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HT: Rookies look good, defense looks great in Broncos' preseason shutout

If you're a football fan, you're happy the season is getting underway. If you're a Broncos fan, you're ecstatic this team still has the goods to be a contender.

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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

WOO HOO!!! Broncos football is back, baby!

And more specifically my orange-and-blue-glasses-wearing friends, that Broncos defense - even its second and third string - is totally back. Like "Terminator" back.

We wanted to come in and show ourselves that we haven't lost a beat. I think we did that.   -T.J. Ward, safety

The hype is real, people.

"We wanted to come in and show ourselves that we haven't lost a beat. We're the same team from last year. I think we did that," said veteran safety T.J. Ward after the game. "The way we've been preparing in camp was put on display today."

A few long passes and a couple long runs from the Bears made their way past this defense, but only momentarily ... and never when it counted.

It wasn't perfect by any means, but try telling that to John Fox and the Bears who COULD NOT SCORE or keep their quarterbacks upright.

With seven sacks from eight different players, an interception and a forced fumble, Broncos' defenders proved what we've all been hoping - and a few have dared to predict - that this defense is actually going to be better than last year.

The Bears offense had just 130 yards on the entire night where they couldn't even sniff the end zone.

And though the Broncos' offense had several glitches of its own, it wasn't abysmal, and frankly, was quite promising in several respects. Mark Sanchez was poised and had some nice strikes, Trevor Siemian struggled deep but capably moved the ball, and Paxton Lynch didn't look like just a rookie, but instead like a rookie who is going to be outstanding. All three had some nice roll-outs, some success escaping pressure (a new thing in Denver) and some glimpses of the real Kubiak offense.

All things considered, it was about as good as could be expected for a first preseason game of a new season where the quarterback position is in question, the O-line is still getting situated and the defense is trying to prove it really is good enough to be in the "Best Ever" conversation (spoiler alert - it is).

Here are my seven (always a great number but not nearly enough for all the great players last night) Preseason Game 1 superstars (defined basically as "players I really liked watching"):

Virgil Green

Many of us (including me) thought Green would be a huge factor in the offense last season as a catching tight end, and that never really materialized. But No. 85's three catches for 26 yards early in the game Thursday showed that not only will the TE position continue to be prominent, but Green likely will as well.

Cody Latimer

Finally. Finally we are seeing what the third year wide receiver out of Indiana is capable of in an offense he understands. Latimer was the go-to guy all night and from every quarterback, and he proved he was up to the challenge with seven catches for 82 yards.

Bennie Fowler

His three catches for 18 yards don't really compare to Latimer's 7/82, but Fowler proved he was a keeper when he laid out to block a punt that led to a special teams touchdown when Zaire Anderson recovered it in the end zone.

Devontae Booker

Since this kid was drafted, I've wanted him to be as good as the hype because his name is so freakin' perfect for a great running back. I foresee writing "Booker booked it down field for a touchdown" more than once this season. But even more impressively is his run-blocking and his fierceness against big-time NFL defenders. The dude keeps pushing for yards and that's exactly the kind of running back we need.

Justin Simmons

Likely to be an immediate impact player subbing in for the No Fly Zone, Simmons showed us that versatility John Elway likes so much - lining up in the box, rushing the passer, making a big tackle...he was all over the field.

Vontarrius Dora:

Joining the category of "my favorite names on Twitter," @DatDudeNameDora showed how deep this defense is with two sacks, a forced fumble and two tackles. And he's behind Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray on the depth chart. That's how good this D is.

Adam Gotsis

The Aussie - who has been working back from a knee injury suffered last season at Georgia Tech - spent a lot of time in the Bears' backfield, proving that not only is he a quick study but also that Malik Jackson will not be missed. Good on ya, mate!

Honorable mention: Lorenzo Doss:

We became accustomed to interceptions last season, so it was nice to see one last night too. And it was really nice to see it coming from a player other than an established No Fly Zone cornerback. Doss, who had a pick-six in practice last week, finally got to show off his ball-hawking skills against an offense other than his own team (Sanchez and Siemian were the most happy about that).

Horse Tracks

Three keys unlocked (plus one bonus)
A breakdown from Chicago of the three quarterbacks' performance, the status of the offensive line, the outstanding performance on special teams and the Broncos' defense living up to the hype.

Mark Sanchez starts with statement drive in QB race; Defense flosses teeth with Bears - 7NEWS Denver
The Broncos continue to search for a quarterback. Mark Sanchez gave them something to think about with a touchdown march on first drive.

Five Key Moments: Broncos top Bears, 22-0
The Broncos dominated the Bears in the preseason opener Thursday night, courtesy of these five key moments.

Offensive line musical chairs gives Broncos a look-see, keeps the QBs upright – The Denver Post
A quarterback competition will never work if the quarterbacks are buried in the grass. So the Broncos' musical chairs rotation of offensive linemen Thursday proved quietly crucial.

Broncos relentless pass rush, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and more observations from Broncos-Bears – The Denver Post
It's just preseason, but for bubble players fighting for a roster spot and a prime position on the depth chart it's just as important as the real game.

Sanchez goes deep to Thomas for 32-yard TD
Mark Sanchez connects with Demaryius Thomas on a 32-yard touchdown.

Denver Broncos' defense quashes the notion it will take a step back
A step back for the Super Bowl champions? It didn't look like it Thursday night as the Broncos thoroughly handled the Bears in their preseason opener.

Broncos vs. Bears - Game Recap - August 11, 2016 - ESPN
A recap of the Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears on Thursday night.

Watch: Paxton Lynch’s best throw was a dart to Jordan Taylor | Broncos Wire
Watch Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch throw a great pass to receiver Jordan Taylor in Thursday's 22-0 win.

Twitter reacts to Broncos’ 22-0 win over Bears | Broncos Wire
The Denver Broncos knocked off the Chicago Bears 22-0 Thursday evening. Here's how Twitter reacted.

What we learned: Broncos' QB battle remains tight -
MHR's Ian St. Clair already said this, but Gregg Rosenthal thinks so too, saying the Broncos' quarterback race remained tight after Thursday night's game.

Malcolm Mitchell of New England Patriots exits New Orleans Saints game with left elbow injury
Pats rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell injured his left elbow in Thursday night's preseason opener when he was dragged down after making an 8-yard reception along the right sideline.

Cam Newton's premature celebration costs Carolina Panthers a touchdown - Carolina Panthers Blog- ESPN
Cam Newton didn't lead the Panthers to a touchdown in Thursday's preseason opener at Baltimore, but he cost them one.

Carson Wentz flashes his talent in up-and-down debut -
The Eagles plan to keep Carson Wentz tucked away in bubble wrap during his rookie season, but that wasn't the plan on Thursday. The No. 2 pick won in his preseason debut.

Jimmy Garoppolo workmanlike in tune-up vs. Saints -
Chalk it up as a workmanlike tune-up for the Patriots passer. Jimmy Garoppolo played the first half of Thursday's game, completing 11 of 18 passes for 168 yards with no touchdowns or picks.

Horse Tracks - Olympics (because I can)

Michael Phelps’s 13th Individual Gold Breaks an Ancient Record - The New York Times
Phelps surpassed Leonidas of Rhodes, who won 12 gold medals in the ancient Olympics.

Rio Olympics: Simone Manuel Makes History in the Pool - The New York Times
Manuel takes the 100-meter freestyle, becoming the first African-American woman to win an individual gold in swimming.

Kayla Harrison Becomes Team USA’s First Back-To-Back Olympic Judo Gold Medalist
By popular demand (or at least one fan's request), here is your Team USA judo article!

Simone Biles, Aly Raisman stand atop Olympic gymnastics world with Rio sweep
*I had to get gymnastics article in here (plus Von Miller tweeted to Simone Biles, so now he is definitely my favorite player!)