Happy birthday, Brock Osweiler! Have yourself a day: your first NFL start, an explosive offensive debut, a revitalized defense, and your first NFL win.
The Broncos improved to 8-2 behind a 17-15 performance whose score doesn't quite reflect the way Denver beat up the Bears. The offense marched down the field repeatedly. The defense allowed chunks of yards at times, but was in full bend-but-don't-break mode, including a 4th and Goal stop in the 4th quarter.
Denver's running backs averaged 5.1 yards per carry; Osweiler finished with a 127.1 pass rating; Broncos defenders forced two turnovers and stuffed Chicago's game-tying two-point conversion attempt.
The Broncos defense got the football rolling Denver's way early, forcing Jay Cutler and company into a punt formation after John Fox (surprise!) decided not to go for it on 4th and inches. Then the offense took over, and Brock Osweiler's first NFL drive was a memorable one. The Broncos ran, passed, ran, passed, and then passed for this 48-yard catch-and-run TD.
Just like that, the Broncos were up 7-0, and the Brock Osweiler era was looking like a promising one.
But Denver's offense would struggle on its next three drives, forced into punts as the offensive line surrendered sacks and committed personal fouls. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler and the Bears found time in the pocket to do just enough on offense to make it a close football game. Back-to-back field goals made it Broncos 7, Bears 6.
Then the Broncos ended the first half the way they started it: with points. Osweiler completed his first eight passes on Denver's 82-yard drive, with his only shot at the end zone falling incomplete. Due to time remaining, the Broncos settled for a field goal and took a 10-6 score into the break.
The Broncos boasted 81 rushing yards through the first half and one impressive-looking quarterback.
Osweiler's first-half QB rating: 120.7.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) November 22, 2015
Denver dominated the third quarter in every way but on the scoreboard itself. It was a funky quarter. Danny Trevathan had a beautiful interception of Jay Cutler that gave the Broncos good field position. Osweiler continued his efficient ways the march the Broncos down to the two-yard line. On 4th and 1, the Broncos went for it - I loved the aggression, but hated the play-call and execution. Osweiler tripped Ronnie Hillman on the stretch handoff, and Denver failed to convert.
The Bears responded with a long drive of their own, aided in huge part by a massive phantom pass interference call against Brandon Marshall. Robbie Gould improved to 3-for-3 on field goals, and the Bears were a field goal from taking the lead, 10-9 Broncos.
Then in the 4th quarter, Denver responded with another big drive - and this one ended with points.
The defense did the rest - outside of some more penalty problems, Von Miller came up with a big forced interception (or strip sack - not sure). The Bears got the ball back, and thanks to more defensive pass interference calls, scored a touchdown. But T.J. Ward stepped up on the two-point conversion attempt, and the Broncos went on to win 17-15.
It was an impressive debut for Osweiler, who showed poise and promise. On to the Patriots!