As the cliche goes, a win is a win.
But it feels like there’s something more to this 27-24 season-opening win over the Seattle Seahawks. It was far from pretty, but the Denver Broncos showed this isn’t the same team of the last two seasons. No matter the situation, they don’t get too high or too low. They are prepared for whatever happens and have the confidence to come out on top.
I get that this is just one game on a marathon path to 16. It’s also the first, but there is a lot to take away from this win — most of it positive.
The rookie running back went undrafted. Remember that whenever Lindsay shines on the field, as he did for the Broncos on Sunday (and as he’s done since he showed up at the UCHealth Training Center). Lindsay was Denver’s leading rusher with 71 yards on 15 carries, two catches for 31 yards and a touchdown, and, most impressive, two tackles on special teams. That last stat says it all about Lindsay and why he’s so special.
What else is there to say about one of the greatest in NFL history? Miller recorded a hat-trick of sacks, seven tackles and four quarterback hits. His heist of a fumble recovery on Seahawks running back Chris Carson was simply unreal.
With his fifth career three+sack game, Miller moves into 48th place in NFL history with 86.5 career sacks. Only Justin Houston (seven) has more three-plus sack games than Miller since he entered the NFL in 2011.
When you clock the stat line He-manuel registered, this is a no-brainer. Sanders had 10 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. You could include the entire receivers squad in this, but Sanders shined on Sunday. Me thinks he likes to have a quarterback.
The Broncos offensive line
The biggest question for Denver’s offense this entire offseason was the guys upfront. After the first game of the season, that is no longer a question. The Broncos rushed for 146 yards on 32 carries. What showed me the offensive line is up to the task this season is when the team needed it most, Denver was able to run the ball. Royce Freeman and Lindsay each had big runs that allowed the Broncos to flip field position and pin Seattle in its own end to all but end the game. Even better? The line allowed one sack. That’s a major win.
The Orange Rush
We know that Miller can take over games, but what we haven’t seen the last two seasons is the other pass rushers being able to do so. We got our first glimpse of what the Orange Rush can do against opposing offense. Of the defense’s six sacks, four 1⁄2 came from Miller, Shaquil Barrett and Bradley Chubb. The Orange Rush also combined for 13 tackles and four tackles for loss. This is the best evidence yet that fans need to get this badass shirt for this badass unit.
As I said in the intro, the Broncos didn’t get derailed when faced with adversity. Some will question whether that comes from Joseph, his coaching staff or the leaders on the team. It’s probably a combination of all of those. As I was writing this, my wife and I actually had a mini debate. As she said, “Yeah, if you overlook all of the other shit.” But for this one game at least, Denver didn’t get too high or too low. Perhaps the bar is just off the floor, but I take that as a major win; especially when the coach on the opposite sideline is Pete Carroll.
This is a bonus, not included in the winners total, for Khalil Mack not being in the AFC West any longer. Those watching Sunday Night Football know why. Thank you, Jon Gruden.
Winner & Loser
In his first game as a franchise quarterback, Keenum was a mixed bag. He threw some awful interceptions and made equally terrible decisions. But ... Keenum also threw three touchdown passes and led the offense to 470 yards. He finished with 329 yards on 25-for-39 passing. The reason I’m inclined to make him a winner is that when the Broncos needed a drive and touchdown, Keenum delivered. Not only with the drive, but a beautiful pitch and catch to Demaryius Thomas in the north endzone.
But please, please no more three-interception games.
Broncos defenders covering tight ends
Oh, hey, the same problem this defense has had since at least the early 2000s. Coupled with Keenum’s three picks, this was the biggest blight for Denver. Needless to say it must get corrected, but see above.
He only had two carries for four yards, and two receptions for 11 yards, but that was enough. In fact, it was too much. For some reason on the first possession of the third quarter, Bill Musgrave decided it was a good time to get Booker involved. It went as everyone expected, with him running into the rear ends of his lineman. No more. Roll with Freeman and Lindsay going forward.
The former Oakland Raiders kicker not only missed once, but twice. After the 2-minute warning, Janikowski missed from 51 yards but was gifted another shot after an offsides penalty on Tramaine Brock. The Seahawks moved five yards closer with the same result. Those two misses cost his team at least a tie game. Broncos Country thanks you.