<
>

Quarterback Trevor Siemian least of Broncos' worries in victory

DENVER -- For all of the furrowed brows and hand-wringing about what the Denver Broncos would do at quarterback and if Trevor Siemian was up to the task, turns out the 24-year-old was not the Broncos’ biggest worry after all.

It doesn’t mean Siemian didn’t go through some nationally televised growing pains. But in the Super Bowl rematch, the kid made mistakes, bounced back and helped the Broncos to a 21-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds.

The Panthers certainly found more creases in the first half against the Broncos' defense than they did at any point seven months ago in the Super Bowl. The result was a 17-7 lead at halftime with 210 yards of offense from the Panthers. But one of the reasons Broncos coach Gary Kubiak selected Siemian as the team’s quarterback was his composure after a mistake, his ability to stay within the game plan and be productive. He proved it again Thursday, this time on the biggest stage he has been on in his football life.

Siemian's second interception of the game, a rather immature offering in the third quarter when he didn’t set his feet and underthrew an open Emmanuel Sanders, was the Broncos' third turnover. The Broncos followed with an ugly three-and-out, but then they found out a little something about their new quarterback.

Siemian gathered himself, went 6-for-6 passing on the next possession, added an 11-yard scramble for a first down and closed the deal with a 25-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Anderson. Denver's offense scored again the next time it touched the ball -- converting a fourth-and-1 from the Panthers’ 2-yard line -- to get a 21-17 lead with 9 minutes, 26 seconds to play. It turned out to be just enough for the Broncos to open the season with yet another tip-of-the-fingernails victory.

Overall, Kubiak kept his word about the whole thing. He said Siemian would be given some “freedom" to throw the ball in tight situations. And Siemian asked to run a full-blown game plan, not some bubble-wrapped affair that would protect him.

Kubiak said, if the Broncos gave Siemian enough help, there was reason to believe the young quarterback could be successful, After all, Siemian has consistently impressed teammates with his demeanor and composure in a tension-filled competition to win the job in the first place.

Kubiak and the Broncos also expected some mistakes; making a first career start against a defense like the Panthers' is a lot to ask of any quarterback. But the night was about confidence, from the moment the Broncos let Siemian throw on the first five plays of the game.

This is a team that won 11 games by seven or fewer points last season -- regular season and playoffs combined -- with a defensive formula and some resiliency when needed. While Siemian played just one snap in 2015, he showed he was paying attention the whole time.