Disclaimer: I am a huge Broncos and Manning fan. This is pure observational things from the game against the Bears.
Brock Osweiler made his first NFL start for the Denver Broncos November 22nd winning 17-15. This start coming against the Chicago Bears and a week after Peyton Manning had arguably the worst game of his career posting a 0.1 Total QBR. Osweiler came in that game and started to show some potential but not much because it was basically garbage time. This was the week where we got to see Osweiler show what he can do, and boy did he take the opportunity and run with it. Osweiler started the game on a hot streak completing his first 5 passes and scoring on his first drive with a strike to Demaryius Thomas for 48 yards. Osweiler looked every bit of a starting quarterback on this drive, with his field vision, knowledge of the offense and arm strength he made every throw and read he should have. It was a pleasant surprise to see a Bronco Quarterback take shots down he field as well as being able to put the ball into tight windows like Osweiler was able to do. It was evident from the opening snap that Osweiler’s arm was warm and healthy. Osweiler took control of the offense with audibles that fans are used to seeing from Manning (as well as a few Omaha’s thrown in for good measure). It was refreshing to see the Bronco Wide Receivers not having to wait for the ball to get to them but rather being able to get the ball and make a move. The Broncos were also able to move the ball on the ground posting 170 yards on the ground. This number would be higher if not for the sacks that Osweiler took, although Osweiler made up for them with his ability to scramble and get yards with his legs. I was really impressed with how well both Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson averaging 4.9 yards per carry, with Hillman getting 102 yards on 21 carries and Anderson getting 59 yards on 12 carries. Just the presence of Osweiler and his arm makes the defense back off the line unlike with Manning where they stacked the box because Manning had no arm strength.
Osweiler targeted 8 different players but, like Manning, mostly targeted his Tight Ends Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis. Daniels and Thomas were targeted a combined 11 times and had a combined 137 yards, Thomas was targeted 8 times with 3 catches and had 59 yards with the aforementioned touchdown. The most surprising receiver this week was Cody Latimer the sophomore second round pick out of Indiana. Latimer is a big (6-2) fast (4.39 40 time at the combine) receiver who should have gotten more playing time but was just behind the other veteran receivers in learning the playbook. Latimer was on the scout team with Osweiler and they developed a rapport with each other, look for him to be a big part of the offense going forward most likely being moved into the WR3 spot. Latimer hauled in a touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a short pass inside the red zone.
The Bronco Defense looked solid as always, causing the Bears running game to be stalled and force them to become one-dimensional. There were a few times in the game where the defense lasted and allowed long throws primarily to Martellus Bennett as well as Marquess Wilson. In the red zone the Defense really stepped up and showed why they are one of the best in the league allowing only 1 score to the Bears. Penalties again hurt the Broncos Defense allowing 5 first downs off of penalties, overall the team had 8 penalties for 118 yards. One of the plays of the game was on the Bears last drive where Jay Cutler dropped back to pass and Von Miller hit his hand as he was attempting to throw and the ball landed in the hands of Malik Jackson and effectively ended the game.
Osweiler is in his last year of his rookie contract after being selected before Russell Wilson in the 2012 draft. Although the amount of sacks (5 for 31 yards) is concerning but most of the sacks are because of the continuous offensive line shuffle. Osweiler preformed very well in his first start, although the Bears defense is not the best of all time, next week will be a good idea of how well Osweiler can be going up against the Patriots. At this point in time Osweiler deserves a new contract after the season from the Broncos, most likely somewhere in the upper end of backup quarterback money.
Projected contract: 5 years $20 million $10 million guaranteed (with a win over Brady and a playoff win)