First impressions of Osweiler and Kubiak marriage are promising

Nov 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Cody Latimer (14) against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Entering Sunday’s game in Chicago at 7-2 and leading the AFC West, it would be hard to call Gary Kubiak’s first game with Brock Osweiler at the helm of his offense a “first date.” Perhaps “shotgun wedding” is a more appropriate analogy. But after 60 minutes of football, Denver had extended its lead on the division and the first impressions of the Osweiler and Kubiak marriage are promising.

It was far from a perfect day for first-time starter Brock Osweiler (although he did have a perfect passer rating after the first quarter). The Broncos offense went three-and-out on four drives in Sunday’s 17-15 win at Chicago, including on the final possession when Denver needed to work 2:23 off the clock leading by seven and with the Bears holding all three timeouts. But Osweiler also led Denver to its only first-possession touchdown all year and put together another touchdown run to bridge the third and fourth quarters. Most importantly, he protected the football – giving Denver it’s first zero turnover game of the season.

The fourth-year quarterback ended the day 20-of-27 with 250 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the win. Perhaps more important than his passing numbers, though, was the fact that having a more mobile quarterback in the Broncos backfield – and one that can play under center – set up the running game that head coach Gary Kubiak was brought to Denver to implement.

With Osweiler at the helm, Denver rushed the ball 36 times for 170 yards. Ronnie Hillman had 102 yards and C.J. Anderson went for 69, their highest combined total and the biggest team total of the year. Denver’s 36 attempts (including two by Osweiler) was a season high as well.

In addition to opening up the running game, Osweiler was able to spread the ball around the field in ways that Denver has at times struggled to do through their first nine games. On Sunday, Osweiler connected with eight different players (despite playing without Pro Bowl wideout Emmanuel Sanders), and the two leading receivers on the day were tight ends (as our Sam Cowhick predicted they might be). Owen Daniels had 69 yards on five catches and Vernon Davis led all Broncos with six receptions, coming up just a yard short of Daniels on the day. Virgil Green had a catch as well. Osweiler connected with three different receivers and both running backs got in on the passing game as well.

It was as well-balanced an offensive attack as we’ve seen from Denver outside of the Green Bay game. It’s the kind of attack Broncos fans expected to see when John Elway brought Gary Kubiak to town over the offseason, thinking he could draw up ways to give Peyton Manning the same support he enjoyed in his final two years in Denver.

But as injuries and age have hampered Manning’s play, the offense has been adjusted to better-suit Manning’s strengths (and weaknesses). With the Hall of Fame quarterback sidelined this week because of injury, the Broncos finally got a look at what a complete Kubiak game can look like.

Kubiak and the rest of the team have been adamant that Manning will return to the starting role as soon as he’s fully healthy, but Osweiler has shown that he’ll have the confidence and capability to lead the offense if Manning’s health (and play) continue to falter down the stretch.

The Mile High Sports team was plugged in as things unfolded for the first-time starter. Here’s a look at the best of their observations about the first look at the Osweiler and Kubiak marriage, as well as thoughts from some of our favorite Denver media personalities.

Try as hard as they could, the comparisons between Manning and Osweiler couldn’t be avoided.

On Osweiler and Kubiak together…

On Osweiler, specifically…

Osweiler’s play also meant some big implications for the Broncos long-term future…