NEW ORLEANS — **Though the ending is what everyone will remember, the beginning of the game marked the most positive sign of life for the Trevor Siemian-led offense.
For the first time since Week 4, Siemian marched the offense down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive, hitting Jordan Taylor in the end zone to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead. It was just the second time this season that they scored a touchdown on the opening drive and the third time they took the lead first.
Siemian's opening drive was statement-worthy, seemingly proving that the Broncos offense that had stagnated the last few weeks was back.
The key to the offense's early success came from a balanced attack. It finished with 103 yards on the ground and 234 more in the air. Most importantly, it stayed on the field, stringing together drives, converting first down after first down. In last week's loss to the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos were 3 for 11 on third down. Sunday night vs. the Saints? 11 for 19.
"I think we stayed on the field," Siemian said regarding the offense's performance. "We converted some big third downs, which was one of our big emphases coming into the week: Stay on the field to give us a chance to run the ball, and stay with a little more balance. I think we just ran more plays, too, so that helps. Did some good things, but again, some things we need to clean up."
The young quarterback faced pressure from the Saints' defensive front, which forced two inopportune interceptions. New Orleans sacked Siemian seven times and recorded 11 quarterback hits, which added a sense of urgency to his dropbacks.
"Our guy got hit way too much," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. "Trevor made his mistakes. I told the team just now. He made his mistakes. But boy, he hung in there like a champ and made some plays, too. It's just something we've got to improve upon up front with everything we're doing. But the kid hung in there and battled."
When the Saints swung momentum in their favor in the third quarter, Siemian responded with scoring drives of 27 and 43 yards to keep the Broncos in prime position to win a game on the road for the first time since Week 4.
"That's kind of been a staple of this team since I've been here the last two years," Siemian said of the offense's ability to respond. "Just bouncing back, overcoming negative plays. It wasn't perfect. You're going to screw it up sometimes no doubt. I've had my fair share of those. The group responded really well and turned those into points."
With 90 seconds remaining in the game, it looked like Siemian would need to string together a game-winning drive on the road after the Saints tied the game on a dazzling, 32-yard dime from Brees. But after safety Justin Simmons jumped over the line for a jaw-dropping blocked extra point returned for two points, no late-game heroics would be needed from Siemian and the offense.
Extensive drives, costly mistakes — Siemian had his ups and downs, but he did enough to help Denver get a tough road win. It may not be the memorable part of the game, but it's a part worth remembering.