There wasn’t an offensive touchdown in the entire game, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot to talk about in the Denver Broncos’ 10-6 win over the San Francisco 49ers in week one of preseason.
Someone should have told Sports Illustrated that LB Shaun Phillips was going to score a Broncos’ touchdown before Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker. Phillips picked up a Nate Irving forced fumble mid-way through the second quarter and ran it 9 yards into the end zone for the score.
The big upside from the Broncos’ first game was the playmaking of the defense. The team forced four turnovers. Along with the Phillips’ recovery, Duke Ihenacho popped the ball out, which Rahim Moore recovered. Mike Adams and Kayvon Webster each added a pick as well.
Ihenacho was the biggest standout on this defense. By halftime, he had 7 tackles, one forced fumble, and one pass defensed. He started the game over Adams, but the longtime safety isn’t giving up his starting job that easily. Phillips got pressure on backup QB Colt McCoy and Adams read it perfectly to make the pick. Without a doubt, this safety battle will continue to stand out for the remainder of camp.
Another intriguing battle comes in the form of middle linebacker. Stewart Bradley had 5 tackles and he anticipated the run well. He started over Nate Irving, who had a couple of tackles and that forced fumble leading to the game’s only touchdown.
The offensive starters stalled out on the first drive. Peyton Manning went 2-for-4 for 13 yards in his only drive. Not to worry, folks. In Manning’s first preseason game last year against the Bears, he went 4-for-7 for 44 yards and had an interception.
Manning was playing with a mismatched offensive line that had a hard time in pass protection and didn’t exactly open up any holes for the running game.
In fact, the leading rusher for the Broncos was C.J. Anderson. With 69 yards on 15 carries, he had more yards than Ronnie Hillman (9 yards), Montee Ball (9 yards), and Knowshon Moreno (23) combined. It would be great to see Anderson get some reps with the first team in the second and third preseason games.
“He’s caught my eye in camp,” John Fox said right after the game.
Ihenacho wasn’t the only one whose camp performance translated well to the game. Tight ends Julius Thomas and Virgil Green led the team in receiving with 4 receptions for 35 yards and 2 catches for 20 yards, respectively. Jacob Tamme has to be itching to get past this quad injury and back out on the field.
Brock Osweiler led the team in passing and looked much more developed than last year. He went 13-for-18 for 105 yards. He still tends to hold onto the ball for too long and rely on his legs, but that will diminish with time.
“I think he’s learned a lot from Coach [Greg] Knapp,” Manning said. “I know he enjoyed the amount of reps that he got. I thought he did a really good job.”
Overall, the first game was a huge success. The Broncos escaped without major injury, they saw some young guys perform very well, and they got a win to boot.
The next time the Broncos hit the practice field will be Saturday at 8:50 a.m. They will travel to Seattle for their next preseason game to take on the Seahawks on Aug. 17.