The Broncos kicked off the 2012 season with a huge victory in Denver against the Steelers on Sunday night. Finally, we can focus on other issues besides Peyton Manning's health since those questions were sufficiently answered on the field.
While there is certainly reason to celebrate in the Mile High City, fans shouldn't be buying those plane tickets to the Super Bowl just yet. There were still some issues on the field that will need to be addressed moving forward to assure that these victories continue throughout the rest of the season.
Here's a look at some of those questions that were still left unanswered when the final whistle blew Sunday night.
Since signing a two-year deal with Denver in 2011, Ty Warren has played in exactly five defensive snaps, all occurring last Sunday night against the Steelers.
Warren made his guaranteed $4 million last season, despite suffering a torn right triceps during training camp, earning him a spot on the injured reserve for the entire 2011 season.
At the start of training camp this August, Warren was healthy and ready to finally contribute to the Broncos' retooled defense. Coaches and fans were excited to have Warren in the lineup and see what he could add to the left side at defensive tackle.
Now, not so much. Ty Warren re-injured the same right triceps in the game against the Steelers last Sunday, most likely ending his season and possibly his NFL career.
Where do the Broncos go from here? It looks like Kevin Vickerson will replace Warren in the starting lineup. The Broncos also brought Sealver Siliga up from the practice squad who will probably see some time in the rotation as well.
Warren's injury poses a question mark over the Broncos' run defense, by far the weakest link last season. The phenomenal play, so far, by rookie Derek Wolfe is a step in the right direction. However, Denver will need a significant improvement in their run defense to have any chance at a Super Bowl title.
They will now have to do it without a well-paid Ty Warren.
Last season, Denver had trouble when forced to play the nickel (five defensive backs) and spent most of the offseason trying to correct it. The Broncos defense had a tough time matching up whether it was the run or pass in this formation.
Free agents Tracy Porter and Mike Adams were signed in an attempt to fix this glaring issue.
With Chris Harris lined up as a defensive back alongside Porter, Champ Bailey, Adams and Rahim Moore, the Broncos debuted this new nickel on Sunday night against Pittsburgh.
Was it successful? Yes and no.
The Broncos were able to limit the Steelers to only 75 yards rushing, a big improvement from last year's anemic run defense. They were also able to get some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, leading to a couple of Von Miller sacks. The problem in this new revamped nickel: The Steelers offense was on the field entirely too long.
On one drive just before halftime, Pittsburgh ran 14 plays for 79 yards. The Broncos were in the nickel for all 14 of those plays and were unsuccessful at getting the Steelers off the field.
Overall, the Broncos' running backs' performance can be summarized as decent. While they were certainly serviceable and Denver did win the game, there is room for improvement. While I know it may be nitpicking, it is worth mentioning.
Starter Willis McGahee finished the game with 16 carries for 64 yards and a fumble—not exactly the numbers expected from a starting back in this league.
Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball both did sufficient jobs filling in, but overall, the run-game unit appeared a bit lethargic for most of the game. While I admit Denver did manage to move the chains running the football, going forward, the run game needs to get better, faster and more efficient.
The Broncos can check one major obstacle off the list with their decisive win in Week 1 against the Steelers.
However, there's no time to rest on those laurels, as the Broncos have a very daunting schedule this season—perhaps one of the toughest in the NFL.
Next up for Denver is the Atlanta Falcons, who are coming off an impressive win over the Chiefs in Week 1. This game should be a tough one on the road for the Broncos and certainly a test for Denver's defense.
The Broncos will face five playoff teams in the next seven games, with a total of seven playoff teams in all this season. It may be tough for them to come out of that unscathed and could potentially tarnish their record moving forward.
Broncos fans are hoping this new team can gel quickly and that Denver comes out of that schedule gauntlet stronger and ready for a solid playoff run.