The Denver Broncos began their 2018 redemption season with a 27-24 home victory against the Seattle Seahawks. After an offseason of improvements and optimism, the Broncos got the job done in front of a roaring home crowd.
It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, as the Broncos had many “ups” and “downs” through the course of the game. Here are a few takeaways from how the team performed in their 2018 opener:
Up: Pass Rush led by Von Miller
What a time to be alive for Broncos fans. Witnessing Von Miller torment quarterbacks every Sunday is something truly special for Colorado sports fanatics.
Anytime a defense faces Russell Wilson, containing the elusive quarterback is the biggest challenge. The Broncos defense stepped up the challenge with a fierce pass rush that frustrated Wilson all afternoon. Led by future Hall of Famer Miller, who finished his day with three sacks, two forced fumbles, and six solo tackles. The Broncos corralled Wilson for a total of six sacks against the elusive quarterback. After being named NFL.com’s best linebacker unit in the NFL, the Broncos doubled-down on displaying why this year’s defense could be the best yet.
Up: Phillip Lindsay
From not receiving an invite to the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, to being undrafted, to scoring the Broncos’ first touchdown of 2018; Phillip Lindsay’s journey in his young NFL career has been a wild ride. On Sunday, Lindsay was one of the bright spots for the Broncos offense, seeing extensive playing time at running back.
Despite being listed as third on the depth chart, Lindsay out-performed starter Royce Freeman and backup Devontae Booker. Lindsay finished the game with 15 rushes for 71 yards. He also contributed for 31 yards on two catches and a receiving touchdown, putting his elusiveness and “never give up” attitude on full display. The Broncos appear to have found the premiere “undrafted” gem of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Up: Case Keenum/Emmanuel Sanders connection
While his first game as a Bronco had its own ups and downs, Case Keenum’s synergy with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was as smooth as it gets between a wide receiver and quarterback. Sanders finished the game as the Broncos leading receiver, tallying 135 yards on 10 catches, including a touchdown. Sanders was often targeted by Keenum on critical third downs, or when the Broncos needed to keep a key drive going.
Certainly, Keenum has a lot of improvements to make as the Broncos prepare for their week two matchup against the Oakland Raiders, but he and Sanders appear to be on the same page already.
Down: Case Keenum struggles
It wasn’t a perfect debut for the Broncos’ new quarterback. Keenum looked good early, but threw three poorly-timed interceptions that kept the Seahawks in the game all afternoon. Keenum struggled to find consistent synergy with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, which resulted in multiple interceptions and dropped passes.
Keenum would finish the game 25-39 passing attempts, 329 passing yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. It’s important for fans to remember that quarterback-receiver chemistry happens over time, and Keenum should be get things turned around sooner rather than later.
Down: Covering tight ends
In 2017, the Broncos defense had no greater problem than covering opposing tight ends. That same problem reared its ugly head this afternoon, as Seahawks’ tight ends put on a clinic against the Broncos defense Sunday afternoon. Seahawks’ tight end Will Dissly torched the Broncos secondary for 105 yards on three catches and a touchdown. Dissly found his way through the Broncos defense on multiple occasions, including a 66-yard catch and run that put the Seahawks in scoring position. The Broncos defense had a decent day overall, but the lingering issue of covering tight ends remains a concern moving forward.
Down: Cornerback depth
When the Broncos parted ways with All-Pro cornerback Aqib Talib, many wondered how the Broncos’ secondary would fare without him. The Broncos turned to former first round cornerback Bradley Roby and veterans Adam Jones and Tramaine Brock to fill the void left by Talib.
After the team’s first game, cornerback depth might still be a concern. Roby was beaten badly by 34-year old former Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall on a 20-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 17. Roby looked out of place as the aging Marshall cruised by him. In the fourth quarter, Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett torched the entire Broncos secondary for a 51-yard touchdown catch that gave the Seahawks the lead in the fourth quarter. While the Broncos front-seven looked sharp all game, the secondary might need some work moving forward.