It was a gridiron battle full of ups and downs and a roller coaster ride of a season opener, but when the clock struck zero the Denver Broncos were victorious over the Seattle Seahawks by the score of 27-24. There was a lot to cover and discuss from today’s victory over Seattle, but here are the five big things we all learned.
1. This Broncos’ offense can respond to adversity — and it’ll be fun to watch in 2018
When the defense gave up a big play and score last season, there was little confidence that the offense would be able to come back and respond with a big statement.
The Broncos’ offense responded masterfully to the touchdown and field goal given up early on and reeled off two impressive touchdown drives of their own courtesy of Case Keenum throws to Phillip Lindsay and Emmanuel Sanders. The unit scored 17 points and amassed 297 yards of total offense in the first half. According to Andrew Mason, today’s game was the first time the Broncos had scored two touchdowns in a half since Week 2 of last year. At game’s end, the offense finished with 27 points and 470 total yards — 146 rushing and 324 passing.
With that in mind, it’s time to give credit where it’s due. Bill Musgrave called a masterful game — utilizing short and quick passes underneath to expose Seattle’s Cover 3 defense. Broncos Country should be happy with Musgrave as their offensive coordinator, who showed a lot of uniqueness and creativity that should pay big dividends for the offense throughout the course of the season.
But it wasn’t all fun and games for the Broncos offense, who had a handful of self-inflicted obstacles on their way to victory. The major issue for the offense was the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Keenum, who threw three interceptions. Two of them were terrible decisions and direct air-mailed deliveries to Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougald. If Denver wants to be consistent on offense and routinely win games, he will have to do a much better job limiting those turnovers.
2. This may be the Year of Emmanuel Sanders
Demaryius Thomas is the franchise’s elder statesman and widely-regarded as the best receiver on the roster, but he might not be the franchise’s top-performer at year’s end. If game one is any indication of who may have the bigger year — my money would be on Sanders, who had a tremendous impact and was the spark the team needed offensively.
The nine-year veteran out of Southern Methodist was heavily-involved in today’s game plan. Most importantly, he came up in the clutch and produced every time the ball came his way. In the first half alone, Sanders had 7 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown and finished today’s affair with 10 catches for 135 yards. If Sanders’ performance today becomes a regular trend throughout the season, it has the chance to be a career year for him.
3. Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay impress in regular season debuts
Be happy Broncos Country! The Broncos finally have a true tandem at running back that should pay big dividends this season and beyond. Rookie running backs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay were beyond impressive in their regular season debuts and two major reasons why the team won today.
Freeman got the start and was a powerhouse on inside runs and rarely went down on initial contact. He saved some of his best efforts for last and finished the game off with a series of incredible runs that ran down the clock to secure the victory. Lindsay was the lightning to Freeman’s thunder and proved to be a quality receiver out of the backfield and a sneaky-smooth runner when called upon.
Each of them had 15 carries for 71 yards, combing for 142 total rushing yards on the ground. Lindsay also had two receptions for 31 yards, including a dazzling 29 yard touchdown score to start the game. Without question, the future looks bright for Denver’s backfield.
4. The Broncos’ defense still can’t cover tight ends
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Today was the beginning of a new season, but ghosts from the past came back to haunt the Broncos — in particular their inability to cover tight ends. It’s not like the team was facing Rob Gronkowski, but they may have given birth to the idea that rookie Will Dissly could be that type of player.
A relative unknown, Dissly was a fourth-round pick out of the University of Washington who was lauded for his blocking prowess, not his receiving ability. In his career with the Huskies, he only had 25 catches. But that didn’t stop him from making an impact in his professional debut against the Broncos. He finished the game with 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
When pinpointing who to blame in coverage, my observations were Darian Stewart and Bradley Chubb getting caught off guard on two big plays given up. I’m not a football genius by any means, but here is a tip for Joe Woods — stop dropping Bradley Chubb into coverage.
5. Von Miller will challenge for Defensive Player of the Year
So much for having to shake the rust off in his first regular game after limited participation in the preseason, because Von Miller was in All-Pro form against the Seahawks on Sunday. The ferocious veteran racked up 3 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Not to mention he was a beast against the run and pass all game long.
Broncos LB @VonMiller today has posted his 3rd career game with 2+sacks and 2+forced fumbles. It's his first such game since Super Bowl 50.— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) September 9, 2018
The only player with more 2+sack, 2+forced fumble games than Miller since he entered the NFL in 2011 is Cameron Wake (4).
It was a down year for Miller in 2017 in regard to sack production, accruing only 10 (his lowest total since 2013), but appears to be in top-form after today’s performance. If he can keep up this level of play throughout the season, there is no doubt that Von Miller will challenge for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honors and earn himself another All-Pro designation. Without his ferocious effort this afternoon, the Broncos don’t win against the Seahawks.
So Broncos Country, what were your five big observations from today’s game? Sound off in the comments section and make your voice heard!