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Broncos win 20-7 as rookies, backups shine in final bid for team roster

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The longest preseason in the history of preseasons has come to an end, Broncos Country.

Arizona Cardinals v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

It was a night for the backups as a “double-digit” number of positions were up for grabs to make the roster, and a bunch of rookies and backups made a good case for a place on that list after beating the Cardinals 20-7 in the final preseason game and getting all of us one day closer to real football.

First Quarter

Broncos won the toss to begin their final preseason game at home against the Cardinals and elected to take the ball.

River Cracraft was back at kick returner but let the ball hit the upright and Broncos started on their own 25.

Khalfani Muhammad went in motion at the snap and ended up with a loss of four yards. But on the next play, Hogan hit Fred Brown for a 15-yard play and a first down. On a bootleg, Hogan struck gold with Brown again, hitting him near the sidelines while No. 19 added another dozen yards for a 25-yard play.

Hogan’s next pass to JuWann Winfree was high, but the Colorado wide receiver brought it down just shy of the first down.

Third down brought a short pass to Muhammad and brought up a 3rd-and-4. Hogan aimed for Muhammad in the end zone on the third-down play but overthrew him by a mile to bring out Brandon McManus who was in midseason form with an easy 50-yarder to put the Broncos on the board.

Broncos 3, Cardinals 0

The Broncos’ defense took the field and immediately gave the Cardinals offense fits. T.J. Logan crashed ahead for four yards on first down but Keishawn Johnson came up just short of the first with a catch, bringing up 3rd-and-1.

On third down, Justin Hollins chased down quarterback Brett Hundley, stopping the Cardinals on third and bringing out the punting unit.

The Broncos offense stalled on their second and third drives, going three-and-out and proving that Hogan is not the long-term answer as backup quarterback.

Thankfully, the Broncos’ defense kept the scales in balance, stopping the Cardinals on four downs in their next drive, including a sack from Malik Reed on 4th and 2.

After the Broncos’ second three-and-out, the Cardinals were threatening as Brett Hundley hit a wide-open Ricky Seals-Jones over the middle as Su’a Cravens whiffed on the tackle.

But Josh Watson saved the day, chasing down Seals-Jones and punching the ball out so Trey Marshall could pick it up and give the ball back to the Broncos with just a minute to go in the first quarter.

Second Quarter

As the second quarter started, Hogan found a little more rhythm. Devontae Jackson opened up that drive with two five-yard gains and a first down before Hogan hit Cracraft for a nice gain, and Troy Fumagalli handled a 14-yard pass to move the chains.

After some stalled plays, Hogan found Brown on 3rd-and-9 to get a first down at the 10-yard line to bring up 1st-and-goal. David Williams got a gain of four on the next play before Hogan hit Brown in the back of the end zone on a fade to give the Broncos their first touchdown in what seemed like a lifetime.

Broncos 10, Cardinals 0

With just over half of the second quarter to go, the Cardinals offense gained some big chunks of yards as the Broncos’ defense struggled to tackle their man, but the defense ultimately won the battle and stopped the redbirds from getting past the 50-yard line, forcing them to punt away.

Trying to make something happen, Hogan and the offense were making another run, as Hogan hit Fumagalli for a big 23-yard gain.

But the drive would die when Hogan forced a pass downfield intended for Brendan Langley that was tipped by xxx and came down in the hands of Cardinals’ Nate Brooks.

As the Cardinals tried to get something going, the Broncos’ defense definitely reminded the visiting team who owns the field.

With a four-man rush, both Reed and Ahmad Gooden, the undrafted rookie from Samford, pushed the pocket into Dave Anderson for a sack and a third down.

With a 3rd-and-12, Anderson couldn’t find a receiver but ran for the first down, keeping the drive alive.

Justin Hollins brought the blitz on the next two plays, wreaking havoc for the Cardinals and bringing up 3rd-and-10. Anderson had to throw the ball away on the following play as Dre’Mont Jones showed his speed and ability to chase down the quarterback.

Cardinals had to punt away, and Jamal Carter pushed the defender out of the way to give Cracraft room for a 15-yard punt return.

Unfortunately the offense could do nothing and had to give the ball back, but great special teams coverage from Trey Marshall and Brendan Langley pushed the Cardinals deep in their territory.

Two plays later, Anderson hit Caleb Wilson for a big gain over the middle before Su’a Cravens stripped the ball and got the turnover.

Broncos’ offense would do nothing as Hogan got sacked on a third-down, no thanks to poor blocking from Jake Rodgers as Vontarrius Dora ran right over him to get to Hogan.

On 4th-and-2 with one second on the clock before the half, Hogan would attempt a 53-yard Hail Mary that came up short and in the hands of Cardinals’ Tanner Vallejo at the two.

Hogan would finish the first half 12 of 23 for 138 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Despite Hogan’s inconsistent play near the end of the half, he had a nice opening drive and a good touchdown drive that gave head coach Vic Fangio some positive vibes.

“Yeah, there were some good plays on Kevin’s part there,” he said after the first half. “I thought the offense had some good moments moving the ball. Not enough, really, but overall not that bad.”

Fangio felt a little better about the defense, which kept Arizona from putting any points on the board.

“Yeah, I thought we overall played well on defense,” he said. “Obviously the takeaways really helped. Both of them came when they were in our territory. So we saved points [and] they were big plays.”

Third quarter

Broncos came out in the second half with Brett Rypien under center. The undrafted rookie made some nice throws before being intercepted on a pass to Winfree.

On the Cardinals’ next drive, Trey Johnson was punished repeatedly until Anderson hit A.J. Richardson for a 28-yard play and a score.

Broncos 10, Cardinals 7.

On the following Broncos’ drive, it was the Khalfani Muhammad show with three solid runs in a row, culminating in a 52-yard scamper to the 4-yard line.

Muhammad fumbled the ball out of bounds, so Broncos kept the ball on the 5-yard line for 1st-and-goal.

Handing off to Devantae Jackson, the running back danced into the end zone for the Broncos’ second touchdown on the night.

Broncos 17, Cardinals 7.

A nice 9-yard punt return from Kelvin McKnight was negated due to a holding penalty from Dave Williams, but Rypien got the offense back into rhythm with a good run from Devantae Jackson, a couple of nice grabs from Cracraft and a quick out route to Muhammad on 3rd-and-1 for a first down to close out a scoreless third quarter.

Fourth quarter

Muhammad continued doing work to help get the Broncos into the red zone. But a short pass underneath to Cracraft on 3rd-and-5 would bring out McManus for a 33-yard chip shot, giving the Broncos a 13-point lead over the Cardinals.

Broncos 20, Cardinals 7.

The Broncos’ defense forced a third three-and-out in the second half to get the ball back to the offense. McKnight had an electrifying punt return before stepping out of bounds, but he definitely put himself into the roster conversation with good special teams play throughout the game.

On 2nd-and-9, Rypien threw a nice first-down pass on the run, getting the offense across midfield and into Arizona territory.

Broncos kept chewing up the clock, giving their running backs multiple opportunities to show their stuff. Langley couldn’t bring down a pass on third down, and the Broncos had to go for three.

Unfortunately, a blocked field goal by Vallejo resulted in no points for the Broncos and good field position for the Cardinals. But the defense did what it does, and the Broncos took over on downs after a failed fourth-down conversion with just over five minutes to go.

Rypien couldn’t get anything going with the offense, and the Broncos had to give the ball back to the Cardinals with over three minutes to go and a chance to close the gap.

Colby Wadman’s 44-yard punt that bounced inside the 5-yard line before Wadman downed his own kick at the 8 was a highlight in a rather boring second half.

But then at the 1:15 mark, Holder got an interception with a 25-yard return and thanks to a horse-collar tackle penalty against the Cardinals, another “half-the-distance-to-the-goal” was added on, putting the Broncos inside the five.

Broncos took a knee with just under a minute to play and closed out the longest preseason on record with a win.

Rypien finished the night 8 of 11 for 86 yards and one interception.

See you in Oakland, Broncos Country!

Poll

Which bubble player played himself onto the roster after tonight’s win?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Khalfani Muhammad
    (399 votes)
  • 21%
    Fred Brown
    (140 votes)
  • 1%
    Ahmad Gooden
    (13 votes)
  • 8%
    Alijah Holder
    (55 votes)
  • 5%
    "Shasta"
    (39 votes)
  • 2%
    "Whorfin"
    (14 votes)
660 votes total Vote Now