Osweiler starts as Broncos try to stop slide against Bears
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Denver Broncos were rolling not too long ago even though Peyton Manning looked more like a quarterback ready for retirement than an all-time great.
He got benched last week and will sit this one out because of a variety of injuries.
Brock Osweiler will make his first career start as the Broncos visit the Chicago Bears in their first game against former coach John Fox and Jay Cutler on Sunday.
“Certainly it is a dream come true, but I kind of put that aside as of last night and I’m just treating this week like a normal work week,” said Osweiler, who recalled watching John Elway and Jake Plummer growing up in Kalispell, Montana. “I have a job to do and this team has a job to do.”
That job is to help the AFC West-leading Broncos (7-2) get back to winning against the improving Bears (4-5).
Denver won its first seven before this slide. And it’s not hard to believe Fox and Cutler might take a little extra satisfaction if the losing streak reaches three.
A preseason game aside, this will be Cutler’s first appearance against the Broncos since they traded him to Chicago in 2009.
Fox split with the Broncos in January, ending a four-year tenure that produced a 46-18 regular-season record. The Broncos won the AFC West every year and reached a Super Bowl. But they also got outscored 150-66 in final games.
“It was a good run,” Fox said. “I was there four years. I thank Mr. (Pat) Bowlen for the opportunity. Now, my life’s changed and I’m here. It’s a big game for both teams, I’m sure.”
Here are some things to look for:
OSWEILER’S OPPORTUNITY: The idea that the Broncos might be better off with their backup rather than a five-time MVP would seem absurd.
Then again, Manning leads the league with 17 interceptions and has a career-worst 67.6 passer rating. He got pulled against Kansas City last week after throwing almost as many interceptions (four) as completions (five), and he will miss this game because of a throbbing left foot, aching right shoulder and sore ribs.
That means the 6-foot-8 Osweiler will celebrate his 25th birthday Sunday by making the first start of his career.
“He can make all the throws,” said Bears cornerback Tracy Porter, who played for Denver in 2012. “He can throw the deep ball, he can throw the deep outs.”
Osweiler showed some promise last week, completing 14 of 24 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown with one interception. The Arizona State product has thrown for 305 yards over 15 NFL games.
EVEN UP: The Bears have a chance to pull to .500 after back-to-back wins, including last week’s 37-13 blowout at St. Louis, and are even thinking about an NFC wild-card spot.
That’s something that was hard to envision after an 0-3 start.
GROUNDED: Denver’s ground game stalled the past two weeks on the heels of back-to-back games against Cleveland and Green Bay with more than 150 yards rushing.
The Broncos ran for 69 yards against Kansas City after managing just 35 the previous week against Indianapolis. It didn’t help that they trailed early in both games, with the Colts up 17-0 in the second quarter and the Chiefs leading 10-0 through the first period.
“If we’re going to get back to playing the way we had played there for a couple of weeks against Green Bay and Cleveland, it’s going to start with us finding some effective ways to run the ball,” coach Gary Kubiak said.
STANDING THEIR GROUND: The Bears held their own against a fierce defense last week and they’re about to go up against another.
The Broncos come in allowing a league-low 277.3 yards. They’re tops in the NFL with 32 sacks, with DeMarcus Ware (6 1/2) and Von Miller (five) leading the way.
Chicago had the right plan against the Rams, using screens and committing to the run against a team leading the NFC in sacks. The Rams took Jay Cutler down twice, but he also threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns while completing 19 of 24 passes. His 151 rating was a career high, and Zach Miller and Jeremy Langford turned short passes into touchdowns of 87 and 83 yards, respectively. The Bears also had 153 yards rushing on 37 attempts.
LANGFORD’S LOOK: Langford has been doing a good job filling in for the injured Matt Forte (knee) the past two games.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State, the rookie has 324 scrimmage yards (145 rushing, 179 receiving) with three TDs (two rushing, one receiving) over past two games.