Eric Decker has the looks and the tools to bag an all-pro wife in country and pop singer Jessica Rose "Jessie" James. She’s proof that he has star power and can catch anything—even the big fish. Their new reality show on E! Channel, "Eric & Jessie: Game On," is catching on with the social media magnets, too.
Too bad having a movie star’s grill doesn't have jack to do with being an NFL wide receiver, because if it did, Broncos QB Peyton Manning might have targeted Decker more often prior to the former Minnesota Gopher star's four-TD, 174-yard outburst this past Sunday.
It came in a crucial 35-28 win over Kansas City at rowdy Arrowhead Stadium and was a performance that the Broncos desperately needed to retain first-place in the AFC West, and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Most of this week’s NFL media spitfire was the annual discussion about whether or not Manning could fling it in cold weather after his dismal outing against the Pats. Well Manning’s 403 yards, five TDs and rifle throws silenced that crazy talk. And Decker’s H.A.M. session might have put an end to his history of “having the looks” but being overlooked as an elite target.
Either way, Decker is used to the shady shoulder by now. Cats have been fronting on his skills for a minute. It’s understandable. His birthplace of Cold Spring, Minnesota isn’t exactly a football factory. So even though Decker was rated as high as the fifth-best receiver on some draft boards, he had to wait 86 picks to get his NFL cap. His wickedest obstacle to greatness on the NFL level has been the depth chart. His greatest weapon besides his real-deal skills is his patience.
In 2010, Decker led all NFL rookies in receptions, but due to the Broncos' depth at receiver, didn't get much burn until late in the regular season after first-round rookie Demaryius Thomas went down with an injury.
Decker performed well enough in limited duty to earn a larger role with the team in 2011, as one of Tim Tebow’s “Duck Hunters.” When Manning arrived in 2012, Decker had a breakout year with 85 catches, 1,064 yards and 13 TDs. It seemed he finally earned his props as a money receiver, but Denver brass had other things in mind and signed Wes Welker and his 836 career receptions to a two-year, $12 million deal in March.
Welker fits comfortably into the slot, and pairing him with big-play receiver Thomas inevitably has cost Decker some shine.
As this season progressed, it was no mystery that with the emergence of running back Monte Ball, the career year by Knowshon Moreno and the unlimited potential of tight end Julius Moore, somebody’s stats were going to take a hit.
But Decker didn't get on his Keyshawn Johnson and say, "Just Give Me The Damn Ball!" He chilled and then killed KC when his number was called.
"To be honest, I had a tough month," Decker said. "It was kind of a struggle for me. But it makes it a lot easier when you have some of the best receivers -- like [Wes] Welker and D.T. [Demaryius Thomas] -- on your side. They cover a lot of ground, and today we had an opportunity to make some plays."
Sunday was a glimpse into Decker’s future and a re-run of Decker’s football past. As soon as Manning got word that his No.1 threat Thomas had a shoulder injury, the Eric Decker show began.
He served up a performance that has Manning and interim HC Jack Del Rio cheesing as wide as a Mile High mountain. Not just because of Decker’s dismantling of KC defenders, but how he embraced the magnitude of the moment. The Chiefs led by 14 points early in the game, but every time they tried to put the game on lock, Manning and Decker would hook up to do something ridiculously gangsta.
Like in the third quarter, when Decker's 37-yard score (his second of the game) tied the score at 21-21. Decker iced the game with two more scores after that and helped put the Broncos (10-2) a full game up on the Chiefs (9-3) in the AFC South.
"This win is huge," Decker said. "We knew coming in that this game was for control of our division. When you get to the end of the season, winning your division is huge -- setting yourself up and taking care of business. We have four weeks left and a lot can happen."
True indeed. And by the looks of things, Decker will be a much bigger part of those business transactions moving forward.