ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Anyone who thought Wes Welker was going to hold back following his third concussion in nine months was mistaken.
Denver's diminutive slot receiver played 65 percent of the offensive snaps and ran right into the teeth of Seattle's stout secondary in the Broncos' 26-20 loss in overtime in his return from a two-game suspension.
He paid the price, too, when safety Earl Thomas blindsided him on Kam Chancellor's fourth-quarter interception, although no flag was thrown.
Had a penalty been called and 15 yards marked off after the interception, the Seahawks might not have gotten into field goal range to take a 20-12 lead. In that case, Peyton Manning's last minute TD drive could have given the Broncos the lead instead of a tie.
Welker said he wanted the penalty Sunday but isn't interested in seeing Thomas get fined by the league now.
"Obviously, a fine does us no good," Welker said. "I would have liked the flag, but that's the way it goes. But I'm not really looking for a fine or anything like that. I know he's trying to make a play. At the end of the day, we don't really have a say on that."
Welker caught six passes for 60 yards in his 2014 debut. He played 47 snaps after his four-game suspension for amphetamine use in the offseason was sliced in half.
"I feel like I stayed in shape and stayed on top of things while I was gone," said Welker, who worked out on his own in Denver during his ban so he wouldn't have to acclimate to the altitude again.
Welker asked the official nearest him why he didn't throw a flag, "but there's nothing you can really do about it," he said. "Just got to move on to next week."
The Broncos have an early bye, and Welker is wishing he had a game to play this weekend.
"I've had enough bye weeks," he said. "But it fell when it fell, so I'm just going to rest up and get my mind right for the rest of the season."
Before getting a four-day weekend furlough, the Broncos held light practices Tuesday and Wednesday: "It's an opportunity for us to still get better, even though it's early in the year," Welker said. "There are some things we can correct over these three games that we can get better at."
The Broncos' offense has been inconsistent, with no ground game to speak of and way too many drops in the passing game.
In part because of Welker's absence for the first two weeks, the Broncos' air attack has been inconsistent, with too many regrets from just about everyone not named Emmanuel Sanders, who leads the league in catches (25) and yards (334).
Of Manning's eight TD passes, just one has been to a wide receiver: Demaryius Thomas, who hasn't been himself as he plays through a sore left foot. Thomas's 13 receptions so far rank just 45th in the NFL. Thomas hasn't been held out of any practices but he said the bye comes at a good time for him.
Sanders, on the other hand, set career highs in both catches and yards each of the last two weeks. His first career 100-yard game came against Kansas City (eight receptions for 108 yards) and he followed that with 11 grabs for 149 yards against Seattle.
This was the wide receiver heaven he spoke of when he signed this March.
"To have that kind of trust in me, that kind of confidence in me to throw me the ball is definitely a blessing," Sanders said Wednesday. "I'm definitely enjoying it."
Still, there is lots of room for improvement.
"Of course there's another level. Last year they broke an NFL record," Sanders said of Manning's 55 TD throws and 5,477 yards passing, which led to Denver's 606-point explosion. "And that's something we're trying to get back to — putting 40 points up on the board and scoring a lot of touchdowns.
"I think we have all the capabilities of getting there."
NOTES: Coach John Fox said he can no longer admonish his players to "stay out of the paper unless you win the lottery" during their bye week. He needed open heart surgery during last season's bye. "I kind of backed off that one, only because they read about me and I didn't win the lottery by any stretch," Fox said.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
All content copyright ©2014 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.