CHICAGO -- **The only things that stood taller than Brock Osweiler near the shore of Lake Michigan were the skyscrapers that loom over Soldier Field to its north.
As they stand sentry over the home of the Chicago Bears, so, too, did Osweiler over his offensive teammates as they gathered in the huddle for his first snap as a starting quarterback Sunday.
But just because he's the tallest guy in almost any huddle he's ever entered doesn't mean he's not on everyone else's level. Osweiler looked into their eyes. He called the plays. He addressed his teammates same confident demeanor that he showed in one practice after another during a 42-month gestation that began with a rookie camp when he wore a different jersey number.
"You can't shake Brock," said RB C.J. Anderson. "I keep saying, 'Confidence, confidence confidence,' and that not just a cliché thing to say. He's a really confident guy. Not an arrogant guy, not anything like that, but he's confident in a way that makes his teammates confident in him."
"He was a super-confident guy as it is and he handles things like he's a starter -- or he's been handling things like he's been a starter every Wednesday this year. So, his confidence kind of bounces right off of us," said TE Owen Daniels. "His confidence in himself bounced off of us and we were really confident in what he can do out there. I think he played really well today."
Osweiler put in his time. He was ready for the opportunity afforded him because of Peyton Manning's multiple injuries.
No one could have been more prepared. He found targets as they burst open, capitalizing off the seams in Chicago's defense, and four plays after the first drive began, he had the Broncos in the end zone via a 48-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas.
The Broncos would never relinquish the lead in what would become a 17-15 win, and while Osweiler and the offense weren't perfect, they were good enough, only short-circuited by a collision of feet that scuttled what would have been a third-quarter touchdown run by Ronnie Hillman.
That was the only glaring mistake for Osweiler; and it was a miscue of timing; it is easily correctable and unlikely to happen again.
"I guess I tripped [Hillman]," Osweiler said. "I have to get my big feet out of the way. Those are those things that we will clean up.
"I think there was a series where we got the ball right around the 50 and didn't do much with it. Those are the things that we will continue to fix. We are going to watch that tape tomorrow as a unit. We are going to see the good, the bad, the ugly and fix those things."
But damaging errors were few. He knew when to take the sack, when to throw it away. He didn't make the big mistake, and helped the Broncos finish without a turnover for the first time this season.
"He can do everything," said Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's a very composed young man and the more he plays, I think, the better he's going to get."
Whether the Broncos won or lost, or whether Osweiler's rating was north of 120.0 or south of 60.0, his long-term viability as a starting quarterback was not going to be validated by one week. The next time he starts -- whether it's in one week against New England or later than that -- will be at least as important, because that opponent will have an entire regular-season game of footage that was not culled at garbage time.
But the first start could scarcely have gone better. He was in command on the field, on the sideline -- and before that, on Saturday night, when he addressed the team as part of its meeting the night before the game.
"His message was just [to say], 'I'm going to go out there, guys, and give you all I've got. I'm going to play with you guys. I'm going to play for you, and I'm not going to let you down. I'm going to do my job, and you guys are going to go out and do your job,'" recalled TE Vernon Davis. "That's exactly how he said it."
"It was a special moment. It was about a mentality: the mentality I wanted us to play with today as a team," Osweiler added. "That's what I talked about last night."
The message resonated.
"He set the right tone," Davis said.
And he did so in what might have been the perfect place for his career as an NFL starting quarterback to begin.
Like the tallest quarterback in Broncos history himself, the city of Chicago juts out from the landscape, towering over the gently rolling Midwestern topography and the flat expanse of Lake Michigan that bracket it.
This also the prototypical workingman's town. Flash and dazzle have never worked here, not unless they were accompanied by sweat and sacrifice to go along with it. Take the greatest basketball player who ever walked the earth, for example. Michael Jordan made his fame with mid-air artistry, but he was the best because he married his athletic gifts with dogged determination that bled into every facet of his game, which explains why he wasn't just the greatest offensive force of his era, but arguably the greatest defensive player, too.
This is a town of grit. Of putting your head down, shutting up and doing your job -- even when the only reward is the knowledge that you've done your best.
For three and a half seasons, Osweiler did that. He ached to play like his fellow quarterbacks in the 2012 class: Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. The clock ticked. His first contract expires after this season. Still, he waited, and while his desire to play was palpable, he never let it become a distraction for the team.
Instead of complaining, he took the chance to learn from Manning as an opportunity.
"Like I told the guys in Denver, and like I've told them for a couple years now, and I don't know if anybody believed me, but I really was telling the truth: I have not wasted a single day sitting behind Peyton," he said. "I fully recognize that he might be the greatest quarterback to play if not one of the greatest. I wasn't going to let one of those days go by where I didn't learn something. I've been very appreciative for my situation."
By turning his situation into an opportunity, Osweiler earned the respect of the locker room, player by player. Sunday, that patience paid off, because his teammates were ready to follow him wherever he led.
"Sitting behind a Hall of Famer is not easy, and he's learned and he took a lot of things from Peyton," Anderson said. "He can play ball. [John] Elway drafted him in the second round of the 2012 draft for a reason."
Osweiler still has much to learn. But he's off to a great start.