DENVER --This wasn't how Brock Osweiler expected to receive his most extensive-regular season work to date, and it came with no guarantee of any action beyond Sunday's appearance in relief of an injured Peyton Manning.
But with the offense struggling, Osweiler provided a jolt. It was too little, too late to change the outcome in a 29-13 loss. But his 14-of-24, 146-yard performance with one touchdown and one interception allowed the offense to find a rhythm, and the entire team to avoid what would have been its first shutout in 23 years -- and first ever at home.
"He was extremely impressive," WR Emmanuel Sanders said. "I think Brock's been waiting for an opportunity and when it came, he had a stellar performance."
And perhaps the best play of all was his final one: a 7-yard touchdown strike to Andre Caldwell. Osweiler faded back, escaped an onrushing Mike DeVito, stepped forward and found Caldwell just past Eric Berry for the score that provided a glimmer of optimism on what had become a gloomy night.
But plays like that and others where Osweiler escaped might not escape the fourth-year QB's self-critique.
"I think the extending plays portion is actually maybe one of the easier parts of football; that's just backyard football, and we've all since we were three, four, five years old, we've all played backyard football," he said.
"When the pocket breaks down and I need to extend something on my feet, I think that is something that comes naturally to myself. But at times, I'm going to have to go back and look at the tape, I might have put myself in bad situations."
Osweiler was sacked three times, but he also escaped other pressure situations, too.
"He battled. He came out of some piles. Protection-wise, we didn't protect him well at times and yet he came out and made plays," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "He took some shots going down the field physically to help make plays for his team. I'm not surprised. He's been working really hard. He's a listener. He's been watching [No.] 18 for many, many years. I think he's always working toward his opportunity. He went in there and battled."
And in the end, the offense amassed 15 first downs, 172 yards and 13 points on the four possessions Osweiler led, compared to the three first downs, 49 yards and zero points from the Broncos' first nine series.
Manning remains the starter: Kubiak made that clear after Sunday's loss. If Manning returns to the lineup next week, Osweiler will remain the dutiful, supportive teammate, just as he was as Manning struggled Sunday.
"Every once in a while I will go whisper something to him," Osweiler said. "Obviously, I've watched him play a lot of football games over the last three-and-a-half years and I feel like I know him pretty well, so obviously, as a teammate, as someone who supports him, as someone who wants to see him do great I'm going to be there and try to help him through everything."
And Manning did his best to aid Osweiler, too.
"I was proud of Brock and tried to help him. I thought he went in there, made some plays and got a couple of scores," Manning said. "[It was] not ideal for him to go into the game down 22-0 knowing you have to throw every single time. So, I thought he went in there and did well." But Osweiler stands ready if needed -- and with a bit more confidence after settling in and guiding the Broncos on three long drives, even though they came too late to prevent the Broncos' first regular-season home defeat in 23 months.
"I think there is nothing that replaces game reps and obviously tonight I got a lot of live game reps against a great defense," Osweiler said.
"So, did my confidence go up? Yes. Do I feel more comfortable out there? Yes. I think that is something that happens naturally the more game reps you get."