Kyle Orton's second preseason game as the Denver Broncos' starter was mostly a reassuring answer to his dismal debut. He completed 16 of his first 19 throws with a touchdown before he relapsed into another mistake.
Matt Hasselbeck was even better, completing 16 of 23 throws with two touchdowns in his two quarters. He also withstood the first hits on his recuperating back in nine months during the Seattle Seahawks' 27-13 win over Denver on Saturday night.
Hasselbeck, who missed nine games with a bad back last season, plopped a 34-yard touchdown pass into the arms of rookie Deon Butler on the opening possession. He closed his night 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.
A prolonged "Hoooooshhhh!" hoot engulfed the stadium after the first of what Seattle fans expect to be many touchdown connections between Hasselbeck and the former Cincinnati Bengal, the top free-agent receiver in the offseason.
The Broncos left disgruntled wide receiver Brandon Marshall home.
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.
His touchdown was a 3-yard fade pass to Brandon Stokley. Stokley easily 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 after Stokley's catch. Coach Josh 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.
Orton was 3 for 3 on Denver's next drive, which was ruined by a clipping penalty that negated a 30-yard run to the Seahawks 10 by Peyton Hillis. Matt Prater kicked a 52-yard field goal to put the Broncos up 10-7 after one quarter.
Orton's third drive was a three-and-out, the last play a short pass thrown behind Chad Jackson.
Seven of his first 16 completions were on safe, swing passes and wide-receiver screens. He threw deep only once all night, a throwaway just before Patrick Kerney hit him on the first drive.
Orton's gaffe came after he had led Denver 86 yards to the Seattle 1 late in 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.
The starting offenses combined for nearly 400 yards — 327 of them passing — and 21 first downs against the first-team defenses in the opening half.
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 because of back pain. The three-time Pro Bowl passer, untouched in brief work last weekend at San Diego, 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. Peterson bear hugged Hasselbeck from behind for a softer sack.
Hasselbeck third dumping came when Elvis Dumervil drove Locklear into the quarterback