CHICAGO –While the evaluation of all three quarterbacks will continue after the 22-0 win over the Bears, there were plenty of reasons to feel good about the situation moving forward.
Mark Sanchez navigated the offense on a 10-play, 76-yard drive that took nearly five-and-a-half minutes off the clock in the first quarter. He converted three third downs before throwing a 32-yard touchdown to a wide open Demaryius Thomas.
"I thought that was important for us, to score on that first drive -- not just a field goal, but to go down and get six points, to stand in there on third down and take a hit," Sanchez said. "I think it was [Danny] Trevathan who kind of smacked me there. It's nice to pop up from a hit like that. They never feel good, but they feel a little better when your guy is standing in there with the ball.
"But Emmanuel [Sanders] made some great catches for me, Bennie [Fowler] was out there making catches, Virgil Green over the middle, we had plenty of targets out there, and those guys did a great job of wiggling free and getting open for me. [The] offensive line did a great job of protecting, and the running backs got us a ton of yards on the ground, so that was great."
On the sideline, Trevor Siemian was just as excited for the touchdown drive.
"I was pumped for Mark, pumped for the offense," Siemian said. "You know, it's our first live action so it was pretty cool to see that kind of success on our opening drive."
Siemian's finest moment came in the two-minute drill after the Broncos got the ball back on their own 42-yard line with 23 seconds to go in the first half. On third down, he evaded the rush, scrambled to his right and motioned for his receiver to head back his direction. Siemian then put the ball on a rope right to Jordan Taylor, who stamped his feet on the right sideline for a 22-yard completion.
"[I] just stepped out and made a play," Siemian said. "Jordan adjusted to the ball and made a good catch."
Paxton Lynch seemed to adjust quickly to his first NFL action, but some aspects will take time to fully digest. Dealing with crowd noise and the helmet speaker in the NFL were both factors that affected Lynch. But once he got his first completion out of the way, he said he felt pretty stable.
"Felt good to get out there and finally play against a real defense and be live," Lynch said. "You know, get hit and move around in the pocket and make some throws out there. It felt good to go against a live defense and finally get those reps."
He also made sure to fully soak in the experience as he ran around on the Soldier Field grass.
"It was a special moment," Lynch said. "You dream of that growing up as a kid playing Pop Warner in the front yard and playing in the NFL. I got the chance to do it. Next week we've got another game so it's time to move on from this one and move on to the next one."
But a good first outing for the trio of quarterbacks doesn't mean they're not looking for areas in which they can improve.
During an otherwise solid performance, Sanchez wound up with an interception on his stat line when a pass to Fowler was tipped by Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan and ended up in the arms of linebacker Jerrell Freeman.
"I thought it was a safe enough throw," Sanchez said. "I think he got his left pinkie fingernail on it and tipped it right to somebody [Freeman]. So that was unfortunate, but those things happen. You just try and eliminate those and learn from it. I won't let that happen again."
Siemian said after the game that he needed to look at the tape to evaluate two drives that stalled in and around the red zone. On Siemian's first drive, the Broncos made it to the Bears' 19-yard line before two consecutive incompletions led to a field goal attempt. Two possessions later, the Broncos marched to the 25-yard line before settling for another field goal.
On both drives, Siemian attempted to throw back-shoulder passes to his receivers on the left side. The first, a strike to Bennie Fowler, was nearly a touchdown.
"I think any time you get down there the coverage tightens up," Siemian said. "Things happen a little faster. I just want to make sure I give our guys a chance to make plays. I've got to check it out and see what I could've done better."
Lynch, who went 6-of-7 for 74 yards, said penalties were a big reason why he couldn't put together a touchdown drive during his half of play. On several occasions, Ill-timed penalties kept the Broncos from continuing drives.
"I was hoping I maybe could've gotten a touchdown tonight, but [I] didn't," Lynch said. "We moved the ball pretty well, just had a couple penalties that hurt us late, especially with those younger guys."
As the Broncos move forward toward next week's matchup San Francisco, Sanchez likely summed up the quarterbacks' night better than anyone.
"You only get one first impression, so that was great," Sanchez said. "That's all you can do tonight. I'm just proud of the way we came out, our effort in all three phases, not just offensively. I know that we scored in all three phases, and that's huge for us.
"If we can generate points on defense and on special teams, that's the way you win ballgames -- especially down the stretch. So we've got a lot of work to do, but it was a great way to start."