DENVER --The calendar says, "August," but the Peyton Manning-to-Emmanuel Sanders connection is in midseason form. That was evidenced by two touchdowns in a 62-second span of the second quarter Saturday, which allowed the first team to lead with a 17-7 lead that was eventually coughed up for an 18-17 defeat.
But with just over a full game of work, the No. 1 Broncos could be happy with their preseason of work, outscoring the Seahawks, 49ers and Texans 34-14.
What's more, the Broncos' first unit answered most of the questions posed of it throughout the preseason. As for the answers to the questions heading into Saturday's game, read on …
1. What will make the first-team offense's third game of preseason work a success?
Staying healthy -- which was not achieved. Although Peyton Manning popped up after a sack by Houston nose tackle Ricardo Mathews, and finished a stellar preseason with two consecutive touchdown drives to end the second quarter, the blow absorbed by Wes Welker from Texans safety D.J. Swearinger marred the night. Welker did not return; he left the field and was diagnosed with a concussion, his third in less than 10 months.
If not for Welker's injury, the night would have been a success for the offense. The Broncos got Montee Ball some work; he sustained some hits and was none the worse for the wear, just 19 days after undergoing an appendectomy. Manning and Sanders were brilliant at times; they combined for 128 yards on five completions.
"We felt like -- at least I felt like -- we could score at will," said Sanders. "It got to that point."
2. Will Von Miller play, and if he does, how will he do?
Miller's work was complete after one lengthy series: a nine-play, 30-yard march in which the Texans converted two third-and-1s. It was a promising start in his first game action after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament eight months and one day earlier; he dropped into coverage working against tight ends in the slot, he worked with his hand in the dirt when the Broncos went to their nickel alignment.
It was a typical night of work for Miller, and he should be ready for more in Week 1. But he felt he could do more Saturday.
"I felt like I could have done just a little bit more," Miller said.
3. What does Isaiah Burse need to show on punt returns? Burse mentioned this week that Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Rodgers' top priority is ball security. At that, he succeeded; he held on to every punt he fielded. Succeeding at a returner evokes a long-ago Kenny Rogers lyric -- "you've gotta know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em. Although he had a good fair catch call, he also took one when he had plenty of open space in front of him. But there were no bobbles, so he handled the most crucial task.