You've got to give credit where credit is due. It's not easy stepping in for a future Hall of Fame quarterback, beleaguered or not. But Brock Osweiler pulled it off with aplomb in the Denver Broncos 29-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The fourth-year gunslinger stepped in for Peyton Manning with six and a half minutes left in the third quarter, after the 39-year-old quarterback started 5-of-20 for 35 yards and four interceptions.
Osweiler went three-and-out on his first possession. But on each of his next three shots, he drove the Broncos offense, who'd been completely ineffectual, into the redzone. The Osweiler-led unit came away with touchdowns on two of said trips.
On the redzone drive that did not result in points, Osweiler threw an interception. It came on a 4th-and-10 from the Kansas City 20-yard-line. Osweiler's pass was just a hair under-thrown, as it was tipped and ultimately picked off by Chiefs safety Eric Berry.
It was a young QB trying to make hay while the sun was shining, doing the best he could in a low-percentage situation. Osweiler's presence behind center sparked the Bronco offense, in no uncertain terms.
His next two possessions? A 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive, capped off by a Ronnie Hillman touchdown dive, and a five-play, 62-yard drive, closed out with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell on fourth down. Osweiler finished the game 14-of-24, 146 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
You can chalk it up to garbage time magic, but that would be selling it short. Osweiler did the best he could, down 22-0, to generate chemistry and offensive production and it worked. If the decision to switch to Osweiler had been made in the first half, following Manning's third interception, the result of Sunday's game could have been wildly different.
After the game, head coach Gary Kubiak made it clear that sitting Manning was due to injury and that it wasn't a demotion. Kubiak also took the blame for choosing to start Manning in a game his gut was telling him to sit him.
As well as Osweiler performed, Kubiak also stipulated that Manning will remain the Broncos starting quarterback, so long as he's healthy. As for next week's showdown with John Fox's Chicago Bears, Kubiak said Manning will start if he "feels good".
With how bad Manning was Sunday and how good Osweiler was, don't be surprised to see the former Sun Devil get the first regular season start of his career next week. If the Broncos want to remain in contention for the AFC's No. 1 seed, they can't afford to risk another Manning performance like Sunday's.
In the meantime, John Elway has to feel good about the young player he has always characterized as the Broncos future franchise QB. However, with Osweiler in a contract year, Elway might want to get an early start on an extension and avoid at all costs the prospect of Osweiler hitting the open market.
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Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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