DENVER — Fans entered the stadium in waves at 5 p.m. Hope followed suit, Broncos fans smiling without crossing their fingers behind their backs. Everything in this night recalled the new beginning. A new owner – Greg and Carrie Penner received a hearty ovation in the first quarter – a new coach – Nathaniel Hackett likes to be ahead of the action when he calls plays for the record – and a new quarterback. Russell Wilson provided a memorable pre-game, going through red zone drills and signing countless autographs.
And then came the irresistible opener as Wilson led the Broncos out of the tunnel and into the open arms of 64,541 fans on an 84-degree Saturday night at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium. It was just a tease. Although Wilson wore the full uniform, he was not expected to play.
In the end, a pair of awkward first two drives gave way to an entertaining second quarter as Josh Johnson and Baron Browning simmered, catapulting the Broncos to a 17-7 victory.
Preseason games are cotton candy, empty calories. But this one will stand out as it was Hackett’s first time in charge at any level. There was general curiosity about Hackett’s early life. Would the Broncos run a clean operation, look organized, play with the energy befitting a team that cut back on training camp to emphasize health above all else? For the most part, the answer was yes.
The first two drives totaled minus 1 yard, conjuring up memories of the past six forgettable seasons where the Broncos made going to a kidney stone easier than going to a receiver. It took 41 minutes to play the first quarter, a nasty mess of penalties and errors, especially from the unruly Cowboys. Then Johnson, 36 and drafted in 2008, took off as young receivers shone.
Johnson has completed 13 of his last 14 passes. The Broncos opened the scoring when Johnson threw a one-yard rainbow at former Auburn star Seth Williams. Brandon Johnson, an undrafted free agent and son of former Rockies wide receiver Charles Johnson, who was one of 10 family members at the game, provided a boost with a 40-yard reception off the line. left key.
Kendall Hinton responded with the type of hold that continues to pull him away from his emergency-COVID quarterback day against the New Orleans Saints. He became a solid receiver, showing as much as he managed a bounding score of 24 yards in the end zone. That pushed the Broncos ahead 14-0 with 5:24 left in the half. And Johnson wasn’t done. He ran a clean seven-play, 56-yard, 1:02-minute two-minute drive, culminating with a 52-yard Brandon McManus field goal after being mulliganed on a 57-yard miss because one Cowboy records. penalties.
Johnson finished 16 of 23 for 172 yards as Brandon Johnson (four catches, 64 yards), Hinton (3-53) and Williams (4-29) made strong opening arguments. Receiver Jaylon Virgil also remains in the mix after netting a 42-yard strike from Brett Rypien while level and holding the ball.
Browning showed why defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero was among those advocating for him to move from inside linebacker to outside linebacker. He has a natural inclination, as the scouts say. Browning melted the Cowboys offensive line several times, finishing the first half with three tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack and a pass deflection. Browning’s outburst helped ease the pain of the Cowboys’ first practice.
A good atmosphere turned acoustic, if not quiet, as linebacker Jonas Griffith injured his left elbow on the second play from scrimmage. Griffith held his elbow to his chest as he walked to the locker room, hinting at a significant potential problem. Griffith is competing with Alex Singleton for the starting linebacker position against Josey Jewell. Although Griffith evolved from a special teams contributor, there have been enough questions surrounding him for the Broncos to try to sign Anthony Barr and coach veteran Joe Schobert over the past two weeks.
Steady rain defined the second half. Browning stayed, and added some pressure. Rypien showed flashes but came close to being taken off twice on a drive that ended at the 3-yard line. Most of the time it was a slogfest as the Cowboys seemed determined to have more penalties than the Broncos had points.
It was in August, a game that no one will remember in a few weeks. But looking at first impressions, it was encouraging for a franchise that needs some momentum given its recent past.
rest is best
Hackett believes in its summer plan with two days, third day of light. Health remains paramount. So it’s no surprise that a long list of starters didn’t play on Saturday. It included receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tyrie Cleveland (throat), KJ Hamler (hip/knee), who thinks he’ll be ready for the season opener, Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Quinn Meinerz , Ben Braden, Netane Muti (knee), Melvin Gordon (foot), Javonte Williams, Greg Dulcich (hamstring), Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Ronald Darby (chest contusion), Josey Jewell, Jonathon Cooper (finger, could return in about a week), Dr. ‘Mont Jones, DJ Jones, Mike Purcell and DeShawn Williams. Notable starters who played included linebacker Jonas Griffith, who injured his left elbow, and rusher Malik Reed.
In the first half, cornerback Michael Ojemudia, looking to revive his career this season, hit hard and was sent to the locker room for a concussion evaluation, but was later cleared to return. …
With Griffith injured, there will be links between the Broncos chasing the Bears Roquan Smith, who requested a trade. But it would be difficult for Denver to have the necessary assets to conclude an agreement. …
There were 11,935 no-shows.