The Denver Broncos left Seattle victorious Friday night with a 22-20 win over the Seahawks in the team’s preseason debut. For the most part, the team played well and showed off a dynamic offense, lead by Brock Osweiler and a stable of running backs. Also, the defense was stout and very active in the pass rush. However, the special teams were about as bad as it could get.

While the win and the way they won was encouraging there is definitely room for improvement. Here’s a look at the levels of play seen from Century Link Field last night.

The Great

Brock Osweiler’s play obviously jumps out when recapping the team’s first preseason game. The fourth-year quarterback is in the last year of his rookie contract and is playing for his future in Denver, if not the entire National Football League in the 2015 preseason. He did not disappoint. Although he missed on a few deep balls, which has been his M.O., he played exceptionally well under pressure and was accurate when it really counted.

“To come in here tonight and run this football team the way he did in the first half is very impressive. They (the Seahawks) came after him in the second quarter and he made some big plays. I just liked his decisions,” head coach Gary Kubiak said after the game.

Osweiler finished the evening completing 15 of 20 passes (75%) for 151 yards with a great touchdown throw over the top of a defender to Virgil Green. He recorded a 112.7 passer rating. Although he had some mistakes and missed on some big plays, things could not have gone much better for No. 17.

“I think it’s big. If you look back, I haven’t started a true football game since 2011. So to go out there and show yourself that you can still do it, I think it was a big deal, confidence‐wise. But I’m also a firm believer that you play like you practice, and over the course of the past three years I’ve taken every single practice very serious, treated every practice like a game, and I think all that kind of led up to tonight,” Osweiler said.

The defense played great as well. The Broncos applied pressure from the second play on when Von Miller strip-sacked Russell Wilson and Todd Davis recovered the fumble. In the entire game they only allowed 181 total yards (89 rushing, 92 passing), forced four fumbles and sacked the quarterback seven times.

Kenny Anunike, who has received glowing praise in the offseason and into training camp, played exceptionally well in all facets of the defense. He stuffed the run and consistently got after the quarterback. He finished the night with eight tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.

“It’s an amazing feeling– I have just been chomping at the bit because I had a bit of an early exit last year in the last preseason game, but I used that time, wholeheartedly, to get back and ready,” Anunike said after the game. “I think I did everything right. I got out there today and I was so hungry. After this game, after we enjoy this right now, it’s right back to work.”

Other great performances included Ronnie Hillman (eight carries for 66 yards), Cody Latimer (four catches for 49 yards), Bennie Fowler (one tackle, three catches for 67 yards), Shaquil Barrett (three tackles, one for a loss and one sack) and Von Miller (one strip-sack and two tackles).

The Good

Several players put in great performances that were hampered by moments of mediocrity or downright failures. These types of performances come as no surprise in week one of the preseason but little changes and their grades from the coaches would have made for a pleasant Saturday.

Shane Ray was simply explosive Friday night. He played into the second half and appeared to be the same play-maker that he was in his time in Missouri. He was lightning fast on the edges of the line and was in the backfield pestering the quarterback constantly. While his stat line only says one tackle and one forced fumble, it does not tell the whole story. He pressured the quarterback into Malik Jackson’s arms in the second quarter and his speed inside forced a holding penalty in the second half.
It was a few penalties that cost him a great game. They appeared to be just timing issues trying to get the best jump off the ball that caused his mistakes. Those should be easy fixes and if he continues to improve he will see a lot of playing time in the regular season.

“My confidence level is just believing in myself. I have always believed in myself for what I can do, and tonight was just another step I took in getting better as football player, and just going out showing the world what I can do,” Ray said following the game.

Virgil Green also played very well for the most part of the evening’s contest. He finished the game with an impressive stat line. He caught five passes for 45 and a touchdown. He showed that all his work in the offseason running routes and catching balls has paid off.

However, two plays in particular undermined an otherwise great performance. Early in the first quarter, on the Broncos first drive of the game, in the red zone, Green let the talented Cliff Avril rush by his right shoulder in between himself and Ty Sambrailo for an easy sack. It was a terrible display and cost the Broncos 12 yards and ultimately forced them to settle for a field goal. Lastly, a false start on third and three, late in the second quarter, could have stopped a Denver drive. These two mistakes could cost the team dearly in the regular season.

Other notable performances came from Sambrailo, Max Garcia and Matt Paradis. The three new starters on the left side of the line played admirably through the first half of the game. The Seahawks threw a lot at the newcomers and they handled it quite well. They played tough all night and were exceptionally good in the run-blocking schemes. They stayed on their blocks and were seen running to the second level all night. Of course they were not perfect. There were several pass attempts in which all three were eaten up by veteran pass rushers but luckily it didn’t cost them big. Garcia talked about the offense’s balance and his affinity for run-blocking after the game.

“For me, personally, I love to run‐block. I love to push people and get people out of the way. Just to start the game off like that… I think that is good. It keeps them on their toes and keeps them guessing.”

Davis also played well. He was consistently around the ball and recovered Miller’s forced fumble in the first quarter. The depth at inside linebacker was a concern for many as Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan have nursed big injuries from last season. Davis has shown he can call the defense and be relied upon to come in and play both the run and pass well.

Lastly, Brandon McManus played well. He hit field goals from 52, 44, and 23 yards. His kick offs were decent but none got out of the end zone. Connor Barth converted one field goal of 23 yards in the second quarter but also booted a line drive kick to Tyler Lockett of the Seahawks, allowing him to run the ball back for a 103 yard touchdown. McManus clearly has the stronger leg but has struggled at training camp. Friday he made a lot of progress and increased the pressure on Barth.

The terrible

The awful, disheartening and ugly play for the Broncos really came in only one area but it is a big one. The special teams were absolutely atrocious. Outside of the kickers hitting their field goals it was gross on every level. The kickoffs didn’t make it out of the end zone, and then the coverage was full of players over pursuing. Davis, David Bruton Jr. (more than once), Juwan Thompson and Josh Bush, just to name a few, had horrible lanes in pursuit of the Seahawks returners and missed tackles that lead to the 236 kickoff return yards and one touchdown for Seattle.

The bad play didn’t stop there. Both punt returners, Salmon Patton and Jordan Norwood, fumbled punts in alarming fashion. Patton took his eyes off the ball to look upfield early and dropped the ball only to recover it just in time. Norwood, instead of letting the ball bounce out of bounds or likely through the end zone, decided to attempt a fair catch while awkwardly looking over his shoulder. He tried to grab the ball above his neck and it bounced off his hands and into the arms of a waiting Seahawk.

Lastly, Britton Colquitt was mediocre, at best. Of his four punts, his best was only 44 yards and he averaged 39.3 on the evening. Simply put, the special team’s play was a night to forget for fans and one that the players hope special teams coach Joe DeCamillis forgets before practice on Saturday.

Overall, the Broncos played well and went into a hostile environment in which 68, 677 fans were screaming for a Seahawks victory and they disappointed them. In recent years the Broncos have struggled against the Seahawks in the regular season, postseason and even preseason but Friday was different. They ran the ball well, passed well and dominated on defense. That should be enough to win but the special team’s clearly almost cost them. Friday was certainly a success but as expected, there is room for improvement.

Email Sam at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @SamCowhick.