DENVER --The Broncos advanced to 3-0 in the preseason with a 20-17 win over the Green Bay Packers, but the scoreline was secondary compared to some other storylines from the Broncos' first home game of any kind since New Year's Day.
What did we learn Saturday night?
JAMAAL CHARLES LOOKS READY TO GO**
When Charles walked into the pop-up medical tent late in the second quarter, a nervous murmur worked its way through Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It wasn't just that Charles was being evaluated for a concussion, but it was also that he had gone into the tent after he briefly wobbled in the open field.
"I was trying to read the tackle and everything, so I ended up cutting it the other way, and I couldn't stay on my feet quite well, and as you know I had a heavy blow right there," Charles said. "[But] it wasn't my knee. You should have seen the hit!"
No matter what, it was a nervous moment not just out of obvious concern for Charles on a human level, but on a football level, as well. In his first half of preseason work as a Bronco, he showed the burst, speed and all-around awareness that made him one of the league's best running backs during nine seasons with the Chiefs. His final stat line of 27 yards on four carries and 15 yards on two receptions only hinted at the electricity he brought.
Charles emerged from the tent none the worse for the wear. He was cleared to return and quickly went back to work. Immediately after re-entering the game, he provided a block on Packers linebacker Nick Perry to prevent a sack; that allowed Trevor Siemian to step away from a 2-yard scramble that kept the offense on schedule. He caught two receptions on that drive, helping the Broncos to a game-tying field goal just before halftime.
"I thought Jamaal was impressive," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "He hadn't played football in almost a year and a half. So to take the contact, to find open space the way he did, he caught the ball well, his protections were good -- so I was impressed with Jamaal.
"I was hoping he looked like that tonight, so I was pleased."
SO DOES VON MILLER**
Von Miller only played three series, but he made them count.
He was his usual self: quick off the edge, strong against the run and in the pass rush, and, finally, unblockable -- even when a second Green Bay blocker tried to provide help to the right tackle as he burst into the backfield and in front of Aaron Rodgers on a third-and-7 from the Denver 23-yard line.
Miller got the sack that stopped the Packers' drive and forced them to settle for a 52-yard Mason Crosby field goal midway through the first quarter. He played one more series and was done, having showed his readiness.
"He had two third-down rushes and one sack, so it was pretty special," Joseph said.
C.J. ANDERSON, GROUND GAME SHOWS POP**
What was most promising about the ground game was that Anderson and Charles worked with equal effectiveness and versatility. Both were quick through the holes and both were strong in pass protection.
"It's going to be a nice duo -- to have two Pro Bowlers in the backfield together," Charles said. "There's people doubting me and him and not giving us [any] respect, but we just want to fly underneath the radar and be quiet about it."
Anderson's 16-yard touchdown run was also an example of outstanding team blocking. Matt Paradis, Max Garcia and Menelik Watson all delivered key blocks on Anderson's run, with Paradis and Garcia sealing the inside and Watson sealing the edge. Anderson sprinted through the hole for his second touchdown of the preseason.
Anderson finished the game with 31 yards on nine carries and another seven yards on two receptions.
SLOTER STEPS IN AGAIN**
Kyle Sloter wasn't expecting to play Saturday night, but a bruised right shoulder suffered by Paxton Lynch early in the third quarter forced the rookie into the lineup.
Sloter nearly had one pass intercepted, but also threw a touchdown pass to Hunter Sharp, delivering a perfectly placed 21-yard pass near the right pylon that Sharp caught despite pass interference against Green Bay cornerback Lenzy Pipkins.
The rookie finished the night with 49 yards on 4-of-7 passing with no interceptions.
"He played well again, and I've been impressed with Kyle," Joseph said. "He's been really solid through camp and through the three games we've played, but he stands where he stands."
And that is as the No. 3 quarterback behind Siemian and Lynch. If Lynch cannot play Thursday against the Cardinals, Sloter will "probably" play the entire game; if Lynch is available, the two quarterbacks will split the work, with each passer playing a half, Joseph said.
SHELBY HARRIS HELPS D-LINE DEPTH PASS ANOTHER TEST**
Zach Kerr's first-quarter knee injury dealt yet another blow to a position group that has already absorbed a season-ending injury to Billy Winn and training-camp injuries to Derek Wolfe and Jared Crick.
But even without those key pieces, the Broncos got quality work from Adam Gotsis and Shelby Harris, who was forced into extensive play because of Kerr's injuries. Gotsis posted an 8-yard sack of Packers quarterback Brett Hundley and three tackles, while Harris notched three sacks, another tackle for a loss and six total tackles.
"Shelby's been solid, from OTAs to training camp to the last three games, he's been playing really well," Joseph said. "Shelby is an ascending player right now."
Harris' final sack ended the Packers' last-gasp drive with five seconds left in regulation to seal the win and confirmed the glimpses of brilliance Harris showed during training camp.
"I think you see his hustle, his determination in practice," inside linebacker Todd Davis said. "So when he comes out here and makes these plays, you kind of expect it. You kind of see what he's been able to do. So like I said, I'm excited for him this year. He's going to be a great addition to this defense."