The Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers in their season opener. (Photos by Eric Bakke unless noted)
Only needed one
Few people would believe you if you predicted that fullback Andy Janovich would score the Broncos' first touchdown of the 2016 season. The rookie only had one carry, but he made it count, breaking free for a 28-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven in the first quarter.
"It felt pretty good, but I was positive that I was going to get caught from behind. I'm not the fastest guy out there," Janovich joked.
It may have been the rookie's only carry, but he was a crucial reason the Broncos were able to establish the running game early Thursday night. He helped create lanes for C.J. Anderson all night, which he converted into a two-touchdown night with 148 yards from scrimmage.
"That was huge," Anderson said of the fullback's blocking. "Being behind Andy and seeing him pick up the things he picks up, it springs big runs for me or for [RB Devontae] Booker."
Thursday night also signified an unfathomable dream turned reality for a former walk-on at the University of Nebraska. The first touchdown is behind him, the first victory is in the books and as Janovich said after the game, "It's real now."
Despite a picture-perfect first NFL game, the rookie said there's plenty he needs to work on, like cleaner blocks so Anderson can continue to hit the gaps; however, Anderson just wants the rookie to have a little fun and learn how to celebrate the big moments.
"He just tossed the ball to the ref," Anderson said, "but I was like, 'That's your first touchdown.' I had to run out there and get the ball and give it back to him. I was excited for him."
Marshall takes a knee
"First of all, I'm not against the military [and] I'm not against the police or America. I'm just against social injustice."
Those were the first words Brandon Marshall said publicly after choosing to kneel during Thursday's pregame national anthem performance, joining 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest of the nation's social injustice.
Marshall, a former college teammate of Kaepernick at the University of Nevada, completely understood the risks associated with his public display, but after a long consideration, the linebacker felt inclined to make a statement.
"I believe in what [Kaepernick's] trying to do. I believe in his actions so I definitely want to stand by him," Marshall said. "At the same time, I didn't want to just do it as far as 'I'm going to take a knee,' but I will also donate to programs for veterans and different things like that. I'm going to be active in this."
For Marshall, it's more than just taking a knee. It's about an athlete's ability to create social change using his prominence, and also about an individual's right to expression.
"This was the right platform. This is our only platform to really be heard. At times people want us to just shut up and entertain them, shut up and play football, but we have voices as well," Marshall said. "We are actually educated individuals that went to college. When we have an opinion and we speak it, I feel like a lot of people bash us for what we have to say."
For Head Coach Gary Kubiak, he believes Marshall has the right to his own beliefs and he's just going to continue to focus on Brandon Marshall, the football player.
"He's a great kid. He's accountable, always does his job. He did his job last night," said the head coach. "And Brandon has the rights to his belief and stuff and I'm going to keep us focused on the football. He's always done his job."
To watch or not to watch?
That is the question. Kubiak did not watch when Panthers kicker Graham Gano attempted a 50-yard field goal with a chance to win the game. Instead, he stared into his play chart, waiting for the reaction of the crowd to indicate the result.
"I've always been that way … I can hear what's going on. I can tell right away what the hell happens," Kubiak said with a laugh. "I do that sometimes offensively too. We may have a big third down and I'll be looking at my card for first-and-10. I can tell by the reaction on the headset if we got the first down or not."