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When Paxton Lynch stepped in for Trevor Siemian, Broncos didn't have to change a thing

TAMPA --As Trevor Siemian rode a cart back to the locker room, Paxton Lynch stepped into a regular-season huddle for the first time.

And nothing else changed.

Gary Kubiak, Rick Dennison and Greg Knapp didn't ease up on the throttle. They didn't simplify the offense for a young quarterback whose ceiling is as high as the 50,000-foot storm clouds that built over Raymond James Stadium.

Lynch stepped into the huddle on the first play after the two-minute warning. His first pass, on third-and-7, was incomplete, but after three Bucs snaps, a pair of punts and just 35 more seconds had elapsed, he had another shot at the Denver 33-yard line with 1:19 left before halftime.

Some teams -- and some coaches -- would have called a couple of draw plays to get the team to halftime and reset.

Not the Broncos.

From the sideline, eight consecutive pass plays were called on the last drive before halftime. One ended in a sack -- but Lynch's scramble out of pressure resulted in no loss of yardage. Four ended in completions -- three of which went to Emmanuel Sanders for 16, 18 and nine yards.

As fast as the lightning strikes that would later pepper the Tampa city limits, the Broncos sprinted downfield under Lynch's direction.

Brandon McManus kicked the 38-yard field goal to cap the drive, and the Broncos would never be seriously threatened by the Bucs again in what would become a 27-7 thrashing Sunday.

"No nerves at all," Sanders said. "Paxton, he's a first-round quarterback. He comes in; he knows he can ball."

The Broncos had the same confidence with Lynch as they did with Siemian -- "of course," as Sanders amplified -- and why wouldn't they? Their experience levels aren't that much different, at least in terms of regular-season work. Both of them spent the summer showing enough to assure coaches that they didn't need an eight-year veteran as an insurance policy; the two Orlando-area kids would be all right on game days, thank you very much.

Their numbers bear that out; Lynch finished his regular-season debut with a 94.1 passer rating on 14-of-24 passing for 170 yards, while Siemian's 5-of-7 performance Sunday increased his season-long rating to 99.6.

Their success translates to the team; Denver is fifth in the league in points per game and maintained its per-possession efficiency levels Sunday, averaging 2.0 first downs and 2.25 points per non-kneeldown series. A pair of interceptions that set the Broncos up inside the Tampa Bay 30-yard line helped, but the Broncos know now they can play their game -- and play it well -- with either of their two young guns slinging the football.

"They play confident," Sanders said. "At the end of the day, we don't have any cancers in this locker room. Everybody plays for each other. We play confident. So when you come in here, you're confident."

But that confidence is also built on the practice fields where Lynch has seen second-team and scout-team work.

"He's really doing a good job," Kubiak said. "John [Elway] and I sat down and talked about it today before the game and I said 'John, I think he's really growing.'"

He's growing in part because of the trial by fire against the No. 1 defense. Even though practice isn't full contact and full speed, it was enough to prepare Lynch for what he saw Sunday.

"He's getting better and better -- especially going against us even more now," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.

"His reads were getting better. He's starting to see what we're in, pick up the reads a lot faster," Harris added later. "With him, it's just all about knowing the offense. He doesn't know the whole offense yet, so as long as we keep growing, that's all we need from him."

And that leaves the Broncos in a situation few teams have.

The Broncos have now won nine consecutive games with touchdown passes thrown by four different quarterbacks: Brock Osweiler, Peyton Manning, Siemian and, finally, Lynch. You can do that when you've built an elite team, not one that rises or falls entirely on the success of its quarterback.

"At the end of the day, you see all these undefeated teams – you look out at Minnesota, Teddy Bridgewater went down, you look out in Philly, they got a rookie quarterback [Carson Wentz] and these teams are [winning]. It's not about the quarterback position," Sanders said.

"A lot of people put emphasis on that position, but really it's about the team, it's about the chemistry, it's about the locker room, it's about the camaraderie. We have that here.

"We've got guys that play confident, play for each other, and that's what it's about."

And that's why when the Broncos are forced to change quarterbacks, they don't have to change another thing.

The Broncos defeat the Bucs, despite the rainy weather, to stay undefeated. (Photos by Eric Bakke, unless noted)

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