SEATTLE -- **Let's go straight to the heart of the matter: Friday night's performance was the best of Brock Osweiler's four-season career.
"I would say so," Osweiler agreed in the wake of the Broncos' 22-20 win at CenturyLink Field on Friday. "I haven't watched the tape yet, but just the way it felt, things felt fairly smooth out there tonight, so from a personal standpoint, it probably is my best performance to date, but I can't say that without those 10 other guys I was out there with tonight."
That he would cite his teammates is no surprise, and reflects the universal praise this year from his fellow offensive players about his maturing command and presence in the huddle.
Although he has started other preseason games and seen some regular-season cameos in his years as Peyton Manning's understudy, his 15-of-20, 151-yard, one-touchdown performance in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks was exemplary given the circumstances in which it was forged.
"He needed that," said OLB Von Miller. "That should definitely be a confidence boost for him, to go out there and do the things that he did. So I'm very happy for him."
Osweiler worked behind an offensive line that included three starters who have never taken a regular-season snap. He did not have the benefit of Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas; both were among the host of Broncos who sat out the game. But none of that mattered as Osweiler guided the offense to 240 yards and scores on each of their five first-half possessions -- although just one was a touchdown.
"You'd like to do better in the red zone, but you've got to be impressed with the way he handled the group," Head Coach Gary Kubiak told KUSA-Ch. 9 during a halftime interview.
That said, Osweiler wasn't perfect. He underthrew a potential deep connection to Andre Caldwell. He had one pass to Cody Latimer that was low and behind the second-year wide receiver, and only saved by an athletic catch. And he didn't have to face Seattle's renowned Legion of Boom; Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas all did not play.
But the Seahawks' front seven was at full strength, and Osweiler responded well under pressure. He took just one sack, and couldn't do anything about that; Cliff Avril exploited a missed assignment and closed on Osweiler before he could get set as he rolled out.
"We had the one sack; it was a boot(leg), and he's got a horrible play," Kubiak said. "That's on us, not him."
When no one was open, Osweiler made the safe call and threw it away. When pass rushers arrived, Osweiler deftly side-stepped them and continued looking downfield. His pocket presence and feel for the pass rush looked better than previous years. Progress was palpable.
"Just tonight, I felt a lot more comfortable than previous years. I think that just comes from game reps and experience in the National Football League," Osweiler said. "It's so much different than college. Those pass rushers, they're coming and they're coming quick. So to get some solid game reps over the past three seasons, I think that's what really allowed me to come out here tonight and feel comfortable in the pocket."
That extended to his targets. Osweiler's timing with Latimer and Virgil Green led to nine combined receptions for the pair.
And finally, with seconds draining from the clock late in the second quarter, he saw Virgil Green break open down the left seam. Osweiler fired a bullet that Green easily caught for the touchdown that gave the Broncos a 19-10 halftime lead and concluded Osweiler's night.
"He's been doing that all camp," LT Ty Sambrailo said. "He's had a great camp and I think he's a great leader and he's been doing a nice job of helping us young guys and making the plays that need to be made and just being a general on the field."
Osweiler has as much, if not more, to gain from this preseason than anyone else on the 90-man roster. Friday night was a solid first step in his late-summer work.
"He's gotten better in practice; he's gotten better running the group, and to come in here tonight and run his football team the way he did in the first half was very impressive," Kubiak said.
Take a look at the first half snapshots from the Broncos first preseason game in Seattle.