The final score doesn’t really matter in the preseason, so the focus on this recap is going to have to be on the Denver Broncos starting offense and starting defense. We’ll start with the defense. Under new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s defensive unit, who didn’t have four of their starters available in this game, stymied the Arizona Cardinals’ offense holding them to zero points.
Meanwhile, the Broncos’ offense looked like the 2022 offense. They went three-and-out on their first drive and then after two missed field goals on their next two drives, Head Coach Sean Payton kept the offense on the field for a fourth possession. Russell Wilson had time to throw and looked efficient hitting both Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy for plays on that final drive.
However, an ugly drop by Jeudy on a short pass looked like it would end another promising Broncos’ drive. However, Payton had the offense stay on the field to go for it on a fourth and five. With that chance at redemption, Jeudy dusted the man in coverage for a wide open pitch and catch from Wilson which he turned upfield for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
That would give the Broncos a 7-0 lead with all starters from both teams done for the night. With the reserve players in, the final score ended up 18-17 with a last second touchdown and two-point conversion by the Cardinals to get the home win.
Broncos vs. Cardinals Final Score
The Broncos lost the coin toss to give the Cardinals offense the ball first. With Pat Surtain, K’Wuan Williams, and Justin Simmons all not playing, the starting defense looked a bit different than it’ll likely look like come Week 1. Along the defensive line, they had Jonathan Harris, Zach Allen, and D.J. Jones inside with Randy Gregory and Jonathan Cooper starting outside at the edge.
Josey Jewell started inside, then the Broncos had five defensive backs starting: Damarri Mathis, Ja’Quan McMillian, Essang Bassey, Kareem Jackson, and Caden Sterns.
Alex Singleton ended up playing heavily on the Cardinals first drive and made the decisive tackle for a loss on third and one near midfield to force a punt and gave us our first look at the Broncos starting offense.
Starting along the offensive line were Garett Bolles, Ben Powers, Lloyd Cushenberry, Quinn Meinerz, and Isaiah Prince. Javonte Williams did not start. It was Samaje Perine in at running back, with Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Marquez Callaway at wide receiver. Adam Trautman started at tight end with, obviously, Russell Wilson in at quarterback.
All of that waiting and anticipation, but what we got from the starting offense was more of the same from 2022: a three and out.
On the Cardinals next possession, D.J. Jones went to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion. Cardinals’ backup quarterback Clayton Tune threw a poor pass right into the hands of Essang Bassey who was able to run it back for a big gain to set the Broncos offense up with excellent field position.
Wilson immediately hit Jerry Jeudy on a crossing route for a 19-yard gain down to the Cardinals 24-yard line. Things went downhill rapidly from there after two ugly sacks to setup a 47-yard field goal attempt from Brett Maher. He pushed it wide to keep the score 0-0 late in the first quarter.
On the Cardinals third possession, the Broncos defense had reserve players cycle in and the starters would be done for the night.
Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense came back out to close out the first quarter. After two strong runs by Perine for a first down, Wilson hit Courtland Sutton for a big gainer out near midfield.
Wilson opened up the seconds quarter with a screen pass to Adam Trautman who turned it up field for a 14-yard gain to the Cardinals 35-yard line. The drive stalled out from there with Elliot Fry trying a 50-yard field goal that was perfectly straight, but sailed inches wide of the uprights.
After putting together a solid drive, the Cardinals efforts were shut down by Nik Bonitto who exploded off his block to chase down a screen play to force a field goal that Matt Prater would also miss to keep the game scoreless in the first half.
Many thought the starting offense would be done for the night, but Wilson and the offense would come out for a fourth drive.
Perine broke loose for an 11 yard gain into Cardinals territory, then Wilson hit Sutton for a 19 yard gain to get Denver into field goal range. The drive appeared to stall on third and five on an ugly drop by Jerry Jeudy, but Sean Payton kept them on the field to go for it on fourth down. Wilson hit Jeudy on a quick slant who turned it up field for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
Russell Wilson to Jerry Jeudy on 4th down for the touchdown!pic.twitter.com/8iydZKCSn5— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) August 12, 2023
Quite the redemption play to give a team some points finally in the game. Wilson would finish 7/13 for 93 yards and a touchdown in this game.
Broncos 7, Cardinals 0.
After forcing another punt, the Broncos offensive starters hit the bench and Jarrett Stidham would take the reins of the offense. Stidham would hit Lil’Jordan Humphrey for 26 yards and then would find Greg Dulcich open for another 27 yards to get the Broncos in business fairly quickly on that next drive.
Things went downhill from there after a sack and holding penalty ended the drive to force a punt with less than two minutes to go in the first half.
Somehow, they got the ball back before the half was over and an excellent punt return from Montrell Washington gave the Broncos another chance to add to their lead. Elliot Fry hit a 55-yard field goal to close out the first half.
Broncos 10, Cardinals 0.
#Broncos winners at half— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 12, 2023
QB Russ Wilson
WR Jerry Jeudy (despite the drop)
IDL Matt Henningsen
EDGE Nik Bonitto
ILB Alex Singleton
RB Samaje Perine
Broncos losers at the half— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 12, 2023
- Offensive line/Bolles
- Kickers (Fry redeemed himself, but 1-3 overall)
- Riley Dixon (had an ugly punt)
- Arizona's field is
Jarrett Stidham continued to be the team’s quarterback to start the second half, but it didn’t go well as he would take a sack and then threw a pretty bad interception deep in Cardinals territory. He was 3/10 for 39 yards and an interception up until that point in the game. Not good.
That would lead to a Cardinals scoring drive midway through the third quarter on a wobbly field goal that just snuck in between the uprights to cut the Broncos lead to 10-3 in the game.
Broncos 10, Cardinals 3.
A failed onside kick by Arizona gave the Broncos excellent field position. Despite getting the ball into the red zone, the offense began making mistakes. After back-to-back holding penalties, the Broncos faced a 2nd and 30 and outside of field goal range. They got six of those yards back, which gave Brett Maher a chance at redemption with a 52-yard field goal attempt that was blocked to end a rather gross outing by the Broncos on that series.
Ja’Quan McMillan has had himself an excellent training camp so far and he is also showing up in games. He came up with a big sack late in the third quarter.
The Cardinals offense began eating up ground in the run game against the Broncos’ third-string defense to start the fourth quarter and capped a long drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to tie the game up at 10.
Broncos 10, Cardinals 10.
It was Ben DiNucci’s turn for the Broncos when the offense took the field after the Cardinals tied things up early in the fourth quarter. He looked efficient on the short game and moved the chains, but his first drive ended in another Broncos punt.
The Cardinals next drive was ended by back-to-back sacks from Elijah Garcia. Jaleel McLaughlin got some action finally late in this game. A second yard gain on first down led to a completion and a moving of the chains on the next play. The chain moving continued all the way out to midfield before the two minute warning hit.
McLaughlin continued to make plays. He hit a screen with an impressive burst of speed for another first down and on his next carry should have been brought down for a two yard loss but slipped through to gain four instead. DiNucci avoided a sack on the next play and got the ball out to a wide receiver at the four yard line who was interfered with. McLaughlin would rush it in from there to put the Broncos up 17-10 with 90 seconds left in the game.
Broncos 17, Cardinals 10.
Of course, the Cardinals would drive down the field in 90 seconds and score a touchdown in the final seconds. They would go for a two-point conversion for the win and convert.
Cardinals 18, Broncos 17.
How would you grade the Broncos’ starting OFFENSE against the Cardinals tonight?
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