ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Even if Trevor Siemian and the passing offense struggle, the Denver Broncos look as if they can run the football and boast an elite defense once again -- which could be all they need to climb back into the playoff conversation.
Siemian threw his first interception of the 2017 preseason early in the Broncos' 20-17 preseason win over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night, and it led to the only touchdown conceded by their first-team defense through the preseason -- on a 2-yard drive.
But the most promising sign for the Broncos from their third preseason game was how they ran the football -- through starter C.J. Anderson, free agent pickup Jamaal Charles and Siemian himself, who had a 16-yard scramble to keep Green Bay's defense honest.
Anderson, Charles and Siemian combined for 76 yards on 15 carries in the first half working behind the first-team offensive line, averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Their runs kept the offense on schedule and opened opportunities for the downfield passing game, which allowed Siemian to connect on four passes of 15 or more yards before leaving the game at halftime.
"That's critical for any offense to be able to run the ball and get defenses in one-high man coverage, and then it's just one-on-one (coverage)," said wide receiver Jordan Taylor, who had two of those four receptions that covered at least 15 yards. "Having this offensive line has been big. It's critical, and having this offensive line is definitely benefitting the receivers, so that's a good thing."
The performance of Charles in particular provided a boost. He carried four times for 27 yards (6.75-yard average), added 15 yards on two receptions and showed the same kind of burst he displayed during his days in Kansas City.
He also solidified his spot on the roster.
"To take the contact to find open space the way he did, he caught the ball well and his protections were good," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "I was impressed with Jamaal, and I was hoping he looked like that."
The Broncos' offense began breaking down at midseason last year when Anderson got hurt and the running game collapsed. After he sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 7, the Broncos had the league's least productive running game, and gradually, the offense crumbled, collapsing entirely by December.
If Denver can run the ball from start to finish, Siemian's prospects -- and those of the entire offense -- look far different.