DENVER — There were fights, flags and flashes in the sky that brought brought it all to a temporary standstill.
The Broncos’ 2014 debut had a little more weight behind it than most preseason games typically do, as Denver played host to a Seattle Seahawks squad that arrived at Sports Authority Field wearing Super Bowl XLVIII rings.
A mix between the NFL’s move to stricter penalty calling and emotions still looming from a Super Bowl blowout six months prior led to a foul-filled matchup Thursday night, ending with a score of Denver 21, Seattle 16, total penalties 25.
“We kind of had a feeling that type of game was coming,” coach John Fox said.
Each team showcased their starters for two possessions in front of a crowd of 68,923 under a dark sky that would later lead to a 48-minute delay due to lightning in the Denver area.
Both defenses claimed the opening drives from the other team, providing punters Britton Colquitt and Jon Ryan with their first action of the year.
On the ensuing drive, quarterback Peyton Manning led a scoring drive that outlasted any Denver possession from the 2013 season, which kept the offense on the field for 9:09 as it covered 61 yards over 14 plays. It was capped off with a punch-in from the 1-yard line from running back Ronnie Hillman, who started the game in place of an injured Montee Ball (appendix).
Before exiting the game in the second quarter, Manning picked up 78 yards, completing 10 of his 13 pass attempts. His main target was wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who reeled in five of the six plays thrown his way for 52 yards.
“Being able to come back and put up some good football, we have some work to do, but it’s good being back,” Thomas said. “It was good because the last time we played them we didn’t do so well.”
Denver received yet another blow at the running back position in the second half when C.J. Anderson, who currently sits third on the Broncos’ depth chart, suffered a concussion that forced him to head to the locker room for the night.
Rookie Juwan Thompson filled his void, ending the night with a team-high 59 rushing yards on six attempts. Hillman and former Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs, who carried the ball into the end zone from 3 yards out in the third quarter, accounted for two of Denver’s three touchdowns.
“I knew my spot in line and once I saw C.J. go out, I was ready,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t really nerve-wracking or anything. It’s preseason and I knew I was up next, so I went and did what I needed to do.”
Backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor took most of the snaps for Seattle, leading Seahawks in both passing (137) and rushing (28) yards. At the front of Seattle’s receiving corps was former Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson, picking up 37 yards on four catches.
“You have to feel blessed just to be out here in this situation. And knowing P-Rich, another Colorado guy, is out here doing work is pretty cool too,” Bibbs said. “It reminded me of the Rocky Mountain Showdown seeing him do good on this field for the other team.”