The Denver Broncos came into their preseason finale hoping to continue seeing progression from Chad Kelly and some improvement from Paxton Lynch. They got both.
Kelly struggled early on, but started to shake off those struggles for some quality drives late in the first half, while Lynch went hog wild for the best game of his career to leading the Broncos to a 21-10 victory.
Denver finished the preseason an even 2-2 and will take on the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 action when the regular season begins next week.
The Broncos received the ball first with Adam Jones returning the opening kickoff out to the 22-yard line to give Chad Kelly his first crack as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
De’Angelo Henderson took the first two downs to get seven yards, where Kelly in the shotgun looked to River Cracraft in the flat for a 12-yard catch and run. However, the drive continued to be powered by Henderson who take his next two runs for 14 more yards and another fresh set of downs.
Another short pass from Kelly to Jordan Leslie went for seven yards. Then running back David Williams took a hand-off for the first down. Williams took another run for four yards then Kelly scrambled for four more. On third and two, Kelly held the ball too long and forced Billy Turner into a hold that setup a third and long.
Out of the gun from the Cardinals 36-yard line, Kelly looked short over the middle in double coverage that was intercepted and returned for 21-yards. Cracraft probably could have caught the ball, but wasn’t looking for the ball for some reason.
Mike Glennon came out to start for the Cardinals on their first drive from the Broncos 45-yard line. The Broncos defense stiffened after giving up one first down. Tramaine Brock made a solid tackle for a short gain on a pass to setup a third and five from the Broncos 30-yard line.
Cornerback C.J. Smith in coverage was burned over the middle to setup a first and goal for the Cardinals.
From the 3-yard line, Will Parks came up to stuff the first run play for one yard. However, a quick slant on the next play put the Cardinals up 7-0 with a Glennon touchdown pass.
The Broncos next drive started out a bit stale as well. On third and seven, Kelly kept things nice and safe with an underneath throw well short of the first down marker to end the drive.
The first quarter came to an end with the Cardinals drive ended with Su’a Cravens flying in like a missile to make a tackle to setup a third down.
Three more.#DENvsAZ pic.twitter.com/mWiNCTt09b— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 31, 2018
The Broncos defense stiffened on third down to force a punt. C.J. Smith was in on coverage and was beaten on the play, but Glennon overthrew his wide receiver.
Adam Jones on the punt return over Isaiah McKenzie. The punt return was for a few yards, but a block in the back penalty on Josey Jewell pushed the Broncos back to their own 10-yard line.
At times in this half, Josey Jewell has looked like the best player on the field. His ability to diagnose plays as they develop is preternatural and will only get better as he gets into the more focused game plans of regular seasons to come.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) August 31, 2018
Kelly’s problems continued on the next drive, but on first and 15 he would fire a bullet for a 20-yard gain to Jordan Leslie. The referee tacked on a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer to get the Broncos well out of the shadow of their own end zone at their own 35-yard line.
The drive would stall and Marquette King would send the ball back to the Cardinals with a 42-yard punt.
After a three and out by the Cardinals, Kelly seemed like he was finally settling in. He hit Mark Chapman on a quick 15-yard gain to open up the next drive. Two plays later, a quick toss to De’Angelo Henderson went for 12-yards.
Kelly hit Tim Patrick for another first down down to the Cardinals 35-yard line. Kelly then hit Leslie on a perfect throw down to the Cardinals 15-yard line for another first down.
Two plays later on third and four, Kelly hit Patrick right in the gut but the ball popped free for the incompletion.
Brandon McManus would boot a 27-yard field goal to get the Broncos on the board trailing the Cardinals 7-3.
The Cardinals followed up their three and out with a quick first down and a punt to send the ball right back to Chad Kelly and the Broncos with just under two minutes left in the first half.
From their own 15-yard line, Kelly made two quick completions to get the offense out to the 30 before using their first timeout. A poor snap that was fumbled almost brought disaster, but Kelly fired a deep pass down the field to Tim Patrick that was just barely over thrown for an incompletion.
A short completion to Chapman setup a third and three where Kelly hit Matt LaCosse who was unable to get his feet down in bounds to bring out the punting unit.
The first half ended on a monster sack by Jeff Holland who was held on the play.
One half remains in our 2018 preseason.#DENvsAZ pic.twitter.com/1xzY8EZWr4— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 31, 2018
The Arizona Cardinals received the ball first to start the second half. Chad Kandoff took over the quarterback position for the Cardinals and led them to a quick three and out to setup Paxton Lynch with excellent field position to start his first offensive series for the night.
Lynch’s first throw went out into the flat where the receiver took it seven yards for a manageable second down. David Williams took the ball for two yards and on third down and one Williams inched over the first down line.
The big play for Lynch finally happened on his next throw as he hit John Diarse outside for a short pass who then turned it up field for a 21-yard gain.
Lynch tucked and ran on the next series for a quick five yards, but Lynch was obliterated up the middle for a sack on an attempted play-action call. The offensive line was Swiss cheese on that play. He kept it nice and safe on third and 11 with a short out route completion to River Cracraft for four yards and a field goal attempt from McManus that he would turn into a 46-yard conversion to put the Broncos down 7-6 early in the third quarter.
The Broncos defense continued to frustrate the Cardinals offense with another stuff series and a punt. It’s shaping up to give Lynch plenty of opportunities to give talent evaluators around the league some hope.
Lynch kept the short, quick strikes going with a 2 yard pass to Isaiah McKenzie who turned it up field for a 16-yard gain and a first down. Henderson continued his solid game with an eight yard run on the next play to the Cardinals 42-yard line. He almost broke free again on a short pass outside that he was able to drag the defender to the first down marker, coming up just short. On third and inches, Henderson finished the job.
Dave Williams ripped off 13-yards on the next play to put the Broncos well within field goal range. Two plays later on third and one from the Cardinals 16-yard line, Lynch rolled outside to fire a perfect pass to Jordan Leslie for the touchdown to put the Broncos up 12-7.
Paxton Lynch ➡️ @Jles9 for 6! #DENvsAZ pic.twitter.com/MvpBSN5zo6— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 31, 2018
On the two-point try, Lynch held onto the ball for too long and was sacked. However, the Cardinals helmet touched Lynch’s helmet and a penalty was called. On his second try, Lynch took the read-option in for himself and a 14-7 Broncos lead.
The Cardinals continued their offensive ineptitude with an easy drop by a wide receiver on first down and terrible throw deep on second down. Then on third down, Jeff Holland brought the pressure pushing the quarterback into Marcus Rush who stripped the ball that bounced right into the waiting arms of Holland for the turnover.
Lynch in this second half has mastered the short throw that the receiver then takes for big gains. Inside the red zone, the Broncos will start the fourth quarter.
Lynch opened the final quarter with a touchdown strike to tight end Matt LaCosse to blow the game wide open putting the Broncos up 21-7.
That escalated quickly!#Broncos 21#Cardinals 7 pic.twitter.com/ko2AGbLn9H— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 31, 2018
The Broncos offense continued to find success against the porous fourth-string Cardinals defense, while the Cardinals offense couldn’t seem to find the chemistry necessary to get things going.
A miscommunication on the Broncos next drive led to a Lynch self sack and a McManus 58-yard field goal attempt that was definitely no good.
On their next drive, the Cardinals finally woke up and put a drive together that resulted in points, cutting the Broncos lead to 21-10.
The Denver Broncos had 23 players working out early before the game who are not expected to play against the Cardinals in this game. It’s safe to say these players will be among the final 53 on the roster come Saturday.
Case Keenum, Devontae Booker, Andy Janovich, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Garett Bolles, Ronald Leary, Matt Paradis, Connor McGovern, Jared Veldheer, Max Garcia, Adam Gotsis, Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Von Miller, Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis, Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby, Justin Simmons, and Darian Stewart.
Running back Royce Freeman was a last minute scratch as well. Head coach Vance Joseph likely made the right decision not to risk Freeman’s health heading into Week 1.
Broncos HC Vance Joseph tells KOA radio that rookie RB Royce Freeman will NOT play tonight— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) August 31, 2018
Broncos vs. Cardinals Pregame
The Denver Broncos (1-2) will hit the road for the final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals (3-0) to wrap up the offseason and preseason. Within 48 hours, the Broncos roster will shrink from 90 men to 53.
Such is life in the NFL.
Of those final 53 roster spots, realistically only a tiny handful of maybe two or three are truly in play during this final preseason game. The rest of those 37 players are playing to get tape on record for personnel evaluators around the league.
In this game, fans will need to continue deciding for themselves whether or not Chad Kelly is the future and confirm their belief that Paxton Lynch is not. Other than that, who knows which positions and players are truly making a case for one of those 53 active roster spots.
Here is how to watch.
Game info, TV channel, and streaming info
When: Thursday, August 30, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. Mile High time
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
Channel: 9News - KTVD-20 | NFL Network
Online Stream: NFL Game Pass | Futbo TV
Radio: KOA - 850 AM | 94.1 FM & The Fox - 103.5 FM | Spanish Radio KNVR 1150 AM
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