DENVER — As the Broncos drove 75 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam hauled in a pair of passes for 25 yards.
It was an encouraging start for a player who turned in several strong days of practice this week — and he didn't stop there.
Over the rest of the game, Okwuegbunam filled up the stat sheet. He scored a touchdown later in the first quarter, snagged a contested catch against a Rams defender and delivered a one-handed catch late in the game. In all, the fourth-year player posted a seven-catch, 109-yard performance that garnered the attention of both Head Coach Sean Payton and his teammates.
"He had a big night," Payton said. "I mean, holy cow."
Added Brandon Johnson: "A.O. went crazy. He went crazy. We see him do stuff like that all the time in practice, so it was good to just see him get out here and do it in a game and show everybody what he can do."
Okwuegbunam's 100-yard game was his first in the NFL and his most recent since a 159-yard performance against Memphis in 2018, according to College Football Reference.
"It was great," Okwuegbunam said of Saturday's performance. "One thing about this profession is you don't get to pick when you get opportunities, but you get to pick when you take advantage of them. That's just what I did tonight — have fun — and that's what you guys saw."
Okwuegbunam said he believed he's "always been capable of doing this," and that his 100-yard performance was the result of opportunities to demonstrate that ability. After limited involvement in last year's offense, Okwuegbunam showed his potential during Saturday's win.
"[I] had a good game tonight," Okwuegbunam said ahead of the 53-man roster deadline. "Been stringing some good practices together and good weeks. Really, I've pretty much done everything I could do, so [I'll] just go into these next couple days and see what happens."
In their first appearance at Empower Field at Mile High, Denver's top two rookies turned in strong performances.
Wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. caught a 50-yard pass — which was nearly a 75-yard touchdown — and added a 19-yard punt return.
"[It] made me feel really good," Mims said. "Especially to be home and kind of experience it for the first time, to go out there — no nerves or anything, just go out there and play football — it felt great. Going into the season, I'm feeling pretty good."
Inside linebacker Drew Sanders, meanwhile, intercepted a Stetson Bennett pass and returned it 32 yards to set up a Tony Jones Jr. touchdown.
"The last week and a half, two weeks for him have been good," Payton said of Sanders. "The second preseason game against San Francisco [49ers] was good. … For a young player, there's a learning curve and then the confidence starts happening. … He's one of those guys that right before our eyes we're seeing gain confidence. I'd like for him to hold onto the ball. Fortunately, we recovered, but he got his hands close to one during the week in practice with these guys and today [he intercepted the ball]. He's really athletic. It's awfully important to him, so I'm encouraged."