On a smoke-filled evening in the Mile High City, the Denver Broncos had several key starters returning the lineup for the first time in over a year. All three, Von Miller, Courtland Sutton, and Albert Okwuegbunam got into the mix in positive ways as Denver’s first team took an early lead against the Los Angeles Rams second team unit. That lead would stick as Denver would finish the preseason 3-0 with a 17-12 win over the Rams.
Head Coach Vic Fangio made a nice decision to name Von Miller, Courtland Sutton and Albert Okwuegbunam all co-captains in this game as all three return to game action for the first time since going down with season-ending injuries in 2020.
The Broncos lost the coin toss and the Rams elected to receive, so it was Miller who would take the field first. That first-team defense forced a quick three and out against mostly second-string players for the Rams in this game.
Melvin Gordon III got his first preseason action in this game starting with the offense. He quickly announced his presence with three carries for 26 yards to get Denver into the Rams side of the field pretty quickly.
Melvin Gordon with a 15-yard run. pic.twitter.com/wF5lp0fH1E— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
The run game was on fire early, but the passing game was not Bridgewater had his first pass dropped by Albert O. His next two passes were poorly thrown and put Denver into a third and 10 on their first drive. He would throw high to well covered Tim Patrick to end the drive. Brandon McManus from 54 yards out nailed the field goal for an early Broncos lead, 3-0.
A personal foul penalty on Alexander Johnson jump started the Rams next drive. The Broncos defensive stiffened inside the ten yard line to force a field goal to tie the game.
Bridgewater’s struggles continued on the next drive. Gordon had a solid four yard gain on first down and then he hauled in a short pass for another four yards, but on third down Bridgewater overthrew Tim Patrick just at the sticks. That would be the first time this preseason that a Bridgewater-led drive did not produce points.
Teddy Bridgewater misses an open Tim Patrick on 3rd and short. pic.twitter.com/PMdFR9Oipt— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
Denver’s first-team defense continued to stay on the field for the next drive. However Bryce Perkins began to run and throw the Rams offense into first downs as the first quarter came to an end.
To start the second quarter, the Broncos defense woke up. First Miller nearly landed a sack forcing Perkins inside, but instead tackled him for a short gain. Josey Jewell then exploded up the middle of the field for the sack on third down to force a really long field goal. From 53-yards out, Matt Gay put the Rams up 6-3.
On 3rd and 7 Josey Jewell gets a sack to and the Broncos D is off the field. pic.twitter.com/yadjZXFz8B— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
The time for the starters was coming to end midway through the second quarter. On offense, Garett Bolles and Graham Glasgow were the first to head to the bench. Bridgewater’s first throw found Albert O open in the flat for an eight yard gain. After Gordon got the first down on a four yard run, Bridgewater then found Eric Saubert open in the middle who turned it up field for a 20 yard gain into Rams territory.
After a short pass to Saubert again, Royce Freeman took his first carry nowhere to bring up a third and seven around the 40 yard line. Bridgewater then went down the sideline to Courtland Sutton for a 19 yard gain to the Rams 20 yard line. That was a big play for Sutton in his first game action since injuring his knee.
After back to back runs by Freeman down to the eight yard line, Bridgewater went back to the Sutton well for an 8-yard touchdown to put Denver up 10-6.
With the first team defense done for the night, the second team squad came in. That included rookie Patrick Surtain and Jonathan Cooper. Surtain had two open field tackles and Cooper then came in and made a tackle for a loss. The second team defense wasted little time in forcing a punt with just over four minutes left in the half.
Drew Lock got his first action in the game on the offense’s next turn. Like Bridgewater, he would lead the offense to a quick three and out. Unlike Bridgewater, he’s led the team to more than one three and out this preseason.
The Broncos defense did their job real quick and gave Lock another chance to get things going with over a minute to go in the half and two time outs. The punt was downed at the one, so that two-minute drive was just a couple of runs to send things into the halftime. However, that strategy changed once Trinity Benson drew a pass interference flag.
A completion to Albert O got the Broncos out to their own 24-yard line, but Drew Lock was taking all day in the pocket looking for a place to go with the ball when he was strip-sacked to give the Rams a prime scoring opportunity with 34 seconds left in the half.
Cameron Fleming is beat around the edge. Drew Lock never feels the pressure. Strip sack. pic.twitter.com/atsZt3k8Yu— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
The turnover would lead to a Rams field goal to end the first half to leave Denver up 10-9.
With the ball to start the second half, Drew Lock and the Broncos offense did nothing again with their first possession of the second half. On third and 10, Lock had plenty of time and overthrew Tyrie Cleveland deep down the field for the three and out.
The Rams turned that Denver three and out into a lead with a long drive that stalled out inside the 10 yard line, but the field goal put them up 12-10 midway through the third quarter.
Drew Lock had not looked good at all up to this point in the game, so it was important for his psyche to get some positive plays on the board. He did that early into the next drive finding Trinity Benson on a deep dig route over the middle for a 21-yard gain. He then found Kendall Hinton for a 13-yard gain, but Head Coach Sean McVay challenged that reception. He lost that challenge.
Lock continued to stay hot after the failed Rams challenge finding Benson again off play action for a first down toss. He would cap the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Fort to give the Broncos back the lead 17-12.
Drew Lock hooks up with Austin Fort for a Broncos touchdown! pic.twitter.com/X3mFqX7xcN— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
That touchdown drive would end Drew Lock’s night and it was all Brett Rypien and the third stringers from there.