Posted Thu Sep 3rd by Monty
Yes, Josh McDaniels, there is a sunny side to Colorado.
Between a quarterback trade, a wide receiver demanding one, and staring Denver’s first winless preseason in fifty years straight in the face, the first year Head Coach must have been praying for a break. He got one Thursday night.
The Broncos put in a sound performance, curing many of their ills in this fourth and final exhibition game of 2009. The offense looked explosive, the defense forced four turnovers, and the starters and second-teamers didn’t commit a first-half penalty. Denver went on to shut out the Arizona Cardinals 19-0.
And while it was a team effort and a team win, rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater stole the show. The 2009 sixth round draft pick got his first career start and played for nearly three quarters, including one drive with the first team offense to start the game.
Brandstater’s stat line may not have finished with the finest sheen, but there’s no doubt the Fresno State product passed the eyeball test tonight. The Brandstater-led Broncos scored on four of their first five possessions, each peppered with several explosive plays from the Fresno St. product.
While the team had difficulty beyond the 20 (only scoring one touchdown for the night), Brandstater was hardly to blame. He looked poised under pressure, coolly made his progressions, and delivered both short and long passes with decent accuracy. Dropped balls – including what would have been a sure touchdown by Kenny McKinley – haunted Brandstater’s targets a few times tonight.
With Kyle Orton and Chris Simms both questionable for the season opener in Cincinnati, Brandstater’s evening was a test to see if he could handle the pressures of an NFL quarterback. While these pressures grow exponentially in the regular season, Brandstater passed this test with flying colors.
The defense also stepped up, breaking their three-game no-turnover curse with three interceptions and a fumble recovery. David Bruton had a big 34-yard return off his interception, which he followed shortly thereafter with a fumble recovery. Darrell Reid tallied his first career interception – preseason or otherwise – and Vernon Fox completed the turnover trifecta.
The defense allowed the Cardinals to convert only 3-of-16 (18.8%) third downs in tonight’s game. The Cardinals entered the game first in the NFL in third down percentage (53.7%, 22-for-41).
It was also a special night for the special teams, particularly K Matt Prater. The oft-maligned Bronco capped a solid preseason, converting on all four of his field goal attempts (26, 37, 35, 46). The third-year player improved to 7-of-7 on fields goals this preseason. Prater, who was tied for third in the league with three touchbacks on kickoffs entering tonight’s game, finished tonight’s contest with four touchbacks with all six of his kickoffs reaching the end zone.
Now the attention turns to the roster, which must be trimmed from 75 to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. Several players are on the bubble of being cut and tried to make a statement, including 2007 draft mates Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, who both tallied sacks. Moss also had two passes defensed and finished second on the team in tackles.
Are you feeling more confident about the 2009 Broncos after tonight’s game, Broncos Country? Do you think our rookie QB can effectively lead the team when it counts Week One, and has Brandstater even made an argument for starting duties beyond that?