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Broncos beat Packers in exhibition opener that features fight, proposal

Von terrific, Siemian rebounds, Menelik proposes
Broncos beat Packers in exhibition opener that features fight, proposal
Posted at 9:55 PM, Aug 26, 2017

DENVER -- Von Miller never appeared during early warmups Saturday night. He failed to shimmy his way out of the tunnel with headphones hiding his ears and a smile covering his face. Had the Broncos reconsidered after watching New England's Julian Edelman (knee) and Kansas City's Spencer Ware (knee) suffer serious injuries?

Nope.

Miller was down for whatever, and bathed in the loudest applause as the last starter introduced against the Green Bay Packers. Miller played three series, netted a sack, and delivered slick "Sexy T-Rex" dance steps, following the script. The offense, meanwhile, continues to require an edit, the first string producing an uneven performance behind anointed starter Trevor Siemian, whose backup Paxton Lynch exited with a right shoulder injury in the third quarter.

The Broncos showed fight -- the best, oddly, between linebacker Todd Davis and Aqib Talib in a pushing match that bled into the sidelines before the parties finally calmed down. And they displayed love -- right tackle Menelik Watson successfully proposed to his girlfriend -- in a weird game the Broncos won 20-17 to remain unbeaten in the exhibition season.

"I knew I wasn't going to play much. So it was great to get a sack and play with the guys. It was a simple dance. Everyone can do it at home," said Miller of a dance that he said should be showing up on Jimmy Kimmel Live soon. "You have to be fearless. This is the game I love and do. I am doing something I love."

Love is not emotion that has been associated with the Broncos' offense since the salad days of Peyton Manning (He hung out on the field after the game with his twins).

The Broncos' O draws comparisons to Virginia Woolf's spider web. It is attached ever so slightly perhaps, attached to life at all four corners. Denver fancies itself as a playoff contender. But the Broncos return to the postseason is hard to reconcile with a two-pronged trident of defense and kicker Brandon McManus.

The offense needs to show more (and Jamaal Charles did his part, appearing to make the team with his burst and effectiveness). The end of the first quarter brought optimism. Siemian led the first of two scoring drives, as the Broncos tied the score at 10 at half. Siemian's performance reflected the group. Big moments sans consistency. 

With Denver trailing 3-0, Siemian, unable to step up in the pocket, overthrew Demaryius Thomas on an awful interception to Packers cornerback Josh Hawkins. Only a hustling Emmanuel Sanders prevented the 42-yard return from becoming a pick six. A touchdown soon followed, putting the Broncos offense on notice.

After a forgettable start -- 5-for-11 with an interception -- Siemian found his rhythm. He completed eight of next 11 passes. It included a 20-yard, third-down conversion to Jordan Taylor and a scramble for 16 yards.

"The pick stunk and a couple other plays I'd like to do over," said Siemian, who finished 13-for-22 for 127 yards. "It's good to kind of get into the flow of the game. I like where we are at. We have two good weeks of work before we get ready to play the (Los Angeles) Chargers."

For those asking -- I know you are -- coach Vance Joseph believes Lynch's shoulder injury is minor. He will undergo an MRI on Sunday. Sources close to Lynch were also hopeful it was not serious. As a result of the optimism, Joseph made it clear Siemian remains the starter followed by Lynch, not the people's choice, Kyle Sloter.

During Siemian's time, Charles displayed the type of burst that will make him a lock for the 53-man roster. He finished with 27 yards rushing on four attempts and caught two passes for 15 yards. He made an awkward cut, but his right knee (with no brace) held up. Charles exited briefly, but passed concussion protocol and returned. He didn't look like a player on the bubble. He looked like a player who could burst a defense's bubble.

"I thought Jamaal was impressive," Joseph said. "I was hoping he'd look like that tonight."

It was a strange night. The defense held the Packers to 95 first-half yards. But a third-down stop late in the second quarter turned ugly. Linebacker Todd Davis halted the drive, then took exception to a Packer jawing at him. Cornerback Aqib Talib attempted to diffuse the situation and didn't go well. Davis and Talib pushed each other, and yelled as they returned to the sideline. Teammates and coaches separated them. Miller arrived to unplug the electricity. After several minutes, it passed. Defensive end Derek Wolfe tweeted, "Just a scuffle, no big deal we are all brothers."

"It was a miscommunication," Talib said. "That's it."

Davis took the exchange more personally. Once pushed he pushed back. It took a conversation with Joseph to simmer down.

"I am a very passionate. As a man, I fight back. But with Aqib, we are brothers," Davis said. "You might fight. But you squash that and move on. And that's what we did."

While animosity can be treated with words, injuries remain more complicated. Lynch left with a shoulder injury after a headfirst slide on a scramble. He headed to the locker room, and never returned. Sloter, who went 4-for-7 for 49 yards, replaced him and threw a 21-yard perfect scoring strike to Hunter Sharp. While Sloter has shown well, if Lynch is sidelined, the Broncos might have to add a veteran quarterback. As of now, that's not the plan. 

Defensive end Zach Kerr left with a knee injury, leg whipped during a run play. He had been playing his best football. He walked off under his own power.

"Of course I am concerned because I have never had a knee injury. But the X-Ray showed no bone damage, so I am optimistic," Kerr told Denver7. "I will get an MRI on Sunday and go from there."

Safety Will Parks exited with a hip pointer. The Broncos are already hurting at the position with T.J. Ward out until the regular season with a right hamstring issue. 

Leave it to Watson, an effervescent Brit who had a nice block on C.J. Anderson's touchdown run, to lighten the mood. He proposed to his girlfriend Azania Stewart during the third quarter. He took a knee as she peered down from the railing overlooking the field. She said yes. Always a plus. And didn't require a look-under-the-hood review.

"I thought, why not? It would be great for me and her to have each other," said Watson, who surprised the team with his move.

Added Siemian, "That was very cool. We were joking about it. None of us had any idea. I can't say I was expecting that or have seen that before. But, I am happy for both of them obviously."

Lost in injuries, interceptions, dust-ups and proposals, the Broncos had multiple players show out. Charles should have a roster spot.

"It felt exciting to me. Like my first job today. I felt like a Bronco today," Charles said. "It's a new beginning."

And defensive lineman Shelby Harris continued his dominance as he pushes to make the team. He finished with a team-high seven tackles and three sacks, making it likely he's safe on cutdown day.

"That's not up to me to decide. Hopefully, I did do enough," Harris said. "Things just fall into place. It's special here." 

In the end, the Broncos showed promise. Von Miller remains arguably the best defender in the game. But this team's potential remains clouded in the unknown.

Barrett's back (Almost)

Any doubt Shaquil Barrett continues to make real progress evaporated during pregame drills. He participated in warmups, leaving him in position to play in the season opener on Sept. 11. Barrett told Denver7 on Thursday that his hip has responded well to increased activity. He began practicing this week, and has had no setbacks.

"It feels great," Barrett said. 

The Broncos will scour the waiver-wire for pass rushing depth even with Barrett's trajectory. There's no timetable yet on Shane Ray. He underwent surgery on his left wrist, with the hope he would return on Sept. 23 at Buffalo. However, Von Miller reminded that a pass rusher can't perform without full strength to grab defenders, so it remains possible Ray will need more time to heal.

Footnotes

Brandon Marshall stood behind his teammates during the national anthem, but told Denver7 he was not making any type of statement. ... The Broncos players watched the last half of the Connor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight in the locker room. It was rowdy, and the room exploded in noise when Mayweather won by TKO. ... Receiver Demaryius Thomas said he had a sore hamstring, but was not worried. He left the game as a precaution. ... As noted, Kerr, bidding for playing time, exited with a right knee injury. He appeared to get his leg whipped by a Broncos player who was blocked into him. The Broncos remain thin at defensive end. Derek Wolfe tweeted that he's "close" to full health after suffering a nasty right ankle sprain. He should start in the season opener along with Jared Crick, who began doing mobility as his back spasms subsided. The Broncos are likely to look for help and depth at outside linebacker when cuts begin next Friday. ... The Broncos are expected to make their 37 cuts down to 53 over two days, next Friday and Saturday. ... Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made friends with the locals, hiding tickets for Saturday's game at the 16th Street Mall.