The Broncos expected Peyton Manning to find a rhythm, and he did. What they -- and Manning himself -- didn't project was his ability to send a pass off a defender's hands into those of the intended receiver.
"In some ways maybe I've gotten even better; now I have the ability to throw the ball in a linebacker's hands and tip it to my own player," deadpanned Manning about his completion to TE Jacob Tamme, his first as a Denver Bronco, who routed the Bears 31-3.
Manning completed three more passes in succession Thursday night against the Bears before an incompletion and an interception ended his 4-fo-7, 44-yard night on a down note. The interception -- a pass for Brandon Stokley that was tipped by Chicago's D.J. Moore into the hands of Major Wright -- was not the quarterback's fault, Stokley admitted.
"I didn't run a great route and the guy (Moore) made a pretty good play and tipped it up in the air," Stokley said. "It wasn't his fault; it was more my fault with the route that I ran."
Manning was upset for a moment, but that's what happens in the preseason -- especially one with new surroundings and new teammates. But there was little negative about Manning's one series: he got the Broncos into the red zone; he targeted five different pass catchers; he wasn't touched by Bears pass rushers.
"It didn't look like he missed a beat, being out all last year," said WR Eric Decker.
Beyond Manning: Denver's defense was dominant, not allowing the Bears to cross midfield until the two-minute warning of the first half, then immediately shoving them back with a sack by rookie Derek Wolfe. Before the fourth quarter, Chicago only ran two plays in Denver territory.
In the battle to back up Manning, Brock Osweiler appeared to take the lead. He played the third quarter and looked composed, completing 4 of 7 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown to Jason Hill. Osweiler's best throw might have been a perfect strike to TE Virgil Green on a smooth rollout, but Green dropped the pass.
Caleb Hanie played part of the first and all of the second quarters; he was under siege and sacked three times, but he also directed a 57-yard touchdown drive.
Adam Weber mopped up the game by going 2 of 5 in fourth-quarter work with a 25-yard touchdown pass to TE Cornelius Ingram. It was Weber's most extended action as a pro; he only threw one pass the entire preseason as a rookie last year.
"It's good for him personally confidence-wise, and two, he's building a resume," said Decker, a teammate of Weber's at the University of Minnesota from 2007-09.
Sitting out: In addition to the players who didn't make the trip, the Broncos held out OT Ryan Harris, RB Ronnie Hillman, OG Chris Kuper, LB D.J. Williams and TE Julius Thomas. Williams didn't even suit up for the game; he watched in a T-shirt and warmup pants, continuing a summer of inactivity in which he hasn't played one snap in team or 7-on-7 work.