2016 Broncos Season, Week One

The Denver Broncos opened the 2016 season on Thursday night a lot where they left off in the 2015 season, beating the Carolina Panthers in a defensive struggle where they weren't favored to win.

Week One: Broncos 21, Carolina Panthers 20
Season Record: 1-0 (1-0 home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, trailing 21-20 and facing third and five from the Broncos' 32-yard-line. The Panthers lined up for a 50-yard field goal that would have won the game. Instead, Panthers' kicker Graham Gano saw his kick sail left, ending the team's chance at a comeback.

Recap: As the sage Herm Edwards said, "You Play to Win The Game." Period. That's it. Winning is ultimately all that matters. So from that standpoint, using that as a metric, the Broncos had an incredibly successful opener. They won the game — a game in which they weren't favored despite playing at home. And they won despite themselves, after they committed three turnovers and trailed until mid-way through the fourth quarter. It's not, perhaps, how they wanted to play, but it was successful. At the end of the day, the Broncos are 1-0, the Panthers are 0-1 and we're on to week two. The Broncos host the Indianapolis Colts on September 18 and travel to the Cincinnati Bengals on September 25, so it doesn't get any easier. The team needs to pick it up and correct the mistakes to keep on the winning path. But for now, it was a solid showing. It was an especially important start for Trevor Siemian, the seventh round draft choice in 2015 who had never thrown a regular season NFL pass prior to last night. Despite early struggles, Siemian showed poise and brought the Broncos back, giving confidence he is, indeed, the right man for the job this season.

Game Balls:
* CJ Anderson — The Broncos' running back was nothing short of spectacular on Thursday night. He rushed 20 times for 92 yards, caught four passes for 47 yards, and scored two touchdowns. It's a great start for an important piece of the Broncos' attack.
* Andy Janovich — The rookie did his job on Thursday. He worked hard to help open holes for Anderson and other runners, and made the most of his lone carry, going 32 yards for a touchdown.
* DeMarcus Ware — The wily veteran showed why he is so important to the Broncos. Despite not playing a snap in pre-season, Ware was a force on Thursday, scoring two big sacks.
* Chris Harris, Jr. — Showing he's the best corner on the Broncos, and possibly the league, Harris made a crucial interception that halted the Panthers' progress offensively.

Lingering Questions:
* Special Teams — Punter Riley Dixon struggled again on Thursday, and the Broncos lacked a dynamic return game. Those are crucial areas for improvement for a team that will need to maximize all opportunities.
* Clean Play — The Broncos lost the turnover battle 3-1 on Thursday, and winning despite that was a minor miracle. The team needs to demonstrate better ball security going forward.
* Defensive Line — The Broncos biggest change on defense was along the front line. Thursday, that unit played OK but not at the level of last year. That's a place where there's plenty of room for growth and improvement.


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