There may be a new sheriff (but not Sheriff) in town, Broncos Country, as he's 1-0 after a crucial road victory to keep the Broncos from a three-game losing streak, something the team hasn't experienced since 2011.
Starting his first regular season game in the NFL, Brock Osweiler connected 20 of 27 attempts with eight different targets Sunday afternoon, the two leaders being tight ends Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis with 69 and 68 yards respectively.
"He did his job, did a heck of a job, and his team played well around him and that's the most important thing," Coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. "Very proud of him, he was ready to go."
Victory Speech: Big win in his first NFL start earns @bosweiler17 a game ball! WATCH: https://t.co/3cRjCmi5Vr pic.twitter.com/6MtItulE66— Broncos TV (@BroncosTV) November 23, 2015
Osweiler proved that on the first series, as he hit a wide open Demaryius Thomas midfield on a short pass that DT turned into a touchdown with his typical YAC explosion.
"Any time you can start a football game like we did with the first drive, it's huge," Osweiler said after the game. "It gives you some momentum on the road, which is key. It kind of takes the crowd out of the game. That's something that our offensive staff preaches, starting games fast. That was something that we were able to do today."
The Broncos were also able to run the ball - something that has been spotty at best this season.
"We just did our job today. Up front, they played well," said C.J. Anderson who turned in 59 yards on 12 carries. "Brock managed the game we needed to. Me and Ronnie (Hillman) made the cuts. We just played well. We all did our job like we said we wanted to all week. We just got it done."
"Getting it done" came via two touchdowns and a field goal, 170 yards on the ground, plus a defense that kept Jay Cutler to 265 yards, 14 incomplete passes and an interception. It was as complete a team win as the Broncos have had this year.
"He did awesome. He protected the football. He didn't make any big mistakes. Didn't turn the ball over. When you do that, you give your team a great chance to win," said Daniels about his new quarterback. "To get back on track like that on the road, tough place to play. Kind of chilly day. One of those old school football type of days. Kind of a low-scoring game. Little bit of a defensive battle, but I thought we moved the ball really well."
Kubiak - who is known for a more run-focused offense - was particularly happy with that result.
"We kept running, we had some really big drives out of the hole that maybe weren't points for us but really changed the field position of the game," Kubiak said, adding the offense needs to get better at short yardage. "Busted a couple protections, but if we run the ball that way, then we are going to give ourselves an excellent chance. Mistakes aside that we have to go correct, that fact that we ran it all day is a good thing."
It was also refreshing to see the Broncos hold onto the ball. For the first time this season, the offense did not turn the ball over - possibly the most important stat of the day but certainly not the only one.
"We played great defense, we didn't turn the ball over and we ran the heck out of the football," Osweiler said. "Anytime you can do those things, especially on the road, I think you're going to give your team a chance to win the game."
Given the decent field position plus enough time to rest, the Broncos defense was able to do its thing and contain Chicago's gun-slinging quarterback Cutler while also relegating the run game to a non-factor. Cutler was sacked twice and intercepted once, and the run game couldn't crack 90 yards.
"I don't think people really understand how big a difference a field goal and a touchdown is in a game. It's a huge difference," safety T.J. Ward said. "If you can hold them to field goals even if you're coming off a turnover, that's what you've got to do."
After the Bears marched down the field to score a touchdown with 29 seconds on the clock - thanks in part to a couple of pass interference calls - Ward and the Broncos' defense were not about to let the Bears extend the game with a two-point conversion.
"It was very relieving," Ward said of the stop, adding he believed the Bears were in that position thanks to bad calls, not good play. "We finished the game off. We didn't let them in a couple times they were down there. That just shows the style of football we like to play on defense, and what we can do when our backs are up against the wall."
Brock Osweiler's #Broncos debut was nearly identical to Peyton Manning's in 2012. pic.twitter.com/TuybWD81kn— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 22, 2015
While the Broncos didn't so much dominate on offense as much as manage it, efficiency with few mistakes was all that was needed for a solid win...and serious momentum heading into a huge game against the Patriots next Sunday night.
There's plenty to improve, but having some mojo back in that locker room cannot be understated as the Broncos have their biggest test next weekend.
"We are going to watch that tape tomorrow as a unit," Osweiler said. "We are going to see the good, the bad, the ugly and fix those things. You're right, when we get the ball on the 50 or if we have the ball on the one, those drives need to end in touchdowns. That's something that we will fix and need to improve upon."
Despite getting sacked five times on the day, No. 17 proved what he has been telling reporters all week - he has not been riding the bench these last three-and-a-half seasons for naught. He has been watching, learning and practicing for this very moment.
And 'Brockweiler' proved to be an A student.
"I really was telling the truth. I have not wasted a single day sitting behind Peyton," Osweiler said after a game he controlled by leading his team just the way his predecessor has many times before.
While Manning is likely disappointed to not be playing yet, hopefully he's proud of how he still contributed to this win - by teaching the team's eventual full-time leader, whenever that may be, how to be a leader as well as a smart quarterback (also, Internet conspiracy theorists be damned!)
"I fully recognize that [Manning] might be the greatest quarterback to play, if not one of the greatest. I've been very appreciative for my situation ... to sit behind a guy like Peyton," Osweiler added. "Peyton has been great to me as well. For him to teach me those things, I'm just very thankful and very appreciative."