Broncos defeat Seahawks, 31-14
AP Pro Football Writer
DENVER – Who needs Brandon Marshall? Certainly not the Denver Broncos.
Their top draft pick, Demaryius Thomas, made a sensational debut in Denver’s 31-14 rout of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, catching eight passes for 97 yards and a score in limited duty.
“I knew they didn’t have film on me,” Thomas said.
The whole NFL does now.
Thomas, a big receiver in the mold of Marshall, who was traded to Miami in the offseason, missed all of the preseason and the opener after aggravating his surgically repaired left foot during a scrimmage last month.
“I’m just happy to be back and help my team out,” said Thomas, who caught eight of the nine balls that Kyle Orton threw his way.
“He’s a big, physical guy. He can really run,” Orton said. “There aren’t a lot of things he can’t do.”
And on this day, there weren’t a lot of things the Broncos (1-1) couldn’t do. They forced four turnovers and limited the Seahawks (1-1) to just 22 1/2 minutes of possession time.
Orton threw for 307 yards and also hit Eddie Royal with his first TD catch since 2008.
Thomas hauled in Orton’s 21-yard touchdown pass after shaking cornerback Kelly Jennings to make it 31-7 and cap his smashing debut.
“Nice to have him out there finally,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. “You saw a little bit of what we think he can do. … He’s a big man that runs fast.”
Thomas was the first receiver selected in the NFL draft in April. Despite playing in Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, a system that’s considered ill-suited for the NFL, Thomas was selected two spots ahead of the more polished Dez Bryant, who went to Dallas at No. 24.
In the former Yellow Jackets’ deep threat who packs 230 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, McDaniels trusts he’s found Marshall’s lookalike but not act-alike.
Despite three straight 100-catch seasons, Marshall’s antics on and off the field made him a chronic headache for the organization before his trade to Miami last spring. His four seasons in Denver were filled with drama and distraction along with run-ins with the front office and law enforcement.
Thomas has said he felt he was drafted ahead of Bryant because he’s a good guy.
He’s also a pretty good receiver.
“I definitely know who he is now,” Seahawks cornerback Lawyer Milloy said. “I saw him on the field a lot making big, big catches.”
The Broncos led 17-0 after a dominating first half that included a trio of takeaways.
Cassius Vaughn recovered a fumbled punt and Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins both intercepted passes from Matt Hasselbeck inside the Denver 10-yard line.
Bailey, who left the stadium on crutches with his right ankle lightly taped, also knocked away Hasselbeck’s fourth-down toss to Deion Branch in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
“Sometimes you have no choice but to go at Champ,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s a great player, we respect him, he’s one of the best of all time.”
“I didn’t think he could get there,” Hasselbeck said. “He got there.”
Hasselbeck finished 20 for 35 for 233 yards and also was intercepted by rookie Perrish Cox in waning minutes. He threw for a touchdown and ran for another.
Orton was 25 of 35 with two TDs and no interceptions.
After Vaughn’s recovery of Walter Thurmond’s fumbled punt at the Seattle 13, Royal caught a low pass from Orton and rolled into the end zone for his first TD catch since Nov. 30, 2008, against the Jets.
Royal set up Denver’s second touchdown on a 34-yard reception to the Seahawks 1 when running back Knowshon Moreno took the pitch and then tossed back to Orton, who found Royal racing down the left sideline. Royal was tripped up by Milloy at the 1, and Correll Buckhalter took it in for a 14-0 lead.
Thomas made his NFL debut on the Broncos’ fourth possession and had receptions of 20, 18, 9 and 9 yards on the drive that stalled at the Seahawks 2 and resulted in Matt Prater’s 20-yard field goal.
“It felt good that coach seemed to have trust in me to make plays,” Thomas said.
“I think there’s some bigger receivers in this league that really their route tree is really limited. And we’ve never considered him one of those players,” McDaniels said. “He’s still working off a little more limited menu than the other guys because he hasn’t been out there as much.”
Seattle rookie Golden Tate also had an impressive debut with a 52-yard catch and a 63-yard punt return that set up Ben Obomanu’s 11-yard TD reception that got Seattle on the board.
Moreno had a career-long 45-yard reception on the ensuing possession, which he capped with a 1-yard dive to make it 24-7.
Notes: The 91-degree temperature tied for the warmest home opener in Broncos history. … Seahawks LB Leroy Hill left the game with a calf injury in the third quarter. … Broncos OLB Robert Ayers (right hip) and CB Andre Goodman (right thigh) were hurt. … The Broncos have won 11 straight home openers.