Thomas has big debut as Broncos top Seahawks

Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas pulls in a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010, in Denver. Seahawks cornerback Kelly Jennings reaches in to make a tackle. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
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Thomas has big debut as Broncos top Seahawks 31-14

ARNIE STAPLETON,AP Pro Football Writer

DENVER – The Denver Broncos’ surprising first-round draft pick had a sensational NFL coming out party in front of his delirious home fans.

Not Tim Tebow. Demaryius Thomas.

Thomas, a wide receiver from Georgia Tech who was selected three spots ahead of Tebow, the Florida star whose jersey is already the NFL’s top seller, piled up 97 yards on eight receptions with a touchdown in Denver’s 31-14 rout of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Tebow? He didn’t play a lick.

Thomas, a big receiver in the mold of Brandon 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 a 21-yard touchdown toss from Kyle Orton to cap his smashing debut.

The Broncos (1-1) forced four turnovers, limited the Seahawks (1-1) to just 221/2 minutes of possession time and put together four scoring drives of 80 or more yards.

Orton threw for 307 yards and also hit Eddie Royal with his first TD catch since 2008. Knowshon Moreno caught a 45-yard screen pass and then dived into the end zone on his third attempt, and Correll Buckhalter also scored from the 1 after Royal’s 34-yard gain on a gadget play.

About the only thing that didn’t go Denver’s way was cornerback Champ Bailey leaving on crutches with his right ankle lightly taped after a sensational performance in which he picked off a pass near the goal line to thwart Seattle’s opening drive and tipped away a fourth-down pass to Deion Branch in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Denver’s other starting cornerback, Andre Goodman, injured his right thigh, not a good sign for a secondary preparing to face Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts next week.

Thomas hauled in Orton’s 21-yard touchdown pass after shaking cornerback Kelly Jennings to make it 31-7.

“You saw a little bit of what we think he can do,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. “He’s a big man that runs fast.”

Thomas was the first receiver selected in the April draft. 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.

Teammate Brandon Lloyd said Thomas has a lot of room for growth, too: “I think it’s just a little bit more refining and he’s going to be a tough player to deal with.”

The Seahawks think he already is.

“I definitely know who he is now,” Lawyer Milloy said. “I saw him on the field a lot making big, big catches.”

“He’s a big receiver, and he made some great catches today,” added Earl Thomas. “I’m pretty sure he is going to have a great year.”

The Broncos think so, too.

“He’s still working off a little bit more limited menu than the other guys because he hasn’t been out there as much but hopefully if he continues to practice and continues to get out there and get the work in, that will soon be equal,” McDaniels said. “I have great confidence in him being able to run lots of different routes and he showed that versatility today.”

The Broncos led 17-0 after a dominating first half that included a trio of takeaways.

Cassius Vaughn recovered a fumbled punt and Bailey and Brian Dawkins both intercepted passes from Matt Hasselbeck inside the Denver 10-yard line. Bailey also knocked away a fourth-down pass to Deion Branch in the end zone, and rookie Perrish Cox picked off Hasselbeck’s final pass in the waning minutes.