While Manning went 10-of-13 for 78 yards and his second quarter relief
“It’s nice to get some reps in the run game and the pass game,” Manning said. “I thought Ronnie [Hillman] and C.J. [Anderson] had a couple nice runs. Certainly Montee [Ball’s] injury is another opportunity for those guys to get some reps, so we’ll see a lot from the film. Definitely some good things out there.”
The Broncos were unable to convert more than one first down on their first possession, but Hillman got the Broncos on the board after a one-yard touchdown run up the middle with 1:30 left in the first quarter. But, the score didn’t come easy, as it took the Broncos over nine minutes to march down the field.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had an 18-play drive in the preseason,” Manning said. “We had a number of those last year it seems like. You don’t like to have the penalties that kept setting ourselves back, but it was nice that we were able to overcome those penalties, which is something we did a lot last year. It was good to get that drive into the end zone. I thought Ronnie and C.J. had a couple nice runs.
The Manning to Thomas connection appears to still be intact. In just two series, Manning found Thomas five times for 52 yards, but four of those catches were for first downs and three of those were third down conversions. They seemed to have picked up right where they left off in New Jersey in February, where they connected 13 times for 118 yards.
Thomas’ clutch catches, two of them being barely past the marker for a first down, kept the drive alive. Manning said it was great to have Thomas on the field, especially since Thomas missed the first week of training camp to tend to his grandmother’s funeral.
“Obviously he’s got great strength, great size,” Manning said. “He’s a hands-catcher, so even when there is tight coverage, he can go out, extend and catch it in his hands. He seems like he’s always, kind of, going forward, too, which is good. I think he got a little help from Manny [Ramirez] on that one third down conversion.”
While Manning was impressed with Thomas’ performance, he was also glad to see fellow quarterback Brock Osweiler bounce back after getting picked off by A.J. Jefferson at the end of the third quarter and bouncing back for the game-winning touchdown.
“That was a heckuva throw on that touchdown,” Manning said. “That interception -- I was watching from the sideline and I was saying throw it to the same guy, myself. It was one of those that the guy looked open when you throw it, and once the ball leaves your hand, there’s plenty you’d like to have back. Great job coming back and great throw to [Jordan] Norwood on that touchdown, and a great catch by Jordan as well.”