The Denver Broncos had a curious season-opener Sunday night, as they raced out to a 24-0 lead only to be outscored 24-7 the rest of the way. They held on for a 31-24 win, but what’s the mood in Mile High as Denver heads into Week 2?
“Week 1 went really good – especially the first half of Week 1,” Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said on The MoJo Show. “We came out on fire. Things were definitely clicking for us. In terms of (personal statistics), I came out with three straight catches, so what more can a receiver ask for? So I got in the groove of the game really fast. Next thing you know, it was 24-7 going into the half. We went into half feeling really really well.”
And then the second half happened. Denver still led 31-10 in the fourth quarter, but Indianapolis scored two touchdowns just over for minutes apart – including a 9-yard pass from Andrew Luck to Hakeem Nicks with 3:26 remaining – to pull within 31-24.
In the end, however, Denver bled out the clock for the win.
“A win is a win,” said Sanders, who had six catches for 77 yards in his Denver debut. “You never explain a win, but it’s also something that we can continuously grow and improve on. It’s going to happen again down the road. Either we’re going to be up big, or we’re going to be down big, but we got to continuously go through it and keep on pushing. It’s going to be important if we want to bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Denver.”
If they do, it’ll be because of Manning – who went 22-of-36 for 269 yards and three touchdowns – but it won’t be just because of Manning. Second-year tailback Montee Ball, for example, will be asked to carry the load out of the backfield just as Knowshon Moreno did a season ago.
During the game, Sanders wasn’t in awe of Ball – who finished with 23 carries for 67 yards (2.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown – but then he went back and watched the film.
“This guy made a lot of guys miss,” Sanders said. “He made a lot of big plays – not only in the run game but also in the passing game.”
Ball might need some time to regain his explosiveness, as he had an appendectomy in the offseason.
“The running game is going to be really strong for us this year,” Sanders said. “It’s going to be important because if we got our running game going, everyone knows what Peyton is about from a passing perspective. But once you include the running game in it, then I feel like we can be unstoppable.”
Or can they? Many people thought that about Denver’s offense last season, and the Broncos got embarrassed in the Super Bowl, 43-8. Is Denver physically tough enough to match up with Seattle, San Francisco and some of the other NFC bad boys?
Sanders said yes. He said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton leads the defense with his toughness; T.J. Ward, who spent the first four years of his career in Cleveland, brings an AFC North mentality to the squad; and Aqib Talib has a swagger all his own – just as Richard Sherman does.
“That’s last year’s team,” Sanders said of the squad that looked outmatched in its final game. “People are saying we don’t have that type of swagger over in Denver, but (that is definitely not the case).”
We’ll find out if Sanders is right sooner rather than later. The Broncos (1-0), who host Kansas City (0-1) on Sunday, play the Seahawks (1-0) in Seattle in Week 3.
Get your popcorn ready. That should make for one heck of a game.