Broncos Update Insider - 12/20

The masses in Denver got their wish, with Tim Tebow starting at Oakland and playing the entire game Sunday.

The question moving forward is, if starter Kyle Orton is healthy, will he retain his starting job or will the team continue to assess its future with the rookie first-round pick?

"We've got to look at this tape and see," interim coach Eric Studesville said in politically-correct fashion post-game. "We're going to look at this and figure out what we've got to get better on, the little things, before we make any of those decisions."

Not to change the subject, but it's way past the stage of correcting "little things" after a franchise-worst 3-11 start - and counting.

The feeling all along was that Tebow, if he was going to take the reins, would do so this Sunday against Houston.

The Texans have sported the NFL's worst pass defense. The game is slated for the day after Christmas and, given Denver's lousy season, thousands were expected to stay home - unless, perhaps, Tebow gave them a reason to trek to Invesco Field at Mile High.

Tebow was decent in his first extended action in the NFL, though not overwhelming. He did have a few nice plays. His 40-yard touchdown run was the longest by a quarterback in Denver history. A scoring pass to Brandon Lloyd and a perfect strike on a crossing route to Jabar Gaffney was the best of the best.

Also, Denver's offense on a rainy afternoon in Oakland with muddy conditions didn't turn the ball over.

"That always gives you a better chance," Tebow said. "But we've just got to execute a little better on third down ... (and) just be crisper, quicker and better with my reads."

Tebow's 78 rushing yards are the second-most in a single game in Broncos' history, tailing the 120-yard performance by Norris Weese at Chicago on Dec. 12, 1976.

But the Broncos' game plan had a "kid gloves" element to it, too. Tebow attempted just 16 passes, completing eight, for 138 yards. He was sacked twice.

Asked whether he's earned another start, Tebow was, as expected, politically correct - as he approaches most topics in the media related to playing.

"I don't know," he responded. "That's not my decision."

Though there's still plenty of time to make that call, circumstance and Orton's restricted movement all last week, point to Tebow Two next week.

NOTES, QUOTES

TRENDING: Denver has allowed at least 30 points eight times this season, including five of the last six games. The Broncos still have a chance at tying the team record of 10, set in 1964. They're already one shy of the 2008 and 1963 teams. The 415 total points allowed already are the fourth-most at this juncture of the season, trailing only teams in 1963 (473), 1964 (438) and 1961 (432).

LINEUP WATCH: Denver inserted safety Darcel McBath into the starting lineup for the first time in his 19-game career. The oft-injured McBath likely will get a long look over the last three games to see if he can be a viable replacement for Brian Dawkins, who may not return. The Broncos have extensive needs at the safety position regardless, moving forward. McBath finished third on the team with five tackles.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Knowshon Moreno hurt his ribs/side in the first half and didn't return. Moreno consistently had shown the most both from a statistical and aesthetic perspective over the last month or so, as teams have concentrated on taking away Denver's outside receivers. But Moreno seemingly can't stand good fortune. He was injured on the first day of camp after a strong showing in OTAs.

--TE Richard Quinn caught his first NFL pass in his 27th pro game. Quinn was one of many controversial picks by Josh McDaniels during his tenure. Quinn has been a fixture in two tight-end formations now that Dan Gronkowski (ankle) is on IR. But Quinn was considered a major reach last season as a second-round pick and that has played out in two seasons.

--WR Brandon Lloyd, like the rest of Denver's passing offense, had slumped over the past two games. But Lloyd recaptured some of his Pro Bowl form with a stellar grab between two defenders in the end zone. It was his 10th TD this season, becoming just the ninth player in team history to record double-digit scores in a single season.

--WR Eddie Royal began the season as the team's punt returner and a fill-in kickoff returner. But Royal now appears to have lost both those special-teams roles, as Eric Decker continues to run back kicks and now Syd'Quan Thompson has taken over punts. Thompson muffed a punt, leading to an Oakland TD.

--RB Lance Ball changed the course of Sunday's game with his end-zone drop in the third quarter. Ball was wide open on the play, and Denver trailed at the time 20-17. The Broncos lost all momentum after that play. Ball finished with just 15 carries for 20 yards after Moreno's injury-related exit.



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