(CBS4) – The Denver Broncos didn’t look sharp in their season opener, dropping a 16-14 slug-fest to the Tennessee Titans. A last-second Stephen Gostkowski field goal gave the Titans the win. Though had the usually reliable kicker made his previous four kicks, the game may not have been so close.
The Broncos had their own what-if scenario which could have turned the tide of the game. On fourth-and-goal in the second quarter, Vic Fangio went for it, only to have Drew Lock’s shovel pass to Jake Butt stuffed at the goal line. Of course, had the Broncos executed in the second half, this play may have been a moot point too.
It wasn’t a pretty game, but a little more ball control would’ve helped Denver come out on top. Aside from a 75-yard drive, the Broncos picked up one first down in the second half. With four minutes remaining, they had the ball in Tennessee territory, only to go three-and-out and hand the ball back after minute.
“This is a young Broncos offense,” CBS4 sports anchor Michael Spencer. “We saw that on Monday night. Drew Lock came out after the game and said ‘yeah, I made some mistakes.’ Jerry Jeudy talked about his drops all week. This is a young Broncos offense that’s going to have to take some time to get ready.”
Lock ended the night 22-33 for 216 yards and one touchdown. Jeudy caught four of his 8 targets for 56 yards. Running back Phillip Lindsay left the game in the first half with a foot injury, but Melvin Gordon picked 78 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Injuries are also a concern for the Broncos. According to Spencer, “Courtland Sutton [was] limited in practice on Wednesday. You get the feeling that he’ll probably be a game-time decision on Sunday. Looks like A.J. Bouye for sure is not going to go. They’re going to put him on IR. You’ve also got Phillip Lindsay, who’s banged up with turf toe. And it looks like he may not go. And then you factor in that they’re going to be without Von Miller for the foreseeable future.”
The depleted Broncos face another tough matchup in Week 2, as they travel to Pittsburgh to meet the Steelers. The Steelers relied on a stout defense and a strong running game in their Week 1 win over the New York Giants. The defense allowed the usually dynamic Saquon Barkley a grand total of six yards on 15 carries. They also harassed Giants quarterback Daniel Jones into a pair of interceptions, which the Steelers turned into 10 points.
On offense, backup running back Benny Snell racked up 113 yards on his 19 carries in place of James Conner. More importantly, Week 1 also marked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s return to action. Big Ben, who last stepped under center in September 2019, missed most of the season with an elbow injury. He contributed three touchdowns and 229 yards on 21-32 passing in his return, not to mention invaluable veteran leadership.
It’s a tough matchup for the Broncos. “I don’t think the home fans are going to like what I have to say here,” Spencer prefaces. “But I think it’s hard to pick the Broncos right now, given their rash of injuries.”
Inexperience is also a factor, as compared to a veteran Steelers squad that knows how to win in different ways. “This is a young Broncos offense that’s going to have to take some time to get ready,” says Spencer. “That’s why I’m giving Pittsburgh the edge on Sunday.”
The Broncos play the Steelers Sunday, September 20 @ 11 am MT on CBS.