense. The Broncos have allowed just 16 points all season, getting six sacks from Elvis Dumervil the past two weeks.
The Raiders offense looked inept for a second straight week and this time the defense couldn’t keep Oakland in the game long enough for JaMarcus Russell to steal one at the end, as he did last week in Kansas City.
The Raiders were held to 137 yards, their second straight week with less than 200 yards of offense. This is just the third time since the start of the 1993 season that Oakland has put together back-to-back games like that, with the other two coming in 2006.
“There’s some glaring problems that need to be fixed, in all phases of the game,” Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “So I don’t think we have quite a read on who we are. And that’s concerning, because at this point you want to know what type of team you are.”
Russell threw two first-quarter interceptions and was the target of boos all afternoon from the frustrated Raiders fans who bothered to show up. The attendance was 45,602 and the game was blacked out locally.
Russell, who entered the game completing 35.2 percent of his passes, finished 12 for 21 for 61 yards, with only 1 passing yard in the second half.
“I know that the guys in my locker room are behind me,” Russell said. “When the fans get to that, it’s kind of where they seem like they’re fed up. But again, until you come out and play like I know we should and get back on track it will be a different story.”
The Broncos dominated the first half but only had a 13-3 lead to show for it. LaMont Jordan was stopped on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 to thwart their first drive and Denver had to settle for a field goal after driving inside the 5 late in the half.
The other 10 points were set up by interceptions thrown by Russell. He was picked off by Renaldo Hill following the goal-line stand when Darrius Heyward-Bey fell as his feet got caught up with a defender. That set up the 2-yard TD pass to Marshall. The second interception by Andre Goodwin set up a 48-yard field goal by Prater.
NOTES: Rich Gannon broadcast the game for CBS after the Raiders tried to ban their former QB from pregame production meetings. … This was the 100th all-time meeting between AFL rivals, including two playoff games. The Raiders hold a 56-42-2 edge.
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