Thomas and Decker give Broncos a dynamic duo at wide receiver
It is not Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos’ No. 1 receiver.

Nor is it Eric Decker, one of the best No. 2 receivers across the land.

“What will happen is you won’t be able to say one person’s name without saying the other,’’ Rod Smith said. “That’s when you’ve played together a long time and achieved.’’

Occasionally, Smith will be mentioned as the best receiver in Broncos history. More often when people fondly recall the golden age of Broncos pass catchers, Rod Smith is synonymous with Ed McCaffrey.

In Thomas and Decker, the golden age of Broncos receivers appears to be here again.

“When we first came into the league it was spoken about,’’ Decker said about the comparisons he and Thomas received to Smith and McCaffrey. “I think we both feel like it’s quite an honor, but we have a lot of playing to do before we belong in their same house.’’

They’re approaching the neighborhood. With their game Sunday at Baltimore against the Ravens, then two more to finish the regular season, Thomas and Decker are on pace to finish with a combined 160 receptions, 2,445 yards and 20 touchdowns.

As a duo, Smith and McCaffrey surpassed that type of production only once, and that was in 2000, when John Elway and the back-to-back Super Bowl titles were long gone and the Broncos’ quarterbacks were Brian Griese and Gus Frerotte. That year, McCaffrey and Smith combined for 201 catches, 2,919 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Numbers, though, weren’t the first thing Smith and McCaffrey mentioned when asked what Thomas and Decker have in common with them.

“I was blessed to play alongside a guy like Rod because of his hard work and his unselfishness,’’ McCaffrey said. “And it’s not always that way in the league. I think Demaryius and Eric are both hard-working, likeable guys. Unselfish. They work hard in the run game. They’re good teammates.

“There are selfish receivers who want the ball all the time. But when you want to win championships you can’t worry about how you only got targeted two times one week because you know when you have a guy like Peyton Manning he’s going to go to the open receiver. He trusts all of his weapons.’’

Manning brings up another similarity.

“About the only way I would compare is we played with a guaranteed Hall of Famer just like those guys are playing with a guaranteed Hall of Famer,’’ Smith said, referring to Elway then and Manning now. “Not that you don’t have the talent, but your game gets elevated when you play with a guy like that.’’

It takes two to tango

People might have it wrong about NFL receivers. The team with the best receiver in 2011 was not Detroit with Calvin Johnson. It was the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

The most lethal receiver in 2008 was not Houston’s Andre Johnson, even though he led the league in receptions and yards. It was Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

Those two receiving tandems wound up squaring off in one of the most exciting games in Super Bowl history.

Brandon Marshall had three consecutive 100-catch seasons for the Broncos from 2007-09. What did that get the Broncos besides 7-9, 8-8 and 8-8?

“You’ve got to have two,’’ Thomas said.

Demaryius and Decker, Decker and Demaryius aren’t just a tandem that splits wide to each side of Manning. As rookies in 2010, Decker, a third-round pick, shared the home owned by the first-round pick, Thomas.