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Klee: Despite what you heard, Broncos' identity still intact

By: Paul Klee
August 7, 2014 Updated: August 8, 2014 at 9:44 am
Caption +
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws downfield to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas during the first quarter Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

DENVER — When I first heard the catchy nickname for the Seahawks' new fanbase, I thought it was awesome.

The "12s," a nod of respect to the dozen Seahawks fans who existed before Pete Carroll arrived. Props, Seattle. Way to remember your roots.

Wait, what? That's not the genesis of the 12s? Our bad.

But there is no identity crisis in Seattle. The Super Bowl-champion Seahawks know who they are. Their identity is set in a stone as hard as they tackle: smash the ballcarrier, tell him about it later.

Contrary to popular opinion leading into Thursday's preseason opener against Seattle, there is no identity crisis in Denver, either. The Broncos are what they were. The most important development this offseason was how they stayed loyal to their own identity.

Despite a Super Bowl loss that shouldn't define their season but did, executive John Elway and his band of front-office decision-makers trusted their instincts and believed in what they had built.

That's a good thing.

If the objective of the game is to score more points than the opponent, why alter the offense that scored more points than any team in NFL history? The Broncos didn't dig into their wallets and make it rain on a running game that might have brought balance to Peyton Manning's offense. Instead, they signed another wide receiver (Emmanuel Sanders), drafted another wide receiver (Cody Latimer), extended a wide receiver (Bubba Caldwell) and ... yeah, well, you get it.

As for the running game? Their leading rusher, Knowshon Moreno, took his talents to South Beach. The Broncos let him walk. They didn't draft, sign or search out a replacement.

There's a sentiment out there that the Broncos should pursue a more balanced offense and rest that aging right arm attached to Old Man Quarterback.

Nah. The Broncos are who they are, a high-flying, air-it-out, 15-yards-and-no-huddle offense. They are 18's Airborne. The defense looks better, and must be better, but the defense remains a mile-high sideshow.

If the Broncos had scrapped their strength, then it's time to worry.

But the Broncos stuck with their identity, and regardless of the Super Bowl disaster, that's a good thing.

"Wide-receiver heaven," as Sanders calls it.

Thursday's preseason game said a few things about the Broncos and Seahawks, but not much. Duke product Juwan Thompson, who remains my dark horse on the depth chart, again showed he deserves a long, hard look at running back; DeMarcus Ware thundered through blockers like 2008 DeMarcus Ware; Carroll made the bizarre decision to leave his starting quarterback in a preseason game after a 45-minute lightning delay; the closest thing to a brawl arrived in the third quarter, when Seattle's Tharold Simon was ejected for slapping a Bronco.

Yeah, I've never heard of him, either. This was definitely a preseason game.

The Broncos relocated their identity in the first quarter. Manning completed 10 of 13 passes for 93 yards. The Broncos led, 7-0.

Preseason stats mean little, of course, as this shows: in a 40-10 preseason loss at Seattle last year, Manning's passer rating was 122.7. In a close game this year? 91.2.

You hated all the penalties on Thursday. The Broncos committed four in the first quarter alone. But if the NFL sticks to its points of emphasis, which include defensive holding, the Broncos stand to benefit more than any other team in the league. All those wide receivers will be free to roam, and Old Man Quarterback breaks records when his receivers are free to roam.

"(With) the new rules, we'll have to adjust," Broncos safety T.J. Ward told me during training camp. "But we can't change the way we play."

As a former Washington resident, I still have no idea where all the Seahawks fans came from. In four years there, I knew three: my roommate Goody, Goody's brother, and the guy on the couch, who usually woke up in time for the early round of kickoffs.

God bless the 12s. They are not, in fact, named after Seattle's original fans. They are considered the 12th player in the stadium.

The Seahawks and the 12s know their team's identity, and it's a championship one.

This offseason suggested the Broncos know and trust their identity, too. That's a good thing.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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