Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (8) sets to throw a pass during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010, in Denver. (AP Photo/ Ed Andrieski)
This Sept. 19, 2010, file photo shows San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throwing a pass during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in San Diego.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - There were an NFL-record 13 individual 300-yard passing performances last weekend.
Surprisingly, Philip Rivers and Kyle Orton weren't among them.
Rivers, who leads the NFL with 2,944 yards passing, had the weekend off as the San Diego Chargers were on a bye. So, he spent the weekend watching others throw the ball all over the place, including Orton, who came up four yards shy of his sixth 300-yard game this season in Denver's blowout of Kansas City.
Orton's second in the league with 2,806 yards passing.
The two prolific passers who are on pace to challenge Dan Marino's single-season record of 5,084 yards set in 1984 meet in San Diego on Monday night in what promises to be another aerial show.
"Bombs away," Denver defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson said. "It might be 800 yards."
Two gunslingers in a Southern California showdown.
How often has Orton heard that about one of his games?
"First time, probably," he said with a chuckle.
Orton had just three 300-yard games in his first five seasons in the NFL. Now, he averages 311, and he's on pace to throw for 4,988 yards.
Rivers averages 327 and is on pace for 5,233.
"It's funny because I think this league kind of goes in waves to where it seems like it's almost a passing league, or then it seems like teams are pounding the ball," Rivers said. "The latter half of last year, it seemed like a ton of yards were being put up by a lot of guys."
The reasons are varied. Rule changes continue to aid the offense. Ever more athletic and versatile running backs, wide receivers and tight ends do, too. There are more strong-armed quarterbacks and coaches who cut their teeth on offense.
"It seems that there are so many more teams that are willing to throw the ball more," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "I'm sure some of those games people were behind in and threw it maybe more than they wanted. But I think that there's a lot of explosive players and a lot of quarterbacks who have the ability to do that and new schemes, new things that you see people do each week.
"I know I saw bits and pieces of the other night on Monday night and that's something I'm not sure I've seen very much of in my life," McDaniels said of Michael Vick's performance for the ages. "But it's just that's what this league is filled with, very difficult matchups, personnel issues that you've got to figure out how to handle on defense."
The yards just keep piling up through the air. Sometimes it's scheme. Sometimes it's circumstance.
"There's been teams that have gotten behind - we've been one of them - that throw it a little more," Rivers said. "It seems like there have been a ton more big plays, and just chunks of yards. And it's easy for me to say, but I haven't seen many horrible weather games. Obviously that can affect the latter half of the season than the early part. Obviously we're spoiled out here.
"Last week I probably noticed it more than any because I got to sit and watch them. Every channel, the ball's being thrown all over the place."
The 13 games in which quarterbacks surpassed 300 yards last weekend broke the old mark of 10 set in Week 8 of 1984 and tied in Week 15 last year.
While Rivers was enjoying watching the productive passers from his man cave, Orton was winning AFC offensive player of the week honors for throwing a career-high four touchdown passes in a 49-29 rout of the Chiefs that tightened up the AFC West race.
Orton became the first player in team history and the only player in the NFL this season to throw for at least 275 yards with four touchdowns without being sacked or intercepted.
In fact, Orton was hardly touched.
He never was tackled and his jersey was as clean at game's end as it was during the National Anthem.
Asked how it felt to wake up Monday without the usual aches and pains—he'd been sacked eight times over the previous two games and was suffering from a sore shoulder - Orton said, "It felt great. It was noticeable after the game, it was noticeable during the game."
Both Rivers and Orton have a bevy of targets to choose from, although they pile up their yards in different ways, Orton going deep to Brandon Lloyd a lot and Rivers finding tight end Antonio Gates for big gains.
Such an admirer of Rivers is Orton that he breaks from his routine during the Chargers week and watches film of San Diego's offense like he does the defense.
"He's a really good quarterback, I like the way he plays, he's tough, he stays in the pocket with a lot of guys around him and he and Norv (Turner), just shot after shot after shot," Orton said. "And Norv's a great play-caller who has a lot of imagination."
Orton's not a bad case study himself.
He had five jaw-dropping throws against the Chiefs, showing off the kind of arm he never was allowed to while playing in Chicago's run-oriented offense or even last year in Denver, when his two bum ankles prevented him from stepping into his throws and the Broncos lacked a true deep threat because Lloyd never could get activated on game day.
Still, Orton managed a career-best 3,802 yards last season, a mark he could obliterate soon.
"It's a good offense for the quarterback," Orton said, praising his coach's calls, his bevy of targets, his pass protection from linemen, tight ends and backs. "So, it's been a good year passing the football."
All around the league, but especially in Denver and San Diego.