There's no two ways around it; the Broncos are a better overall team than the Bears. The score, which was mostly accumulated by the first two teams, was indicative of the disparity in this game. The Broncos moved the ball on offense, punished each Bears passer, and controlled the line of scrimmage. The yardage also tells the story; Denver picked up 344 and allowed Chicago to gain just 130.
The Broncos, who were somewhat miserable on third down last year, converted 6-for-14 attempts to the Bears' 3-for-14. The physicality and pursuit was apparent, and so was the depth. It really looks as if every newcomer has adopted the nasty attitude almost by osmosis.
Mark Sanchez was dubbed the starter of this game on Tuesday, and he showed why that was the case tonight. In your typical preseason game, you can simply tell the first team from the backups. The first-team offense usually looks just a little sharper, more well-oiled, and more cohesive than the players behind them.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1694099-flash-sale-on-premium-mem... While Sanchez may not have been the most overtly impressive, he executed the offense incredibly well, rolling out with ease and shooting passes to Emmanuel Sanders, Virgil Green, and ultimately finding Demaryius Thomas for a 32-yard touchdown to cap off the first drive. Sanchez hung tight in the face of a blitz, took a lick, and floated an easy ball for Thomas.
Alas, not everything went perfectly for The Sanchize. After getting the ball back, he rolled to his right and threw a pass just behind Bennie Fowler, which was tipped and picked off by Jerrell Freeman. It was an ill-advised pass, but it shouldn't distract from an otherwise impressive performance. With Sanchez, you simply have to accept the good with the bad. The scales tipped towards the good tonight, however. He finished 10-for-13 with 99 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
Enter Trevor Siemian. The second-year passer got more snaps out of the shotgun than Sanchez, and he looked comfortable doing so. His first three passes were complete to Cody Latimer, who had a wonderful game.
Siemian then took a couple decent shots to the corner of the endzone, but to no avail. The results from then on were a bit so-so (aside from an impressive scramble) until he got the ball back with less than a minute in the half. On a play with 13 seconds to go, Siemian evaded the rush, moved to his right, and delivered a 22-yard strike to Jordan Taylor. That got the Broncos in range for a field goal, which was blocked to end the half. He finished 7-for-12 with 88 yards, no touchdowns, no picks.
Second half; it's Paxton Lynch time. The first drive was less than ideal. On his first snap, he booted to his left but was caught at the line of scrimmage. Two plays later, he took a short sack. After that, he took off. His first completion was a 17-yard pass to Latimer, who he found again on his next pass.
Another completion, combined with the running of Devontae Booker, set up Denver for a field goal, but it clanged off of the right upright. His best pass came in the fourth quarter, when Lynch climbed the pocket aggressively and threw an absolute dart to Taylor for 22 yards. Overall, the rookie showed some great short and intermediate zip and accuracy while looking exceptionally aware in the pocket. He finished 6-for-7 with 74 yards, no touchdowns, no picks.
It would be hard to declare a winner for this game, mostly because each guy played pretty darn well. In terms of execution, Mark Sanchez gets first prize tonight. He looks well-suited to the offense and moved the ball with efficiency. The interceptions will happen, but you'll take it if the rest of tonight comes along with it. I wouldn't be surprised to see Gary Kubiak give Siemian the start next week in the name of competition, but I think Sanchez has retained the edge.
BREAKING: Defense Still Good
Everything clicked on the defensive side of the ball for Denver. The score indicates it, the stats show it, and the eye test confirms it. The defense punished Jay Cutler early with a couple half-sacks from Shane Ray/Derek Wolfe and a perfectly-timed blitz from T.J. Ward. Cutler couldn't get in a groove down the field, and anything thrown short was swarmed and kept short of the chains.
A few new additions showed up and played hard. First of all, Jared Crick was relentless and brought the heat, including a sack and a quarterback hit. Rookie safety Will Parks made a strong open-field tackle and a sack on another timely blitz dialed up by Wade Phillips. Vontarrius Dora added two sacks of his own in a strong bid to make the team, while Zaire Anderson plugged holes in the run game with a couple of assisted tackles. In total, the Broncos had seven sacks, with five of them coming in the first half.
It's a bit of a "chicken or the egg" argument when paired with the pass rush, but the downfield coverage was strong throughout the whole game. The four Bears quarterbacks combined for just 146 yards and just a net of 82 when factoring in sack yardage. Lorenzo Doss, who has impressed in camp, gathered an interception on an overthrown pass from Brian Hoyer.
The psychological effect of the defense appeared to be overwhelming on the Bears. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, it looked like Chicago would be content with the shutout in exchange for the pain to subside. The preseason isn't all-telling by any means, and the regular season competition will be a bit more stiff, but Denver's D looks excellent yet again, and that's without major starters like Von Miller, Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, and DeMarcus Ware.
Last year, we didn't really get to see Gary Kubiak's full vision. The offensive line was in shambles, the quarterback play wasn't up to snuff, and the playbook was incompatible with major personnel. This year appears different. The Broncos looked well-suited to the bootleg attack, played ball-control offense, played solid special teams, and let the defense shine.
The offense put up just one touchdown, but a Zaire Anderson touchdown off of a blocked punt by Bennie Fowler and a sack in the endzone from Dekoda Watson added some scoring input from the other two units. It was nice to see that when the offense was having trouble finishing drives, the rest of the team was able to make up the difference.
Furthermore, John Elway has compiled incredible depth. It's really a shame that twenty of these players have to go by the end of August, because so many of them are capable players. There's no doubt that the other 31 teams have their eyes on the back end of this roster. It's very early, but each rookie looked qualified and the supposed purge on defense this offseason appears to be overblown.
Tonight's game is the vision. Get up early, play attacking defense, and run the ball. That formula wins games in the NFL, and Denver is well-prepared to do just that in 2016.
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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.