SAN JOSE, Calif. --There was a moment several weeks ago when if you visualized the Broncos at Opening Night of Super Bowl week, you could glimpse Brock Osweiler at one of the 11 podiums on one side of the SAP Center.
The Broncos went 5-2 with Osweiler as the starter, with the two defeats coming after second-half letdowns that followed productive first halves. Twice he led the Broncos back from 14-point deficits, and because those comebacks were against the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, those were the difference in giving the Broncos home-field advantage.
Without those Osweiler-led rallies, the Broncos wouldn't have earned the AFC's top seed, wouldn't have won the AFC West and would have been at the brink of missing the playoffs entirely.
But with the Broncos in need of "a spark," Peyton Manning returned in the third quarter of the regular-season finale against San Diego. He has remained at quarterback ever since, playing nearly-turnover-free football that has allowed the Broncos to play to their strengths and earn their eighth consecutive AFC championship.
Manning stood atop the on-field dais after the 20-18 win Jan. 24, and much of this week's hoopla revolves around him. But if you want to understand why much of the credit for the Broncos' place in Super Bowl 50 rests at the feet of the young quarterback, look no further than his ability to lead outstanding rallies against two of the league's best teams.
"We wouldn't be here without Brock and we wouldn't be here without Peyton," Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway said. "It's been a great combination of both."
"Brock Osweiler [did] an awesome job during the time that he was in there," added Manning. "We wouldn't be here without him and the games that he played and helped us win."
But that's not how Osweiler sees it. Time and again, he has deferred. His accomplishments belong to the team, and he's only able to do what he does because of the work of his teammates. At these sentiments, Osweiler has been consistent, which has earned him the respect of players and coaches.
He acknowledges that the praise from Manning, Elway and others "means a lot to me," but he still perceives the quality of his work through the prism of the team collective.
"Those seven weeks when I was out there playing, I truly believed that we were winning as a team," Osweiler said. "It took every single guy on Sunday to get those wins, so obviously I really appreciate that compliment, but I think that's what makes this football team so special, is all year long, whether Peyton was the starter or I was the starter, we were winning as a team.
"That's what truly got us here."
And "here" is already someplace unusual, as the Broncos are just the third team among the 100 to make a Super Bowl to have two quarterbacks each start at least seven regular-season games.
Indeed, it took two to make the Broncos' 2015 season go right.
Get a look around all the action at Monday's Super Bowl Opening Night.(All photos by Eric Lars Bakke unless otherwise stated)