Updated: December 18, 2009 at 12:00 am
ENGLEWOOD – Brandon Marshall doesn’t figure he’ll break his NFL record for catches in a game this week, nor does he think the Broncos need that from him.
“I don’t think we need 22 catches from me to be able to win the game,” said Marshall, who caught 21 balls against Indianapolis last week.
The Broncos better hope so. They go into Sunday’s game with a passing offense that is relying heavily on Marshall.
Over the last six games, Marshall has caught 53 passes. The rest of the Broncos combined have caught 63. Last week, Marshall was targeted on 28-of-41 throws.
That disparity is even more amazing when considering coach Josh McDaniels’ offensive plan is to spread the ball around and avoid forcing the ball to any particular player. McDaniels said during Marshall’s recent hot streak, there haven’t been many times quarterback Kyle Orton has gone to his Pro Bowl receiver when he should’ve looked to someone else.
“You always try to get the ball to guys who can make plays, and we’ve got a lot of them,” McDaniels said. “It just so happened the last five or six weeks here we’ve really kind of been able to get him the ball a bunch. He’s getting open.”
McDaniels cited earlier games this season, when Eddie Royal caught 10 passes against New England or tight end Tony Scheffler had 101 yards at San Diego, as evidence that one player won’t be featured.
The Broncos might need to go back to spreading the ball around more down the stretch. The Colts didn’t do much to take Marshall away last week, but it would be surprising if future opponents don’t make him the focal point.
That may start Sunday if the Raiders decide to shadow Marshall with Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
McDaniels said this week that Asomugha has had only 26 balls thrown his way all season, a testament to his talent. Orton figured that Asomugha would shadow Marshall, and didn’t make it a secret that would mean fewer targets for Marshall.
“You certainly don’t want to live working against (Asomugha) if you have a choice,” said Orton, who added that Marshall won’t be ignored regardless of who is in coverage.
Still, whether it’s Sunday’s game or one down the road, Marshall won’t be able to continue receiving almost half of Orton’s completions. The pressure will fall on Royal — who has had a quiet second season — Jabar Gaffney, Scheffler or one of Denver’s other receivers to be more productive.
McDaniels pointed out that spreading the ball is a two-way street, that receivers have to get open when coverage dictates the ball go to them. Yet, McDaniels is confident that when the Broncos need to diversify their offense, it will be effective.
“Last week, we took what they gave us, and we’re going to continue to do that,” McDaniels said. “If they take that away, then the ball will go somewhere else. The most important thing for us is that we’re moving the ball and having positive plays. Whether that be to 10 different receivers or five or three tight ends, backs or receivers, it doesn’t make any difference.”
Dominating the catches
In the past six weeks, Brandon Marshall has taken over the Broncos’ passing offense:
Brandon Marshall 53 catches, 652 yards, 5 touchdowns
Eddie Royal 14 catches, 159 yards, 0 touchdown
Jabar Gaffney 11 catches, 157 yards, 0 touchdowns
Brandon Stokley 3 catches, 36 yards, 1 touchdown
Tony Scheffler 11 catches, 116 yards, 0 touchdowns
Daniel Graham 6 catches, 65 yards, 1 touchdown