ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Both head coaches – John Fox and John Harbaugh – said in the days leading up to the NFL Kickoff game Thursday night that it can be hard to have a full grasp of what the opponent will try to do.
Teams often hold back on schemes, packages and play calling in the preseason to save them for when the games actually count so the first game can be full of unknowns.
In their 49-27 win, the Broncos provided answers for some of those unknowns including providing some insight into the structure of the three-headed backfield. Five-year veteran Knowshon Moreno started the game at running back, something he hadn't done in the preseason.
"I wasn't sure what the rotation was going to be," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "I knew 'Know' (Knowshon Moreno) was going to get the start. I thought he made some hard runs in there. It was tough all night, that's a stout bunch up front, we know that.
"I thought Montee (Ball) had a couple nice runs in the red zone and Ronnie (Hillman) made some big plays in the passing game, a couple of short little option routes, but get the ball in his hands, and he can go the distance. I thought all three of those guys did a good job."
Moreno ended the game as the leading rusher with 28 yards on nine carries but Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball both had a handful of touches as well. Ball had eight carries for 24 yards and Hillman had four rushes and two catches for 42 yards combined.
The rookie, Ball, "felt good" about his performance but understood the importance of starting a veteran in a game like Thursday. Though Moreno was on the field for the first snap, Fox said it's like they have three starting running backs.
"He's a guy that has a little bit more experience," Fox said about Moreno. "We have some youth at that position. It does not mean anything as far as where they are on the depth chart or any of that. In our mind we have three starting backs. But Knowshon is a little bit more seasoned, but the other guys played well.
Caldwell Catches First TD as Bronco
With the addition of Wes Welker to a receiving corps that already included Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas – not the mention the quickly emerging tight end Julius Thomas – questions arose all summer long about whether or not there were enough balls to go around.
With the help of a career performance from Manning, the Broncos proved that there are in fact plenty of balls, and touchdowns to go around.
"Yeah that was probably little league or high school," Caldwell said of the last time he saw seven touchdown passes in a game. "I haven't seen seven touchdowns in an NFL game ever. He just did a great job finding the open guy and we just made a lot of plays for him."
Andre Caldwell, a sixth-year receiver out of Florida, was the first Bronco wide receiver to catch a touchdown in the 2013 regular season as Julius Thomas pulled in the first two.
"There were enough footballs to go around," Caldwell said. "I think you're going to see this throughout the season. We have a lot of playmakers just getting it into different player's hands and letting them make plays."
The touchdown catch was also Caldwell's first touchdown as a Bronco and his first since making a catch at Oakland last season.
Moore 'Never had an Offseason'
One of the most vilified players of the offseason, safety Rahim Moore, was finally given the chance to erase the memories of last season. Though the 2012 season ended nine months ago, it didn't feel that long to Moore.
"It was like we never had an offseason. It was like the next week. That's how fast it came around. We played fast, we played hard and the main thing I'm proud about is how we were out there communicating."
Moore was solid in the regular season debut with six solo tackles – the third most on the team – and a pass break up. The Broncos coverage down the field forced Flacco to check down to short routes and allowed the pass rushers time to pressure the Ravens quarterback.
The Broncos picked up four sacks and had eight hurries.
"If we do a good job on the back end and contain all the deep balls, he doesn't have any choice but to check it down," Moore said. "Our defensive line did an excellent job today. I could see it from the back end, how good they did tonight.
"All those things are tied together. If they played great, linebackers played great, defensive backs don't let anything over the top, then the sky is the limit for us."