After plenty of conversation about how coach Gary Kubiak would mesh his version of the West Coast offense with what quarterback Peyton Manning has done through the years, the Broncos' initial regular-season outing -- a 19-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens -- looked a lot more like what Manning has done.
The Broncos ran no-huddle, pushed the pace, put Manning in the shotgun and worked out of three- and four-wide receiver sets more than they did out of two-tight end or two-back looks. All attributes they showed in Manning's three previous seasons with the Broncos.
"I think the tempo was more Peyton's tempo," Broncos tight end Owen Daniels said. "We were running our plays for the most part, what we've done previously in Kubiak's offense. The tempo, which we want to do here, we want to keep it uptempo and wear those guys out."
The Broncos lined Manning up in the shotgun 48 times in 76 total snaps on offense -- penalties included -- and through three quarters had already lined up with three or four wide receivers in the formation 43 times. That was not a muscle-up, grind-it-out look that some may have thought the Broncos would use.
Manning threw 40 times, which even last season, when he threw 597 passes, would have been the seventh-highest total of the year. And the Broncos finished with just 25 carries -- 12 each for C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, to go with one for Manning when he was tackled for a 1-yard loss.
"We're going to keep grinding, try to play better on offense," Manning said. " ... That would certainly be our objective."
The question now becomes, with the short turnaround for Thursday night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, if the Broncos made those choices because they believed it was best to try to spread out a stout Ravens defense or if they believed it would settle Manning in more quickly to play the way they did.
In the end, the Ravens created problems throughout as the Broncos rushed for just 69 yards and Manning finished without a touchdown pass for the third time in his last five regular-season games. He did not have a touchdown pass last Dec. 7 against the Buffalo Bills or in the regular-season finale Dec. 28 against the Oakland Raiders.
"I've got to help him out better," Kubiak said. "Obviously, we've got to play better than we did offensively. Whether it's run or pass, it doesn't matter, but he kept battling and had us in the right situations there at the end of the game and made some big third downs. That's part of this league -- got to keep battling, but we've always got to get better."
The Broncos took solace on a difficult offensive day in that their opening drive went 15 plays and that their game-closing drive went 17 plays. That fourth-quarter game-clincher went 81 yards and took 10:56 off the clock.
Both of those drives did end in field goals--– two of Brandon McManus' four in the game -- and neither totally assuaged the discomfort that seemed to be around the offense overall. Especially with Manning suffering his first four-sack game since Oct. 20, 2013, in a 39-33 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
And now in the last 20 possessions with Manning at quarterback -- nine in two preseason appearances to go with 11 Sunday -- the Broncos have yet to score a touchdown with the new playbook.
"I think everybody's looking for these summaries of our offense and our team after Week 1 and I just don't think you're able to do that, it's Week 1," Manning said. "Work in progress if you're looking for a catchy headline for your little article or whatever you're doing, we're trying to get better every single week, what's another cliche' I can think of? Chip away?"
Added Kubiak: "Obviously, we've got to get that done, but I sure am excited about the fact that we won [Sunday]." That's what matters -- finding a way to win. We played a great football team. ... They played a great game just as well as we did, but we found a way to win. That's the most important thing."