It's good - no wait, fantastic - to be a Broncos fan these preseason days.
And it feels really good - amazing? - to say that.
Yesterday’s 34-0 shutout against the 49ers was another reminder that this team is not backing down from its disappointing loss in the Super Bowl.
And more importantly, it is not the same team.
Safety T.J. Ward – one of the contributing factors to yesterday’s victory – agreed there is a pride among the Broncos defense that has existed all through offseason training.
"All I know is that the guys that I show up to work with every day show a hunger," Ward said after the game. "What drives that hunger is to be the best. That is what we are working towards."
And that means taking advantage of all opportunities, something Malik Jackson said Coach John Fox "preaches" regularly.
"Fox preaches about going out there, working hard and when you get your opportunity, shine," Jackson said. "That’s what everybody did out there today. Everybody made sure they got their job done."
Brandon Marshall was one of those players who got his job done, registering five tackles as he played for the injured Danny Trevathan.
"It’s all about your preparation. I thought I prepared well," the linebacker said. "I thought we excelled in the trenches. They popped a couple of runs, but that’s just some assignments that need a little cleaning up. Other than that, I thought we did an outstanding job."
Marshall joked that he’s going to take his defensive tackles out for steak and shrimp this week because they were so good.
"Those guys did a great job of keeping us clean," he said. "Any great linebacker has good defensive linemen in front of him. I’m just happy to have those guys in front of me."
And just as Julius Thomas pointed out, preseason or not, holding the Niners to a big goose egg is impressive.
"It’s not easy to hold a team scoreless in this league in any game – first preseason, fourth, it doesn’t matter," said the tight end who contributed a 17-yard touchdown to the Broncos’ 34 points. "Really great job by our defense in holding those guys scoreless. It’s exciting for me. I’m proud of them. We know this is still a preseason game … but it is great to come out and have a good performance all around."
Good performance all around is the key, and backup quarterback Brock Osweiler’s solid game was a major factor in that.
"It was awesome. A ton of fun," said the often second-guessed backup who was 10 of 13 for 105 yards and one touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer. "I thought it was a great team win. Defense pitched a shutout and then I think all three units, as far as offense goes, played very well. Our offensive line played great today. The backs hit the hole hard and receivers made plays, so, yeah, today was a lot of fun."
The fun was clear as the entire team celebrated the defensive stand at the end of the game, something Peyton Manning noted.
"I mean you’re still playing and you’re still competing. They’re trying to score and it’s nice when the defense has a goal-line stand like that," Manning said. "You can always learn from those situations, so a lot of young guys out there playing with a lot of energy - that was good to see."
Perhaps the only hiccup in the game came from Manning himself when he apparently thought he was a mobile QB.
"I thought I was going to score, but I got one yard. Kind of humbling," said the guy who usually humbles defenders.
So was that play was his way of letting coaches know he wants to run more?
"It was not. It was not that."
But what coaches saw otherwise from the game was a lot of good stuff as the Broncos head into practice this week with the Houston Texans before their preseason game together at Mile High this weekend.
"I think we’ll get a lot of game-like scenarios this week going against a good test, especially going against their defense, which will be a great test for our offense," Manning said.
But being the pragmatic guy he is, Manning pointed out that the Broncos aren’t in perfect form and it’s important not to get ahead of themselves.
"I think there’s something to learn from each preseason game that you have," he said. "It’s been a good start – that’s all it is, though. We still have some things we have to improve on."
Fox had similar thoughts, saying the team is "getting readier."
"We still have a lot of work to do. The challenge every week in the preseason is to improve," said the head coach, adding that the guys responded well to playing on the road and improving in all three phases of the game.
It’s almost painful to wait two more weeks before the opener at Mile High against the Indianapolis Colts, but as Fox and Manning have repeatedly noted, there’s still room to improve and the preseason is all about learning from game situations.
"I’ve said many times during the offseason that I like this bunch of guys. Every day is a lesson, so we’re trying to learn and get better, but I like their attitude and how they’re going about."