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Brock Osweiler comes off bench, leads Broncos to win


Brock Osweiler came off the bench to generate three touchdowns, leading the Denver Broncos (5-9) to a 25-13 comeback victory over the Indianapolis Colts (3-11) in Week 15. Here's what we learned during Thursday night's action:

1. It's fair to wonder if Trevor Siemian has started his last game for Denver. The recently reinstated starting quarterback gave way to Osweiler after sustaining a left shoulder injury on a first-quarter sack by Barkevious Mingo. General manager John Elway's primary directive for 2018 is to find a franchise quarterback after cycling through Siemian, Osweiler and Paxton Lynch in a lost season, Broncos sources recently confirmed to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Although the team's brass once harbored high hopes for Siemian as a diamond in the rough, former coach Gary Kubiak's pet project has been done in by durability issues and persistent struggles in the face of defensive pressure. Even with the 2016 first-round investment in Lynch, Elway is expected to take an aggressive approach at the game's most important position as his Super Bowl window threatens to slam shut. Will Elway take another dip into the Manning well, making a run at the eminently available Eli next offseason?

2. Thanks to the sterling performance from Osweiler in relief, coach Vance Joseph is building on the momentum provided by last week's shutout victory over the Jets. The Broncos are giving the embattled first-year coach the benefit of the doubt for next season, Rapoport added Thursday, but the team's brass is keeping a watchful eye on its performance in the final month. To that end, Joseph should be earning a modicum of leeway entering next week's matchup versus the injury-ravaged Redskins.

3. Chuck Pagano's coaching staff, on the other hand, understands there is a very real chance that general manager Chris Ballard will opt to clean house in response to the Colts' first losing season since cratering to a league-worst 2-14 record in 2011. Pagano's troops collapsed yet again in the second half of Thursday's game, marking the seventh blown halftime lead of 2017. For those keeping score in Indy, the NFL single-season record is eight.

4. A cancer survivor, Pagano has maintained an admirable sense of perspective over his career prospects after generating a 52-42 record in six seasons with Indianapolis. Where might owner Jim Irsay turn for Pagano's successor? Keep an eye on Andy Reid's recently promoted play-caller Matt Nagy, who worked with Ballard in Kansas City. Nagy comes with a glowing endorsement from Reid, who has told SiriusXM NFL Radio's Adam Caplan that his current offensive coordinator is the best head coaching prospect he's had in the past two decades.

5. As much promise as the strong-armed Jacoby Brissett has flashed in highlight recaps, the Colts' stand-in starting quarterback has a fatal flaw: Reluctant to pull the trigger, he holds the ball too long, contributing to one of the highest sack rates in history. Brissett's attack entered Week 15 ranked a disappointing 31st in Football Outsiders' offensive efficiency metrics as well as drive success rate. Expect Brissett to head back to the bench in 2018, as Irsay recently assured Rapoport that there is no second surgery planned for Andrew Luck's throwing shoulder.

6. Four days after a bloodied and black-and-blue Frank Gore toted the ball 36 times in a Buffalo blizzard, the ageless grinder joined Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith as the only players in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 12 consecutive seasons.

7. Siemian wasn't the only player to suffer an injury Thursday night. Colts backup tight end Brandon Williams was transported to a local hospital after suffering a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit on special teams. The former college basketball player avoided damage to his neck and later returned to Lucas Oil Stadium after undergoing evaluation, Pagano said.

8. Ballard is collecting former basketball stars at tight end. In addition to Williams and former University of Miami small forward Erik Swoope (injured reserve, knee), the Colts recently claimed intriguing prospect Ross Travis off waivers from Ballard's old team in Kansas City. A rebounding leader at Penn State, Travis stands 6-foot-7, has clocked a 4.60-second 40-yard dash and looked smooth in corralling two passes for 33 yards against Denver's defense.

9. Fantasy leaguers will want to keep tabs on the statuses of wideouts T.Y. Hilton and Emmanuel Sanders entering the championship windows of Weeks 16 and 17. Hilton spent the second half flexing his left hand after sustaining an injury early in the game. After roaring out to a strong start with 61 yards in the first half, Sanders missed the final quarter and a half with a right ankle injury.

10. Cody Latimer has flashed big-play potential since overtaking Bennie Fowler as Denver's No. 3 receiver over the past month. The 2014 second-round pick picked up extra snaps with Sanders sidelined in the second half, hauling in a touchdown and a two-point conversion versus Indianapolis' shaky secondary. The Broncos appear willing to give Latimer one final chance to make a lasting impression before he reaches free agency in March.


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