ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Brock Osweiler had thrown 28 passes in six career regular-season games prior to Sunday. And while none were intercepted, none crossed the goal line, either.
His 1-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of the 47-14 win over Oakland was a long time in coming -- and was amplified by it also being a teammate's first NFL touchdown reception. Virgil Green kept the football -- as Osweiler recognized, the fourth-year tight end had seniority, arriving one year before the backup quarterback -- and Osweiler was left without a souvenir, but with the comfort of breaking through after seeing only spot duty in his firs three pro seasons.
"It was kind of the monkey off your back, to finally get in the end zone, and it was a great way to end the season," said Osweiler, who completed both of his passes to Green for 39 yards in the fourth quarter Sunday capped by the 1-yard score.
Osweiler's career regular-season workload is now roughly equivalent to a full game: 17 completions in 30 attempts for 159 yards, a touchdown and an 82.5 quarterback rating. But that's over a three-year span.
With such sparse opportunities, it would be easy for Osweiler to get frustrated. Although he's learned at the feet of a future Hall of Famer, he still awaits his first career start, three years into his career. Others from his draft class have risen -- and one even fell -- in that time.
Meanwhile, he waits. Is it difficult?
"Yes and no," he said. "I say, 'Yes,' because I love to compete and I'm very confident in my abilities, and I see other guys in my draft class playing and playing very well, and I know I can do that same thing, so I want to go out there and compete and do that.
"But at the same time, I'm also in a different situation, and I realize the situation that I'm in. So that's where the 'no' part comes in, because the things that I've been able to learn while sitting behind somebody and being a No. 2, are things that those guys (in the 2012 class) probably haven't learned, or will never learn."So I think I'm in the ultimate situation. I'm very thankful for it, and we'll just see where the future goes."
His touchdown pass was what he does best: a smooth rollout to the right side, and a strike delivered on target to Green's outside shoulder where no defender had a chance at the football. It looks simple. But it also reflected his progress since his arrival. What was once tentative is now smooth and confident.
"It's night and day," Osweiler said. "You watch training camp tape from my rookie year, and then my second year and my third year, each year it looks like a completely different person.
"I can honestly say that we are improving and I'm very confident in my abilities."
And so is the coaching staff. Otherwise, he would have simply handed off the football when he stepped onto the field in the final two minutes of the first half at San Diego on Dec. 14. Instead, he had a chance to run the two-minute drill, which didn't work out well -- and still bothers him.
"I felt terrible that I let the team down in that situation, and I didn't play to my abilities during that situation," Osweiler said. "I can promise you no one felt worse about that than I did.
"Just the fact that they have that confidence in me, that they've seen it in practice, that's huge, and that means a lot to me, but at the same time, I need to continue to go out there whenever my opportunities and prove those guys (the coaches) right."
Sunday afternoon, he did.
"The biggest deal is just taking advantage of the opportunity that I have, so when my time does come to play -- whenever that is, wherever that is -- I'm ready to go," he said.
AN ALL-AROUND BACK:**
C.J. Anderson has galvanized the running game in a way few expected, and despite starting just seven games, became the 19th running back in Broncos history to amass over 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
It was the 32nd such season in Broncos history, and Anderson has a long way to go to catch Terrell Davis and Floyd Little, both of whom had four seasons with at least 1,000 scrimmage yards in a Broncos uniform. Anderson's average of 5.51 yards per touch was the fourth-best of any of those 32 seasons.
But Anderson is not just about rushing or receiving; he also blocks well.
Since becoming the starter in Week 11, he has just one negative rating on ProFootballFocus.com's pass-blocking metrics, is plus-1.2 in blocking over that span, and is only credited with one hit allowed on Peyton Manning.
It's a product of time and experience. As his snaps increase, so does his exposure to different methods of attacking Manning and his ability to anticipate the defense's intention.
"More reps, and understanding what linebackers are trying to do to you -- and just putting on film what I'm coached to do," Anderson said. "I just think that (Running Backs) Coach (Eric) Studesville is doing a great job at that. All of us have that pass pro in us, where we can pick up the blitz and keep 1-8 (Manning) on his feet so he can make plays down the field."
- With Orlando Franklin sidelined because of a concussion, Ben Garland filled in at left guard, playing a career-high 46 percent of the snaps. Because of the injury, the Broncos kept the rest of the starting quintet in for the entire game, even after matters were decided.
- Cornerback Omar Bolden shot up the kickoff-return rankings the last two weeks. After 15 weeks, Bolden ranked 20th among players with at least six kickoff returns, notching a 25.1-yard average to that point. But after 77- and 76-yard returns the last two weeks, Bolden finished with a 33.0-yard average, better than anyone with at least three kickoff returns this year. However, it was not enough to qualify him for the league lead; he needed at least 16 kickoff returns, and finished the 2014 season with 13.
- Rookie Todd Davis was the only defensive player to play every snap and again led the team with six total tackles, five solo and one assisted.
Do you have a question for Andrew Mason? Ask it here and you might be in this week's Mailbag!
See the best moments captured from the Broncos' Week 17 win over the Raiders, which capped a perfect season at home.