Broncos fans in attendance at Sports Authority Field at Mile High were fired up for what is a rivalry game. Seattle humiliated Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, but this was not a revenge game. Even though it was the first preseason game, the contest had the atmosphere of a regular-season game.
Here are a few of the impressions Broncos fans should be taking away from this game.
The Broncos came out firing on offense against the Seahawks. Manning’s day was finished in the first quarter after he led the team on a scoring drive.
Manning finished the day 10-of-13 passing for 78 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The Broncos scored on a 14-play drive that went 61 yards and took 9:09 off the clock. Manning talked about the importance of scoring early against a defense like Seattle.
“Well, it’s your job. It’s your first game of the 2014 season. It’s your job to go out and compete. Guys are fighting for jobs, so I don’t think it meant anything more than that, as far as guys trying to establish themselves as players on this team in 2014 and the guys that have the starting jobs right now are trying to keep their jobs and execute.” Manning continued, “There are some good things, like we said, on the film, and some things we’ll learn from, as well.”
Manning leads the most dangerous offense in the league. On Thursday night, we got a glimpse into how this offense may be structured differently (and similarly) in 2014.
With Montee Ball recovering from an appendectomy, the Broncos turned to Ronnie Hillman as their starter against the Seahawks.
The biggest concern with Hillman is his ability to hold onto the rock. He did not fumble against the Seahawks and ran the ball six times for 15 yards.
Hillman finished the day with a one-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
He’s never been a pile-pusher, but Hillman was able to get in for the score. The Broncos were confident in Hillman at that distance, and he rewarded their confidence by getting it across the goal line.
Hillman felt good after the game: “It’s good to get out there and got the jitters out—get your first carry, first hit, first everything. Now it’s football and now it’s just fine-tune the small things and get better every day.”
What a difference Ryan Clady makes. Clady missed most of last season after he suffered a Lisfranc injury in Week 2 against the New York Giants. He was absent in the Super Bowl, and Manning was under fire from the Seahawks defense all game long.
Clady is back at full strength, and he did a fantastic job of protecting Manning on Thursday night. Manning was not sacked against the Seahawks, and there was only a small handful of plays where they got close.
In addition to protecting Manning, Clady—along with the rest of the line—helped blast open holes for the ground game.
After the game, Hillman talked about the role the line played on his touchdown run. “That was probably one of the easiest touchdown runs there will probably be this year. The offensive line just got off on the ball, and they made it real easy for me. I just followed them in.”
Manning also talked about the line (specifically Clady) after the game. “Certainly we’re glad to have Ryan back. He’s an outstanding player. He’s worked really hard in his rehab. That has not been easy. It’s taken him a little time to get his legs back underneath him. I think he’s just going to continue to get better every day, and we’re certainly glad he’s back out there with us."
Losing Clady last year was huge for the Broncos. Getting him back is equally as huge for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Broncos made a big splash in free agency when they added future Hall of Fame defensive end DeMarcus Ware earlier this year. Some wondered what Ware had left in the tank after a disappointing six-sack season in 2013.
Ware immediately proved he could still be an incredibly disruptive player against the Seahawks on Thursday night.
I always LOL when people who ARE NOT HERE at #BroncosCamp talk about how Ware is washed up, showing at practice & on field he's still a stud— Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey) August 8, 2014
Russell Wilson had a rough start to the game because Ware was getting pressure on him early and often. He talked about going up against Ware at his postgame press conference.
“He is a force. He is a talent. He has played in the league for so long and I have so much respect for him. He’s right there on every play. That’s what you want to play against.” Wilson concluded, “You want to play against the best, and DeMarcus Ware is definitely one of the best defensive lineman in the league.”
There’s a new “boss” in Denver.
In the second quarter, Ward was pursuing Wilson when he accidentally grabbed the quarterback’s facemask. The result was a 15-yard penalty, and the drive continued on for Seattle.
Later in the drive, threatening to score from the 1-yard line, Ward sacked Wilson for a six-yard loss.
His presence on the field was an inspiration for the rest of his teammates. After the game, on the NO BS Broncos Post Game Show, I asked defensive end Quanterus Smith how much energy the team gets from Ward.
“Oh man, that dude is the boss,” Smith said on ESPN Denver.
It’s plain to see that Ward’s presence is going to make a huge difference for this team.
Lightning delayed the game for about 45 minutes near the end of the first quarter. The players came back out on the field when the lightning passed, and the starters were done for the night.
The second quarter (and beyond) saw the backups take over.
C.J. Anderson was hit hard after a catch and was being tested for a concussion by the Broncos training staff. After the game, John Fox commented on the situation. “It is something that is not going to be long term but something we will take serious until he is cleared.”
Bradley Roby forced a fumble in the second quarter when tackling Seahawks running back Christine Michael. Overall, the rookie had a good performance and was always around the ball.
Terrance Knighton doesn’t think the Broncos were only fired up because they were playing the team that beat them in the Super Bowl.
“That’s the way we’re going to play all year. It didn’t matter if it was against Seattle—it could have been any team out there. That’s what you’re going to see from our defense, and our offense did a good job running the ball.” Knighton emphasized, “We’re just trying to have a different mentality this year.”
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey