Does a first quarter shutout, starters vs. starters, where the Denver Broncos marched down the field offensively and stifled the Seattle Seahawks defensively make up for a 35-point Super Bowl deficit?
No. Absolutely not. It's preseason.
But it doesn't hurt.
The Broncos healed some wounds ever so slightly Thursday in their preseason opener against the Seahawks, volleying touchdowns and field goals back and forth with Seattle (as well as penalties) before coming out on top, 21-16.
Denver dominated time of possession, taking a 7-0 lead into the second quarter. Peyton Manning went 10 for 13 in his two series in the game, leading the Broncos to a touchdown drive late in the first quarter before sitting out the remainder of the contest. Ronnie Hillman scored a one-yard touchdown while Demaryius Thomas had 52 receiving yards before the backups came in and volleyed touchdowns and field goals to a 21-16 final score.
The starting defense boasted sacks and big plays from every big-named player the Broncos signed this offseason. T.J. Ward was everywhere, getting some looks at middle linebacker as Mike has talked about while also proving to be a mean blitzer, sacking Russell Wilson in the first half. DeMarcus Ware also registered a sack on the Seahawks' starting QB.
Still, repeated penalties kept the Seahawks' 90-yard drive alive in the second quarter, including a facemask against T.J. Ward and pass interference against Danny Trevathan. These penalties came on a fourth down and third down respectively, with Trevathan's infraction a completely bogus imagined affair by some refs who were throwing far too much laundry (over 20 penalties on the night)..
There were times when Seattle was even able to gash the Broncos run defense up the middle for good chunks of ground yards. Nate Irving displayed good awareness and made a few nice wrap-ups, but I didn't see a whopping hit you'd hope from your middle linebacker. Several penalties kept the drive alive, including a facemask penalty on T.J. Ward on a 4th down and a pass interference penalty in the end zone against Danny Trevathan on a third down.
Brock Osweiler saw the rest of the snaps after Peyton left the field, and after a few head-scratching moments, the third-yard quarterback really came into his own during the game. But first, let's talk running backs.
Extremely impressive running from both Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs. Thompson had six carries for 59 yards - a whopping 9.8 yard average - with a long of 20 yards. He had a small concussion scare but was cleared and came back in the game, but not before Bibbs showed some moves of his own, finishing a third quarter drive with a three-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
The offensive line was mostly dreadful in backup work. Osweiler seemed to be running around for dear life on most dropbacks. I liked what I saw from the left side (Winston Justice and Ben Garland) a bit more than what I saw on the right (Paul Cornick and Vinston Painter), especially on one Osweiler sack where the entire right side failed to block just about anybody. Two Seahawks defenders came crashing down on Brock with three Broncos awkwardly gazing on (Will Montgomery being the third). A drive later, I saw Painter give up a tackle-for-loss on Brennan Clay as well. Not a good night for Painter.
Quiet night for Cody Latimer. He adjusted to one underthrown Osweiler pass well, but couldn't come down with it.
Speaking of Brock, let's talk about the Broncos' backup quarterback a bit. His interception late in the third quarter was inexcusable - no doubt Manning took him to the side right away and re-coached him on "how to look a safety off." But the good news is, Brock didn't let that affect his play in the fourth quarter. In fact, he noticeably improved.
His most impressive drive turned out to the be the game-winner. On 3rd and 18, Osweiler found himself wrapped up, but the athletic 6'6" jolly green giant was able to escape the sack and make a run for it. Run for it he did, getting the distanced first down before winding up for a pass a play later.. Then he found Jordan Norwood for 34 yards with an absolute bullet to the end zone.
And how about Norwood? A nice move on one return in special teams then that fingertip touchdown grab. He may be distancing himself from Isaiah Burse - although Burse had a nice return as well.
Quanterus Smith and Marvin Austin proved too much for second team offensive linemen, repeatedly pushing back blockers and speeding into the areas around quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor. Austin registered a sack for the evening, while Smith nearly did multiple times.
Smith might have been the most impressive figure of the night.
Bradley Roby gave up a few receptions, including against Seahawks rookie and Colorado alum Paul Richardson, but he also boasted a nice forced fumble in run support. I'm not worried about the Broncos' first round draft pick yet.
Of course, the game was sealed when Steven Johnson intercepted a Pryor pass in the end zone. Give him credit for making the play, but it was a bit of a gimme.
The backup defense had trouble getting off the field at times, but there is a lot of depth on this defensive line to be excited about.
Not a great performance from Matt Prater or Britton Colquitt, with the former missing a 54-yard field goal wide left, and the latter just plain messing up an opportunity. I'm not sure what was sadder, Colquitt's punt or his face.
At returns we saw Jordan Norwood and Isaiah Burse see most, if not all, of the return duties. I think Norwood took an edge a little over Burse, but I'm excited to see these two compete as returners against next preseason game.
The Broncos looked like a good team for Week One of the preseason, but with a lot of work to do. The penalties have to be cleaned up, and there are still some concerns about the talent with the second team defense and the second team offensive line, but those are good problems to have compared to a lot of the rest of the league.
What were your strongest takes from the Broncos' preseason opener?