CHICAGO -- Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has instituted a given into the players’ schedules, one, they say, that is an opportunity for one of them to set the tone for things to come.
At some point during the week, Kubiak goes to a player and tells him he will speak at the team meeting the night before a game.
Who was Saturday night’s choice? Newly minted quarterback Brock Osweiler, front and center.
"I was kind of thinking it would be Brock," said tight end Owen Daniels, who has spent all 10 of his NFL seasons on teams Kubiak has worked for. "It is something I know [Kubiak] likes to do, and if you’ve been around him a little bit, you knew this time around he was probably going to get Brock up there. And, you know, Brock did a great job."
Preach, kid, because on Sunday, his 25th birthday, Osweiler made his first regular-season start for the Broncos. It was a start he waited 43 months to make, and he was composed and efficient as the Broncos escaped the chilled Chicago lakefront with a 17-15 victory over the Bears.
Osweiler, having been tabbed to play in place of Peyton Manning, who is working through left foot, rib and shoulder injuries, finished 20-of-27 passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas caught the first TD in the first quarter and Cody Latimer the second in the fourth quarter.
The Bears certainly opened their defensive bag of tricks to try to rattle Osweiler, and he took his share of punishment on five sacks. But in the end, Osweiler put the exclamation point on it all when he simply took a knee on the game’s final play.
"I was comfortable from the very first snap," Osweiler said. "If anything I was more anxious [Saturday] night than anything. I was just excited and ready to play football."
Osweiler’s first pass attempt was a rather tidy just-get-him-going toss to Thomas that went for eight yards. His second throw, however, turned into a 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Thomas that seemed to put Osweiler squarely in the groove for the rest of the day. And it also enabled him to live up to the words he had spoken to his teammates Saturday.
"His message was don’t worry about me," Daniels said.
Osweiler didn’t turn the ball over, the Broncos cocooned him in a run game that pounded out a season-best 170 yards rushing, and the Denver defense stopped the Bears on a potential game-tying two-point conversion with 24 seconds to play.
Osweiler called his opportunity to speak to his teammates "a special moment," and called his first start "a great team win." Osweiler’s teammates expressed, at least publicly, no surprise that things went the way they did, having seen Osweiler fill in for Manning in Wednesday practices all season.
"He’s like the nicest guy ever. He’s like super polite, but super confident," Daniels said. "We’ve been seeing him in the huddle on Wednesdays all year. It wasn’t a new thing to have him in there."
"He did what he was supposed to do. He looked like Brock Osweiler, the same Brock Osweiler we’ve been seeing all year," linebacker Von Miller said. "We see it in practice and I was confident in Brock [Sunday]."
And when Thomas was asked if he had any concerns about whether Osweiler could handle Sunday’s business at hand, he said, "None whatsoever."
The Broncos are 8-2 and say the win reasserted what they can do as a team. The 10,000-pound elephant in all of the rooms can wait, the one about what the team would do if Manning were healthy and Osweiler were still playing well.
That potential dilemma is most certainly out there. Still, the most immediate concern when the Broncos arrive to work Monday will be Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots because they’re next on the agenda.
For now, for one frigid Sunday, Osweiler was everything the Broncos thought he could be. And maybe most important of all, the guy who always has said he "hasn't wasted a single moment" as Manning's backup for 43 months showed it was time well spent.