The Denver Broncos kept it interesting, as they have all season. In Brock Osweiler’s first career start, as John Fox coached against the team he led for five seasons, the Broncos beat the Bears, but not without plenty of drama.

Osweiler’s 25th birthday started off nicely with a quick TD connection to Demaryius Thomas, but the day would prove much tougher than the team’s opening drive. After trading scores, poor field position and some big hits, the Broncos sealed the win with some timely forced turnovers and great balance on offense.

After a quick three-and-out by Jay Cutler and the Bears to start the game, Brock Osweiler worked from under center and quickly connected with Demaryius Thomas. Thomas, who entered the game with just one receiving touchdown on the year broke free in the middle and Osweiler delivered a strike. The big wide receiver did the rest, rumbling for a 48-yard score with only 2:46 off the clock.

The Bears mixed up their looks in their first two drives, going from shotgun and even some three tight end formations. Darian Stewart nearly intercepted Cutler, but tight end Zach Miller came away with a big, 21-yard gain on the play. The Broncos defense continued to excel against the run, as they have all year, and swarmed rookie running back Jeremy Langford on the drive. Derek Wolfe showed up with a tackle for a loss, then a sack on third down that ended the Bears’ second drive.

Osweiler, looking comfortable under center, led the Broncos second drive and mixed a nice balance of run and pass. Anderson converted a draw play on third-and-12 for a first down early in the drive and some play action passes help move the Broncos across mid-field. Their progress was stalled by a facemask penalty by Michael Schofield and a sack allowed by Evan Mathis, forcing Britton Colquitt’s first punt.

The Bears got on the board with a 46-yard field goal by Robbie Gould after the home team came out with a balanced attack of their own. On the legs of Langford and backup running back Ka’Deem Carey the Bears traveled down the field and Cutler found a wide-open Marquess Wilson for a 29-yard pass. The Broncos stopped the Bears short of a touchdown with nice coverage from T.J. Ward on Martellus Bennett and another broken up pass intended for Langford in the end zone on third down.

The Broncos ensuing drive was a short one. After a timeout, before a third-and-two attempt, Ryan Harris was called for a false start and Osweiler misplaced a pass intended for Owen Daniels.

Former Broncos head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase continued to run the Bears offense out of the hurry-up, seen often in Denver the past three seasons. The hurry-up appeared to catch the Broncos off guard on a big pass connection down the right side of the field between Cutler and receiver Josh Bellamy for 38-yards. That set up Gould’s second field goal of the day from 37 yards out, which cut the Broncos lead to 7-6 with 6:13 remaining in the first half.

On the following Bears kickoff, Omar Bolden appeared to lose the ball in the sunlight and an awkward bounce of the ball forced the Broncos to start their fourth drive from the three yard line. A two-yard run and two failed passes later, the Broncos were forced to punt from their end zone.

Due to the Bears’ kickoff and the Broncos’ failed drive, Cutler and his offense started in Broncos territory, but could not take advantage of the favorable field position. The Broncos forced an important three-and-out.

The Broncos continued to emphasize balance on their final drive of the first half. Hillman gained 12 on a power run to the right side and Daniels followed that with a catch on a Osweiler play-action pass. Vernon Davis added a beautiful shoestring catch after the 2:00 warning stoppage for his third catch of the day. The Broncos went mostly to the pistol formation as time became a factor in the drive. Osweiler completed passes to six different targets on the drive and another Davis catch set up a first-and-goal from the six yard line with :09 left in the half. Osweiler threw an out route to Thomas in the end zone but the throw didn’t have enough air under it. The Broncos 13-play drive ended with a Brandon McManus 24-yard field goal and a 10-6 halftime lead.

Both teams entered halftime having utilized similarly balanced attacks on offense. The Broncos defense was stout against the run for most of the half but gave up a few big pass plays that led to the Bears’ only points. The Bears ran 13 pass plays and 15 run plays for 159 net yards in the half.

On offense, the Broncos ran the ball well and Osweiler worked from under center for the majority of the half. He appeared to be running an offense that Kubiak intended since his arrival in Denver, calling 18 pass plays and 13 run plays for 210 net yards in the half.

The Broncos opening drive was aided by a 31-yard completion to Daniels over the middle, but the offense couldn’t capitalize on it. Osweiler was sacked twice before they were forced to punt.

The Bears began a drive deep in their territory where Ward broke up a pass intended for Bennett and made a first down saving tackle on Langford. Patrick O’Donnell’s punt went off the side of his foot and barely made it past midfield. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they could not convert a third-and-one and quickly gave the ball back to the Bears via a Colquitt punt.

With 7:59 remaining in the third quarter, the Broncos defense came up with their first turnover in three games. The Bears had just gained a first down and Cutler dropped back, looking for Wilson over the middle; he did not see Danny Trevathan drop back into coverage. The linebacker intercepted the ball and returned it to the Bears 25-yard line.

Osweiler and the Broncos offense then drove down quickly with several successful Hillman runs. On third-and-nine, out of bunch-left formation, Osweiler completed a pass to Jordan Norwood but for only eight yards. Kubiak rolled the dice and went for the first down and possibly a score from the three yard line on fourth down. After a timeout, the Broncos lined up and ran the ball to the left side. Osweiler tripped Hillman on the handoff and he could not gain the one yard needed for the first down.

As a result of the turnover on downs by the Broncos, the Bears again started their drive in poor field position. The Broncos quickly forced the Bears into third down, but Shane Ray jumped offside, resulting in a first down for the home team. The very next play the Bears gained 29 yards on a pass interference call on Brandon Marshall as he attempted to break up a pass to Bennett. Next, Cutler found Wilson for a big gain over the middle for another 29 yards. The Broncos continued to struggled to get to Cutler and it cost them on the Bears’ eighth drive of the game. However, the Broncos again forced Gould and the Bears to kick a 37-yard field goal following a pass break-up by Bradley Roby in the end zone, bringing the score to 10-9.

Entering the third quarter, both teams had developed a pattern. The Bears had effectively taken Thomas out of the game with Tracy Porter shadowing him and, often safety help over the top. As a a result, the Broncos were using Daniels and Davis often. Defensively, the Broncos were playing well against the run but giving up big chunks of yardage to multiple Bears receivers. Bennett was Cutler’s favorite target on critical downs and, despite getting few completions, the mismatch was evident. The Broncos had out-gained the Bears just 389-347 in net yards.

The Broncos quickly moved into Bears territory on a third-and-seven pass play to C.J. Anderson out of the backfield. Daniels again came up big off of a play-fake to Anderson. Daniels caught the pass just past the line of scrimmage and ran for 16 yards. Hillman then added a quick 11-yard run. The drive culminated with a third-and-eight play from the 10 yard line. Osweiler dropped back on the 10th play of the drive and threw a dart to Cody Latimer on a quick slant. The catch in the end zone increased the Broncos lead to 17-9 with 11:42 left in the contest.

The Bears answered immediately. On a scramble by Cutler he gained 18 yards and was then hit in the head by Ward after the tackle. After a personal foul for the hit, Cutler found Wilson streaking behind Chris Harris Jr. and the rest of the Broncos secondary and delivered a pass for a 40-yard gain. Unfortunately for the Bears, the Broncos defense refused to give in. After three consecutive passes inside the ten yard line, Fox went for the touchdown instead of another Gould field goal. Without a huddle, the Bears spread out in shotgun and after Cutler looked off receivers, he threw to Bennett on a jump ball. The Broncos secondary swarmed and the pass was incomplete.

The Broncos took over on downs and tried to run out the clock and impose their will with the run. Anderson gained 15 yards on third-and-one. Later on the drive Osweiler found Davis again after a good play-fake and screen for 18 yards. Up eight points, the Broncos failed on third down with Anderson needing just one yard. After trying to force the Bears offside, the Broncos took a delay of game penalty and punted it away.

The Bears were initially stonewalled on their next drive but found another big play on third-and-long. Bennett gained 17 after a pinpoint pass from Cutler. Aqib Talib then gave the Bears another prime opportunity after he tripped Bennett and received a pass interference call for a gain of 26 yards. The very next play, Cutler looking downfield, wound up to throw and Von Miller hit his arm. The ball favorably bounced off of a Bears lineman and into Malik Jackson’s waiting arms.

The Broncos, like they have in many games this season, could not put the contest out of reach after the Cutler fumble. After two failed plays, Osweiler slid for a self-sack on third-and-seven and were forced to keep the Bears’ hopes alive with a punt. Two Bears defenders hit the quarterback but a roughing the passer call was not made.

With 1:49 remaining, Cutler and the Bears got their last chance. He lined up out of shotgun, escaped Miller by a split-second and completed a pass for a 20-yard gain. The next play, Bellamy caught a 12-yard reception. The Broncos then aided the Bears once again with another pass interference call by Roby. Cutler quickly found Langford, who ran it to the two yard line. Roby bounced back with a great pass breakup, but on third down Langford ran the ball into the end zone out of a power formation, led by former Bronco Mitch Unrein as a fullback, for Chicago’s first touchdown of the day. With just :24 left, the Bears tried to tie the game with a two-point conversion. Cutler, from the shotgun, handed the ball to Langford on a draw play to the middle. The Broncos had it covered in spades.

After a failed onside kick by the Bears, recovered by Thomas, Osweiler took a knee in victory formation and got the first win of his young career, 17-15. Cutler’s two turnovers were the difference in the game as the Broncos offense did not turn the ball over. Both team’s failed on fourth-down attempts, bypassing field goals.

Osweiler ended his first start with a 127.1 passer rating, completing 20-of-27 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Ronnie Hillman and Anderson aided his play greatly, adding 102 and 59 yards on the ground, respectively. Daniels and Davis combined for 10 catches and 137 receiving yards.

Defensively, the Broncos once again could not stay out of penalty trouble. The late hit by Ward and several pass interference calls made the game closer than it should have been. The Broncos ended the day with eight penalties for 118 yards to no penalties for the home team. Trevathan led the team with eight tackles and one interception.

The Broncos’ day was a success despite some glaring, nagging issues. They did, after all, go into a visiting team’s house and came out victory. More importantly, Osweiler managed the game, was turnover free and allowed Kubiak to run the balanced attack for which he is known.

The Osweiler era began with a win but there is a lot of work to be done this week to approach the level of their next opponent. The Broncos will have their biggest test of the season thus far when they host the undefeated New England Patriots next Sunday night.

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