DENVER -- So many times last year, one mistake became three, three became six, and then the Broncos had an avalanche that they could not stop until they were hopelessly behind.
Miscues in NFL games are like forest fires. If you contain them, you can minimize the damage. Fail to do, and they spread to everything in sight.
That's why the Broncos' ensuing possession after a Case Keenum interception led to a 15-yard Russell Wilson-to-Will Dissly touchdown was so crucial.
Fewer than six minutes had elapsed in the game when the Seahawks took the lead. In 2017, such sequences sent the Broncos spiraling toward defeat. In the opening game of the 2018 season, Keenum completed five of six passes for 72 yards, the last 29 of which came as Phillip Lindsay took a swing pass, sprinted up field and darted past DaeSean Hamilton's block on Tedric Thompson for a touchdown.
"We talked about this last night, and we talked about [how] when adversity shows its head, we just play right through it," Head Coach Vance Joseph said.
Part of that comes from the players and units on the team being able to build a reservoir of trust over the course of their offseason work.
"At the end of the day, trust has 'us' in it. You take out the 't,' you take out the 'r' and you take out the other 't,' and it's 'us,'" safety Will Parks said.
"We've got to trust each other, we've got to believe in each other, and then everything else will play itself out. And that's the bottom line. Throughout preseason and OTAs, Coach kind of gave us a bond that was unbreakable. If any guy makes mistakes, on and off the field, pick them up."
That was among the biggest reasons why the Broncos won Sunday ... and it might be the reason that is the most significant. Many of the players from last year are the same, but the attitude is different, starting with that of the quarterback.
"I think the mental makeup [of the team] is a lot better," safety Justin Simmons said.
Here are some other reasons why the Broncos defeated the Seahawks:
Because Case Keenum shook off his mistakes
The Broncos didn't worry after the three interceptions, because Keenum himself was unruffled.
"Even when he had the turnovers, he came back to the sideline smiling, saying, 'We good, D, we good,' and I was just sitting there like, 'Oh, yeah, we good,'" Parks said. "That's the kind of guy you want -- the kind of guy that's not going to mope and pout because he did something.
"At the end of the day, Case is a leader ... and he believes, and he trusts us. I'm pretty sure he probably didn't think anything of it, because he has us as a defense."
Obviously, Keenum will want to cut the interceptions after throwing six in his last three games, including last January's postseason work with the Vikings. But he did not lose confidence in himself, and as a result, his teammates maintained their confidence in him, which kept the errors from spreading into a conflagration that would have burned down the Broncos' hopes.
"Him in that leadership role, he didn’t bat an eye," running back Royce Freeman said. "So, we went out there and we executed like we needed to.”
Because the Broncos were aggressive when the moment demanded it
Perhaps no play encapsulated this than Joe Woods' decision to send cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on a corner blitz on third-and-5 with 4:17 left in the game. The bold call worked, as Harris brought down Russell Wilson for a 9-yard loss, forcing a punt that allowed the Broncos to drain two minutes and 27 seconds from the clock in the game's waning moments.
It was Harris' first sack since the 2014 season. He had 3.5 sacks in his first four campaigns, including 2.5 sacks in the 2012 season alone when the corner blitz was a more frequent tactic of Denver's defense.
"[Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods] said I would get way more sacks this year," Harris said. "They usually block me, so that was the first time they didn't block me."
By the time the Seahawks saw the football again, they had just 61 seconds left, with no timeouts and the football at their own 12-yard line, limiting their options.
Because the Broncos sustained drives and allowed the defense to rest
Last year, 35.3 percent of the Broncos' ended without a first down as the offense frequently stalled before it had any chance to generate momentum.
Sunday afternoon, the Broncos moved the chains at least once on 85.7 percent of their 14 possessions. Meanwhile, the defense held Seattle without a first down on seven of 15 possessions, including three of four to start the second half.
With the sustained drives fueled by a strong running game that saw Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker combine for 146 yards and a 4.6-yards-per-carry average, the Broncos ran 17 more plays than the Seahawks and racked up a 10-minute, 16-second advantage in time of possession.
Because Von Miller was otherworldly
Pass coverage isn't a primary responsibility of the All-Pro outside linebacker, so it's understandable that the only item missing from his ledger Sunday was an interception.
But he did everything else an edge rusher can do: a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles, and a hat trick of sacks. The recovery came on a fumble he forced when he simply snatched the football from the grasp of Seattle running back Chris Carson.
Miller had half of the Broncos' six sacks, which was their highest tally since Nov. 27, 2016 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos' sack total was their highest in a regular-season opener since they brought down Neil O'Donnell and Frank Reich a total of nine times in a 31-6 win over the New York Jets to open the 1996 season.
Because the Keenum-to-Sanders connection thrived
It was clear throughout training camp and the preseason that Keenum and Emmanuel Sanders had synergy. Any doubts over whether that would translate to the regular season evaporated on the first series, when Keenum hit Sanders for a 14-yard gain at the right sideline on third-and-14, which was the start of a 10-catch, 135-yard, one-touchdown performance.
The 10 receptions matched Shannon Sharpe's total in 1995 as the most for a Bronco in a regular-season opener.
"There aren't too many people that can stick with Emmanuel," Parks said. "Actually, this week, I was guarding him as the nickel[back] for the scout team, and all I was doing was moving my feet getting ready for the game, and in the back of my mind, I was thinking, 'How do these guys even try to stay with him on the field?'"
Seattle's cornerbacks could not, and paid a heavy price.
"I don't think anybody can guard these boys," Harris said of the Broncos' complement of pass-catchers. "After getting work versus them all offseason and in training camp, I think they're ready."
Game action photos from Broncos team photographers during Denver's season opener against the Seahawks.
Because Marquette King forced the Seahawks to play the long game
Even though the Seahawks started two drives in Denver territory, their average drive-start position was at their 27-yard line. No one had a bigger impact in that than King, who forced Seattle to start inside its 20-yard line on three of six punts.
King finished with a net average of 42.7 yards and helped prevent returner Tyler Lockett from any backbreaking runbacks. Lockett averaged just 3.7 yards on the three punts he was able to return.