There’s no real reason to get too worked up about losing an NFL preseason game in the fourth quarter with third-string players on the field. Being up 23-10 after three stings a bit, but the first and second squads had good showings early on, key players looked returned to form, and drives came together in a way that was both productive and satisfying to watch. Last week, an increasingly frustrating coaching staff marched into the opening game against the Minnesota Vikings with an… avant-garde game plan, in which the team was clearly experimenting and seeing what could stick to the wall. That’s fine for a preseason game, although I think most fans prefer something a little more structured and goal oriented. Against the Chicago Bears, a team that finished last in their division last year, the Broncos looked pretty lethal at times, with Von Miller on the field longer than most people would probably like and Emmanuel Sanders blossoming new chemistry with 2018’s hired gun QB Case Keenum.
Royce Freeman and CU alum Phillip Lindsay dominated the running game over Broncos veteran Devontae Booker, both clearly deserving spots on the final roster. Jeff Hue-Hue-Hue-Heuerman, a sorely underused tight-end weapon, looked like a bouncer at closing time, fighting for every bit of yardage he could get and scoring on a two-point conversion after a running TD from Freeman early on in the second quarter. First-round draft pick Bradley Chubb forced a safety after a bobbled snap, and Justin Simmons caught an interception to bring in “back up” Chad Kelly, quickly becoming a fan favorite in the preseason for his physicality and clear QB IQ. Everything was looking great. I think everyone knows it’s the Bears, but the Broncos played legitimately good football for basically three and a half quarters. This Kelly to Sutton touchdown near the two-minute warning right before halftime is an absolute thing of beauty:
After last week’s disastrous, downright depressing showing by first-round bust Paxton Lynch, most fans, including myself, were calling for him to be cut from the team or traded to another franchise dumb enough to take a chance on him. Lynch was booed as he took the field and again periodically as he threw 5/11 for 39 yards, most of which were YAC against a third-string defense from one of the worst-performing teams in the league. He’s abysmal, yet had the audacity in the post-game presser to claim that he “wants to be THE quarterback, not the backup.” If anything, tonight cemented my claims last week that Lynch doesn’t even belong in the NFL, much less warming the bench in Denver. Local sporting press is starting to feel bad for him, despite urging the team to “make a move”, and head coach Vance Joseph, traditionally a little bit cagey regarding questions about Lynch, seemed particularly unleashed when commenting on him getting booed at Mile High. Again. Even ex-Bronco RB CJ Anderson admonished fans for booing:
A lot is being made about the Isiah McKenzie fumble, and although I think he’s tested quite a bit of patience after earning a reputation for dropping punt returns last year, that was a bang-bang great defensive play from the Bears and McKenzie did what he could. I really hope his confidence isn’t shaken, because he’s shown a lot of progress from last year and I believe he’s earned a spot on the roster without a question. He looked dejected on the sidelines after that play, in which he was fighting for extra yardage with defenders on his ankles before having the ball punched out of his grasp. There’s no shame there, he’s out to prove himself.
I was fortunate enough to be commuting into work shortly after the game when the Denver metro area finally let open the monsoon it had been brewing since the late afternoon. Luckily, the lightening that had been persistent for much of the game didn’t delay anything. I’ve been out of town for several of the summer storms, which I’ve cherished in the nearly 15 years I’ve spent here, and this was definitely the hardest, most sustained rain I’d seen all year without any added hail. After a 24-23 loss in the final two minutes, I’m assuming the Gods were absolutely furious at another week of Paxton Lynch provoking an entire region of the United States into more wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Next game: Friday 8/24 at 5:30pm MST @ Washington.