DENVER — Kyle Orton led Denver back from a shaky start with two touchdown drives and the Broncos’ defense throttled Tarvaris Jackson in a 23-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night.
Jeff Reed tied it at 20 with a 53-yard field goal with 1:16 left in regulation, but Tim Tebow had a 19-yard scramble in leading the Broncos downfield for Steven Haushka’s 51-yarder as time expired.
The Broncos (2-1) sacked Jackson five times, with Von Miller getting two and Elvis Dumervil 1 1/2. Dumervil missed all of last season after tearing a chest muscle in training camp shortly after parlaying his 17-sack season into a big contract. The Broncos sputtered without him, and they chose Miller out of Texas A&M; with the second overall draft pick in April.
Miller has three sacks in the preseason.
The highlight of the night for Seattle (1-2) was Doug Baldwin’s 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. All 16 of the previous kickoffs at Sports Authority Field this preseason were touchbacks.
The Broncos’ defense may have had the advantage on the edge, but they have an even bigger hole in the middle of their defense after losing Brodrick Bunkley to a right knee injury on a chop block by Robert Gallery, and linebacker D.J. Williams to a sprained right elbow.
Williams has led the Broncos in tackles in three of the last four seasons, and Bunkley is the third run-stuffer sidelined in the last two weeks. Ty Warren recently had triceps surgery and is out at least until November. Marcus Thomas has a torn chest muscle that will keep him out until mid- to late-September.
With Russell Okung out with an ankle injury, the Seahawks’ starting left tackle was Tyler Polumbus, a former Broncos lineman who was engaged with Dumervil in a 1-on-1 drill last summer when Dumervil’s right pectoral muscle snapped during training camp, ending his season.
Contending with Miller on the other side were two rookies: right tackle James Carpenter and right guard John Moffitt.
It wasn’t much of a contest; Jackson was sacked four times and knocked around plenty more, often getting sandwiched as he released the ball.
Seattle’s starters finally scored on their 12th drive of the preseason. But Reed’s 52-yard field goal in the first quarter brought the only points the Seahawks mustered in their first nine drives Saturday. Jackson found tight end Dominique Byrd behind Denver’s second-string defense for a 1-yard TD connection in the fourth quarter.
That was Seattle’s first TD by the first string this preseason. In two dozen snaps before halftime, the Seahawks gained just 39 yards.
Denver’s offense wasn’t the same well-oiled unit it was in the first two preseason games, although Orton did hand a 17-3 lead to Tebow with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
After the first half ended with Denver leading 10-3 and Matt Prater’s 69-yard field goal coming up short, Orton guided an an eight-play, 93-yard drive on the Broncos’ first possession of the second half, ending it with a 6-yard TD toss to Eric Decker.
After sputtering for the first three drives, the Broncos took a 7-3 lead on Willis McGahee’s third TD of the preseason, a 2-yard run. Prater later hit a 57-yarder that would have been good from 10-15 yards farther.
The Broncos had some sloppiness on their second possession, which ended with defensive end Chris Clemons’ interception of Orton’s pass intended for Brandon Lloyd.
Denver’s messy play continued on Seattle’s second drive when defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson smacked into center Max Unger before the snap. On the next play, Williams sprained his right elbow when he tackled Seattle running back Thomas Clayton after a 2-yard gain.
Denver’s third possession included a 15-yard sack by Marcus Trufant on a corner blitz, something you don’t usually see in the preseason. Minutes later, Bunkley was chop-blocked by Gallery and left.
Orton finished 16 of 23 for 236 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Tebow was 6 for 11 for 93 yards. Jackson was 13 of 22 for 93 yards, one TD and five sacks.