DENVER -- **Andre Caldwell knew the ball was coming to him on the first play against the Cardinals. He knew it when his route broke from the flow of defenders and there wasn't a defensive back within 10 yards of him, but then again, he had known that well before the game even started.
"I knew actually like two days ago that the play was coming to me," Caldwell said. "So it's kind of nerve-wracking. You replay the play in your head a million times before it even happens, so it's kind of nerve-wracking, but it was good to get out there and go make the play."
The play-action bootleg was run to perfection. After the offense swept toward the right sideline and the defense followed, Cardinals defenders realized the play developed with receivers moving in the opposite direction and reacted in the similarly zealous pursuit. What they didn't notice was that Caldwell had snuck behind their last line of defense and veered back toward the right side of the field. One 50-yard strike and 30-yard run later, the Broncos were up a touchdown.
"We knew that play had a chance for a big-play opportunity," Osweiler said. "We were fortunate to get the coverage we were hoping for. The offensive line and the backs did a tremendous job of really selling a run to allow me to get outside and get that edge to give me the time to throw the ball to [WR Andre] Bubba [Caldwell]."
The Osweiler-to-Caldwell connection has produced the Broncos' two biggest plays of the preseason: Thursday's 78-yard touchdown and a 57-yard score against Houston in which Caldwell simply beat cornerback A.J. Bouye in single-coverage streaking up the field.
"I love the way this offense is set up for a lot for big plays, big chucks down the field," Caldwell said. "And it showcases my ability of being the speed guy."
With roster cuts on the horizon, Caldwell said he's comfortable with what he's shown throughout the offseason, training camp and in preseason and how he can help the team.
"I feel good, I feel confident. I made some plays in practice and then it's been showing on the game field. My confidence is high and I'm just trying to help our team win the games," Caldwell said. "Every year I go in wanting to be a starter and if not contribute where I can—special teams, fill in player as a receiver—my goals never change."
Broncos' sack superlatives
The entire NFL preseason slate came to a conclusion Thursday night, and just like they've done in each game, the Broncos were the top pass-rushing team. Denver's defense posted the league's best sack rate by 4.5 percentage points over the No. 2 team. For every six passing attempts, the defense closed in for a sack.
Though preseason sack rates have not particularly correlated to those in the regular season (Cincinnati ranked No. 2 in the 2014 preseason, then last in the regular season), it could be indicative of the philosophy and aggression that could be expected of this defense in its new scheme.
"Honestly, we just have to give a lot of credit to our coaches," said rookie OLB Shane Ray, who had a sack and forced fumble against Arizona. "[Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Wade] Phillips puts us in a really good position all around on defense to be aggressive, make plays and get sacks. I think, as a team, we've taken all of our coaching, been as aggressive as we can and made plays. I think preseason and what we've done is just a reflection of us taking coaching and being a good football team."
For Ray's part, he's been able to translate the aggressiveness demanded of him at Missouri to the NFL. He finished his first preseason with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
"Just being aggressive," Ray said. "That's one thing that we coach as Mizzou, be aggressive, get to the ball, do whatever you can, sacrifice for your team and that's going to stick with me forever. Now, I'm just able to implement that into being a Bronco."
Bibbs visible in special teams as well as on offense
Running backs are no strangers to initiating contact, but it's not too often you'll see them make a punishing tackle like the one Kapri Bibbs made on special teams.
Cardinals wide receiver Trevor Harman took a fourth-quarter punt return toward the sideline and as Bibbs and other Broncos defenders closed in on him, he decided skyward was the only reasonable direction he could move to keep the play going. His hurdle attempt failed and Bibbs brought him back to Earth in a crushing combination of physics and football.
"I don't know what he was thinking; I was standing straight up," Bibbs said. "It's not like I was going for his ankles or anything. I guess he just thought he had hops and tried to go right over me."
In the final days of the preseason, when the ability to make plays in multiple phases of the game can be a major benefit, Bibbs' impact on special teams in addition to an efficient day on offense could help his chances with final roster cuts coming.
"You've got Coach Joe D [Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis] and if you can play special teams for [Head Coach Gary] Kubiak and for him, you can make a case on this team," Bibbs said. "That tackle, that was huge for me and my other plays, blocking for returners, that stuff is huge, too."