Is it 2015? It definitely feels like it.
There were times when all hope appeared to be lost, and times of false hope, but ultimately, some of that Mile High Magic rolled over from 2015 and lifted the Broncos in the first game of the 2016 season.
Broncos Pound the Rock, Shrug Off Turnovers
After receiving the opening kick, all looked well as Trevor Siemian started sharp, completing his first pass and hitting a big third down to Virgil Green. C.J. Anderson drew the Broncos further into Carolina territory, but when he left the field, Devontae Booker coughed up the ball on his first carry.
Such was the case a couple more times for the Broncos offense when Siemian threw two interceptions on the Panthers' side of the 50. Still, the young quarterback rebounded every time and kept getting the ball into the hands of his play-makers.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p...Booker may have fumbled on his first carry, but fullback Andy Janovich made the absolute most of his. On a crucial third-and-one with 12 minutes in the second quarter, Janovich took a full back dive 28 yards to the house, keeping two hands on the ball even as he had an open field ahead of him.
The long run was a reward for a punishing block he made on Thomas Davis to spring a 28-yard Anderson gallop. The fullback position is alive and very well.
Speaking of Anderson, he may have been the most valuable Bronco tonight. He did it all and kept the Broncos afloat with 92 rushing yards and 47 receiving yards. Not to mention, he caught Siemian's first touchdown pass, taking a screen 25 yards to the endzone, and punched the ball in from a couple yards out on an all-important third-and-goal in the fourth quarter.
Entering the game, the focus was on Siemian. It's absolutely imperative to keep in mind that this was his first game as a starter, despite the standards being immensely high all week.
He tossed the two picks, but showed the poise of a veteran and came back each and every time. His stat line wasn't electric, but he had a good completion rate (18-of-26) and pieced together coherent drives.
He finished with 192 yards, one score and two picks. It's a wonderfully encouraging start to his career and an affirmation of the team's confidence.
Defense Grows Stronger
When Cam Newton found Kelvin Benjamin for a 14-yard score on the very first drive of the Panthers' season, it looked like the dominant defense that won Denver a title in 2015 might be a relic of the past.
And then when Newton turned the corner to beat two Bronco defenders on a two-yard touchdown run to cap a nine-minute drive that spanned most of the field, it appeared to be the final nail in the coffin. Not so fast.
In the second half, they flipped the script entirely. The defense got off the field quickly on the first possession of the second half as Shane Ray stayed true on a QB keeper on third down.
The old-timer, DeMarcus Ware, decided training camp and preseason were altogether unnecessary, unleashing himself on the next drive to record the first Broncos sack of the evening. He finished the game with a sack and a half.
As the Broncos offense closed the gap to three points on the first play of the fourth, the defense gave them the ball right back. Newton eyed Benjamin to his left, but the much shorter Chris Harris climbed the Benjamin tree, deflected the ball, and somehow dove underneath the tipped pigskin to reel in an acrobatic interception.
Crunch time. Carolina drove down the field with less than five minutes in the game to kick a 36-yard field goal to cut the newfound Broncos lead to one point. When Denver's offense folded on third down, Carolina had one more shot from their 35 to score one point.
A Von Miller sack on third down brought up an insurmountable 4th-and-21, but a killer illegal contact bailed out the Panthers and gave them new life. To Newton's credit, he fought back and dialed up a couple late throws to Greg Olsen and Benjamin to set up the last-second field goal.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the current controversy surrounding the game. Newton took a number of shots to the head, including a roughing-the-passer penalty that was offset by an intentional grounding call. Ultimately, Newton kept himself in the game, so for better or worse, the NFL will address concussion issues yet again.
Back to the action. Gano lined up for the winning kick. The snap was good, the hold was good, and the kick sailed through the uprights, good. Oh, but the Broncos called a timeout.
The real kick. All the marbles. The snap was high, the hold late, and Gano pulled it left. Game over. Well, after Siemian could take his second career knee.
The Broncos are 1-0. Man does it feel good to say that.
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Will Keys is an Editor for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.