Last week, Virgil Green's eyes sparkled when he talked about the possibilities of the offense -- and the presence of Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator to make them into a reality. He used the term "wizard" to describe McCoy and how he could take the concepts and explain them in terms that the players could grasp.
After Monday night's 24-21 win over the Chargers, Green used that word again to describe McCoy -- but he did so after a game that saw Green and fellow tight ends Jeff Heuerman and A.J. Derby play a massive role in the passing game.
Last year, the Broncos' tight ends averaged 37 receiving yards per game. Monday night, they racked up 98 yards on five catches, punctuated by Green's 44-yard grab in the fourth quarter despite tight coverage.
But the tone was set early, on Heuerman's 20-yard catch from Trevor Siemian in the first quarter.
Siemian's protection is perfect, and Heuerman ran a good route. With safety Tre Boston playing deep, the only player capable of making a play was Kyle Emanuel, who was in man-to-man coverage, with all other defenders in coverage occupied elsewhere.
As soon as Siemian saw that Heuerman had a step on Emanuel, he fired a strike that moved the Broncos into field-goal range.
Derby's first of three receptions, a 9-yard catch in the second quarter, also saw the Broncos expose a one-on-one matchup against a linebacker to their benefit.
"Obviously, the one-on-one matchups are going to be inside against the linebackers," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "Having Virgil, Jeff Heuerman and Derby all catch balls [Monday] night inside in the seams, that is going to be huge for us."
This was the kind of play that the Broncos knew would be there.
"That [Chargers] defense is kind of similar to the defense that San Francisco runs, so we kind of got a little precursor to how things are going to happen when we played them," Green said. "We paid attention to a lot of things in the practice that week. A lot of things were open. So we just wanted to take advantage of the open holes on defense."
Part of their success Monday also stems from a message from new Tight Ends Coach Geep Chryst that can be summed up in one word: "Relax."
That was a message Green took to heart.
"Our position coach, Geep Chryst, always just tells us to go out there and have fun. Don't strain. Don't try too hard," Green said. "And I think over the last few years, that's been my biggest issue: I've tried too hard to show people what I can do in the pass game.
"I went out there and said, 'I just want to have fun and win this game and let the opportunities come to me so I can take advantage of them.' Collectively, I think we did a great job -- not just in the passing game, but in the running game, as well."
Green had key blocks on the Broncos' three longest runs of the night. On an 11-yard burst by C.J. Anderson 5:55 into the game, he extended the carry by 7 yards with a second-level block on Jatavis Brown. In the second quarter, he set up Anderson's 18-yard burst to the left side by coming across in motion and blocking Isaac Rochell. A quarter later, he blocked Rochell again to help spring Jamaal Charles for a 12-yard gain.
Plays like that helped Green get one of Joseph's first round of "I Balled" awards. They also helped the Broncos show the full spectrum of possibilities from their tight ends, all of whom came up big in Week 1.