DENVER -- The Broncos' starters each played just two series Thursday night against the Seahawks, but it was long enough to show the progress that's been made since last season.
The offense's first drive ended in a punt after one first down, but Peyton Manning and Co. took full advantage of their second chance.
Chewing up more than nine minutes of game clock, the Broncos marched 61 yards in 14 plays against the Seahawks' top defenders for the game's first points, a one-yard touchdown from Ronnie Hillman on 3rd-and-Goal. Though Denver's offense committed four penalties during the drive (only three were enforced), they were able to overcome the flags with four third-down conversions.
A few players in particular stood out on the pair of drives. Peyton Manning was his usual efficient self, going 10-for-13 for 78 yards. Demaryius Thomas picked up right where he left off in the Super Bowl -- he set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions in the game -- grabbing five catches for 52 yards, including three third-down conversions.
Just as encouraging, the Broncos' replacements for Montee Ball performed quite well. Hillman earned 15 tough yards on the ground to go with his touchdown, as well as a catch for five yards. C.J. Anderson looked quick and decisive with the ball in his hands as well, though his best gains were nullified by penalties.
Those penalties will need to be cleaned up in the future, but preseason is the time when flags fly the most. Each team committed four penalties in the first quarter. Manning twice drew the Seahawks offsides, and Seattle was also called for unnecessary roughness after Hillman's touchdown and taunting on the ensuing kickoff.
Not to be outdone by the offense, Denver's D showed very well in its short bit of action, and some of the team's new acquisitions were at the heart of the action throughout
On his second play in a Broncos' uniform, DeMarcus Ware got to Russell Wilson for a hit as the quarterback released the ball. T.J. Ward was called for holding on the play, but Ware came back on the next snap and picked up a sack when Wilson couldn't find an open receiver.
Nate Irving contributed a tackle for loss during the series and Kayvon Webster forced an incompletion with good coverage. Rahim Moore nearly grabbed an interception on Seattle's first third down, but the ball hit the ground before he could scoop it and the Seahawks were forced to punt.
On Seattle's second possession, the Denver defense flashed more energy and big plays but missed chances to get off the field with more penalties. A holding call against Aqib Talib moved the sticks on 3rd-and-9 with the Seahawks near midfield. A few plays later, with Seattle facing 4th-and-1 at Denver's 28-yard line, Wilson dropped the ball while faking a handoff in the backfield and was chased down for a big loss, only for Ward to be called for grabbing the facemask.
Ward responded a few snaps later with a 6-yard sack of Wilson on Seattle's 1st-and-Goal. But again, a penalty broke the momentum, as Danny Trevathan was called for pass interference in the endzone, giving the Seahawks a first down on the 1-yard-line. Running back Christine Michael punched it in for the touchdown.
Even with the conceded touchdown, the new-look defense's performance was promising, especially considering Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Kevin Vickerson did not suit up as they continue to rehab injuries from last season.
They'll look to add more big plays while cleaning up the penalties against the 49ers next week, when they will likely be on the field a little longer.