The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals faced off in the most meaningless game of the year; the fourth preseason game. Most Broncos fans were likely watching, however, as it was Paxton Lynch night.
The future of the franchise got a full game’s action to continue his accelerated development. For now Trevor Siemian is the starter, but it is only a matter of time before the investment the Broncos made in Lynch is cashed in on.
The Cardinals won the opening coin toss and elected to receive.
Matt Barkley started for the Cardinals at quarterback. The Broncos defense knocked down a pass and followed up with a Zaire Anderson run stuff to setup a third and nine. A short pass ended in fourth down and a punt for Arizona.
Khalif Raymond almost broke one, but was wrapped up after a five-yard punt return. Enter Paxton Lynch. On the first play from scrimmage, Kapri Bibbs exploded through a hole for a first down gain.
On the second play, Bibbs again exploded through a hold for seven yards. A short pass to Jordan Taylor became a 57-yard tackle-breaking touchdown pass.
Wowwwwwwwwww.— NFL (@NFL) September 2, 2016
FIFTY-SEVEN yard @Broncos TD. #DENvsAZ https://t.co/xMVtpIT04j
Broncos 7, Cardinals 0.
On the Cardinals next drive, Darius Kilgo and Dwayne Norman forced a strip-sack on Barkley. The ensuing fumble was recovered by Zaire Anderson.
Sacked.— NFL (@NFL) September 2, 2016
The is out!
That @broncos defense... #DENvsAZ https://t.co/n0zoxwTROW
Lynch completed a quick pass to Mose Frazier for a first down inside the red zone. However, two plays later the Broncos faced a third down and eight when Lynch was pressured and forced an errant throw for an incompletion.
Brandon McManus boots the field goal.
Broncos 10, Cardinals 0.
On their next drive, Barkley hit on a deep pass for a huge gain of 40 yards to set the Cardinals up at the Broncos 32-yard line. Lorenzo Doss was the man beaten on the play.
Two quick stops in the run game set the Cardinals up with a third down and a long four. However, Doss was abused again for a first-down pass to set Arizona up inside the red zone. Another first down set them up with a first and goal from the nine yard-line.
Rookie Adam Gotsis is getting pushed around as runners ripping off nice gains. Two plays later the Cardinals have a third and goal from the two yard line and what looked like was going to be a touchdown run is stuffed by a great open field tackle by Anderson and John Tidwell.
On fourth down, Tidwell was then burned on a fade route for a touchdown.
Broncos 10, Cardinals 7.
Taylor continued his breakout game with another broken tackle for a 20+ yard game. Raymond took an end around for a nice seven yard gain. On second down, Lynch fired a bullet to Frazier for a big first down as Lynch was hammered by Robert Nkemdiche.
After two short runs from Bibbs, on third down and four, Lynch sailed a pass to Frazier to end the drive. McManus shanked a 46-yard field goal to give the Cardinals excellent field possession.
The next Cardinals play ended what had been a fairly long first quarter of play.
The Cardinals seem to have figured out they have a serious advantage against the Broncos interior line as they ran the ball on the first three plays of this drive. Fortunately, an errant pass set up a third down and eight for the Cardinals near midfield.
A first down pass over the middle of the field set the Cardinals up in field goal range. Back to the ground the Cardinals went. The Broncos finally stopped them short of the first down marker, with a good stop by Shiloh Keo.
The Cardinals get their field goal, though, to tie the game at 10.
Broncos 10, Cardinals 10.
On the Broncos’ next drive Ronnie Hillman entered the game and promptly got himself a few yards on his first carry. Two plays later a botched snap ended the drive.
The Cardinals began a march right down the field, with Gotsis continuing to be abused by the offensive line. This drive wasn’t pretty to start. Fortunately, a holding call put the Cardinals back to a first and 20 at midfield, but they promptly got a 17-yard gain and got the first down on a run the very next play.
For a first quarter that would never end, the Cardinals ate up the clock with the drive. With just over 4 minutes left, Barkley hits a wide receiver on an intermediate post inside the 10-yard line to set up a first and goal.
A near interception from Norman setup a second and goal from the nine. A short run then setup a third and goal where Barkley throws into what appeared to be quadruple coverage for an incomplete pass. Cardinals kick the field goal.
Cardinals 13, Broncos 10.
Hillman was destroyed on the Broncos first snap on the next drive for a two-yard loss. He needed to have a big night to justify a roster spot, but so far it isn’t looking good for him.
Lynch misfired to Raymond on second down and on third and 12 Lynch handed off to Hillman on a draw play to end the drive. The Cardinals called a timeout with 1:48 left on the clock.
John Elway is likely regretting cutting Britton Colquitt earlier this week as Riley Dixon’s punts have been completely awful in this game.
The Cardinals next drive starts a midfield and Lorenzo Doss continues to get burned badly in coverage. The good is that Sedat Sulleyman is beating his man on every play, while Zaire Anderson continues to be in on every single play.
After a big stop on first down, the Cardinals were faced with a second and 16. A false start pushed the Cardinals back even further. A completion for 12 yards set up the Cardinals for a touchdown pass and a huge lead to enter halftime with.
Cardinals 20, Broncos 10.
The Broncos get the ball first and we were all hopeful the offensive line could somehow find a way to keep Lynch in a clean pocket for more than 1.5 seconds.
That didn’t happen on first down as Lynch was forced to take off running, but the play was promptly negated by an offensive holding call. Lynch keys in on an familiar target in Frazier for a quick 10-yard gain.
However, after a near interception, the Broncos were faced with a third and ten. Under duress yet again, Lynch was forced to immediately avoid pressure to the outside where he attempted to run for the first down. He came up three yards short to force another punt for the Broncos.
Dixon again with a terrible punt to setup the Cardinals with solid field possession at their own thirty yard line.
Enter the Cardinals running attack. The Broncos defense came up with a big stop finally, but the Cardinals attempted a 59-yard field goal that actually went through the uprights.
Because 59-yard FGs are ALWAYS awesome... #DENvsAZ https://t.co/BSZwLuMguM— NFL (@NFL) September 2, 2016
What an impressive kick that was.
Cardinals 23, Broncos 10.
Bibbs ripped off a big 20-yard gain to open up the next Broncos drive. From there it went three and out for another punt by Dixon. The punt ... was not pretty. A penalty on Arizona made the punt much better, though.
The Broncos defense stopped the Cardinals again, but once again, Doss gets burned by Jackson Shipley for a first down. He is losing his roster spot in this game.
Fortunately for the Broncos, they were able to shut down the Cardinals on the next set of downs to force a punt.
From their own six yard-line, the Broncos get things going. Lynch made his best throw of the night with an intermediate pass down the middle out to the 27 yard line. On the next play, he tucks it and ran for four yards.
Another quick dart to Fraizer brought the Broncos out past the 40-yard line. Again, Lynch hit Fraizer for a first down past midfield.
On the next play, Lynch was hit as he threw and just kind of chucked it up to Taylor who caught it down inside the red zone for a 32-yard gain. That might have been Lynch’s best throw of the game.
From the Cardinals four yard line, Bibbs was stuffed for a one-yard gain. On the next play, Lynch rolls out on a bootleg and fires a touchdown pass to Jordan Taylor.
Paxton Lynch.— NFL (@NFL) September 2, 2016
In the end zone... Again! #DENvsAZ https://t.co/jbVatX66XT
Cardinals 23, Broncos 17.
The Cardinals run their way towards midfield on their next drive to end the third quarter.
The Cardinals converted a third down on their ensuing possession, which was derailed by a holding call to setup a second down and 18. After an incompletion, a Cardinals receiver makes an incredible catch for the first down to keep the drive alive.
The Broncos defense is unable to stop the Cardinals inside the red zone as a big run setup a first and goal. An offensive passing interference call hurt the drive for the Cardinals, but Will Parks was charged for a defensive holding penalty to give the Cardinals an automatic first down.
Cardinals capitalize with a touchdown and two-point conversion.
Cardinals 31, Broncos 17.
Down by two scores, Lynch is forced into hurry-up mode with six minutes left in the game. The drive ended with a pick six and there went that dream. Trevor Siemian fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Uh oh. This @PaxtonLynch pass did not go as planned...— NFL (@NFL) September 2, 2016
PIIIIIIIIIIIICK-6! #DENvsAZ https://t.co/R5F3wby5iU
Cardinals 38, Broncos 17.
Raymond had a big kickoff return to the 45-yard line to set Lynch up with an opportunity to get something going for the Broncos. The drive was ruined by a third down sack of Lynch/
This game is clearly over.
The Cardinals took the next drive to run out the clock, but were unable to achieve that mark and had to punt away to the Broncos with less than 90 seconds left in the game.
The Broncos run the clock out from there.