Orton sharp early, Hasselbeck better
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE – Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck likened finally getting hit again following back problems to having flashbacks of a car accident.
Broncos fans are relieved Kyle Orton’s second game as the Broncos’ starting quarterback wasn’t another train wreck.
Orton had a mostly reassuring answer to his dismal Denver debut, saying he feels his play is its best ever after he completed 16 of his first 19 throws with a touchdown before a relapse into another mistake.
Hasselbeck was even better, hitting on 16 of 23 throws with two touchdowns in his two quarters. He also withstood the first three sacks on his recuperating back in nine months during the Seattle Seahawks’ 27-13 win over Denver on Saturday night.
“It’s just like I remembered- no fun. … I forgot how hard people hit in here,” said a lighthearted Hasselbeck said, who missed nine games with a bad back in 2008. “It’s just like a car accident. It’s part of the game … and it was probably good that it happened.”
Hasselbeck, who was untouched in a short night at San Diego last week, plopped a 34-yard touchdown pass into the arms of rookie Deon Butler on the opening possession. He closed with a sharp two-minute drive that ended with a 2-yard scoring throw on a perfectly timed fade route with new wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh just before halftime.
One could almost hear the entire Rocky Mountain region exhale after Orton came out slinging from shotgun formation – and this time completed passes to those wearing the same uniforms. Last week at San Francisco, the former Bears starter had interceptions end each of his first three drives.
“I think he acquitted himself fairly well,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said.
Orton’s touchdown was a perfectly placed, 3-yard fade pass to Brandon Stokley. Stokley beat Josh Wilson, who is starting at cornerback because Seattle’s Marcus Trufant has a disk issue in his back and has yet to practice in training camp.
Orton raised both hands triumphantly and pumped his fist. McDaniels was the second one to greet Orton coming off the field with a high five.
On the play before the touchdown, Seattle’s Ken Lucas should have intercepted Orton’s throw into the end zone but merely deflected it.
Seven of his first 16 completions were on safe, swing passes and wide-receiver screens. Orton threw deep only once all night, a throwaway just before Patrick Kerney hit him on the first drive.
“I’ve got an awful lot of confidence right now, I really do,” he said, knowing his next game is a reunion with Chicago and Jay Cutler, the quarterback Denver traded to get him. “This is the best offense I’ve ever played with. This is the best talent around me that I’ve ever had. I just feel that my game right now is as good as it has ever been.”
The Broncos left disgruntled wide receiver Brandon Marshall home. He’s mad that the team hasn’t re-negotiated his contract, and at how the team handled his acquittal on battery charges last week.
“Everybody who was ready and able to play in this game was here. And everybody we deemed not ready and able stayed back home,” McDaniels said.
The coach added he “absolutely” expected Marshall to participate when the Broncos return to practice Tuesday.
Orton’s gaffe came after he had led Denver 86 yards to the Seattle 1 late in the half. Two plays after Jabar Gaffney took his eyes off the ball to focus on getting his feet down inside the back line of the end zone and let a touchdown go through his hands, Orton scrambled on fourth down. He then oddly flipped the ball with his off, left hand into a gaggle of defenders at the goal line. Lucas intercepted it. And Orton got a talking to at the sideline from McDaniels, who called the decision “questionable.”
Orton finished 18 for 26 for 182 yards, one touchdown and the interception.
“He played, you know, fairly well. There’s still obviously room for improvement,” McDaniels said. “But he did what we feel he is capable of doing.”
Hasselbeck’s most important accomplishment was surviving his first clean hits since last Thanksgiving Day, when he was pounded into a premature end of his season in Dallas. The three-time Pro Bowl passer simply bent at the waist and absorbed a sack from blitzing D.J. Williams in the first quarter.
Later, Denver’s Kenny Peterson ran around left tackle Sean Locklear, who was starting with nine-time Pro Bowler Walter Jones is out indefinitely following arthroscopic knee surgery. He bear hugged Hasselbeck from behind for a softer sack.
Hasselbeck third dumping came when Elvis Dumervil drove Locklear into the quarterback.
“I guess if there’s a silver lining to taking a sack, it’s the fact he bounced right back up,” new Seahawks coach Jim Mora understated.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.