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Published on 09/03/2009 at Thu Sep 03 23:16.
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Denver Broncos quarterback Tom Brandstater (3) sets to throw a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL preseason football game in Denver on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/ Ed Andrieski )

Denver Broncos quarterback Tom Brandstater (3) sets to throw a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL preseason football game in Denver on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/ Ed Andrieski )

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.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Tyler Palko, front, is dragged down for a loss by Denver Broncos defensive lineman Tim Crowder in the fourth quarter of the Broncos' 19-0 victory in a preseason NFL football game in Denver on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Tyler Palko, front, is dragged down for a loss by Denver Broncos defensive lineman Tim Crowder in the fourth quarter of the Broncos' 19-0 victory in a preseason NFL football game in Denver on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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?

  • DC

    He is our best QB. I would go with the kid game 1, if he fumbles then our other QBs will be there to take the reins.

  • Eric in Vegas

    If neither Orton nor Simms is 100%, I’m comfortable with TB starting against Cincy. Their defense isn’t anything special, so the tough part will be crowd noise. Besides, a 70-80% Orton/Simms can always come off the bench if he struggles early. But, if either of the other 2 ARE 100%, they should start. TB looked solid, capable, and has more potential than I would have thought, but I’d rather have a good vet in there – let TB see a few complete games at full speed before throwing him in.

  • InRodWeTrust

    I just got back from the game, and wow was that a breath of fresh air. Brandstater look crisp for the most part, good timing with only a few bad decisions. Tom B. west for 2 weeks in a row has looked the part of a NFL QB showing consistency and poise, none of our other QB’s can say the same thing.

  • Clogs

    Wouldn’t mind seeing what Tom could do with the 1st team line and receivers, he’s improved every game without much practice time. Also Brandon Lloyd should definitely make this team.

  • DC

    I am being stoked and ready for Game 1, BRING ON THE BENGALS!!!!!!!!

  • DC

    *I am stoked

  • Jeff V.

    I like Branstater’s performance and he has tossed a few deep passes (thats always impressive). I dont know if he will be the starter but I am ok with it. He does have potential that is yet to be seen and thus far his play has been right up there with Orton and Simms.

  • Bryan

    It lifted my spirits a little bit. Its a preseason win and but I still feel they are capable of a whole lot more, especially offensively. I’m still thinking we catch a couple breaks, a tipped ball here and there and we’re looking at 10-6, 11-5. Whether or not 10-6 is good enough for the playoffs, I don’t know. Remember last years 11-5 Pats we’re watching from home.

    TB has seen what, 7 total quarters of play? But promising quarters. I can’t help but think of “Top Gun” right now and when the old guy tells Maverick, “I’m giving you your dream shot kid. I’m sending you up against the best”. I say start the kid tho. I never was, and never gonna be sold on Orton as the leader. Let KO and Simms heal up, and see how TB is progressing thru games 1 and maybe 2. Let him get a feel for the speed, and bring one of the starters back for a bit, let TB study up and then give him the reigns, so to speak. I just can’t see KO being anything beneficial, and he was more of a short term solution. Maybe shorter than I originally anticipated. But TB is fresh out of the box, let McD mold him and see what happens. That’s my 2 cents.

  • Alexander

    TB was given nearly zero work before last night’s game. With each successive outing, he improves exponentially. Why not let him continue this trend and find out if we have a star on our hands? I say give him the starting job.

  • flbronc

    i think that the most important part of this game is that we won. yes, it’s a preseason game and it doesnt count for anything. it’s important because it shows the players that they can win, that this system can win, and it should give them confidence that if they work hard they can win in the regular season.

    as for tb as the starter, i’m ok if it happens but i would prefer to see orton. lets not forget that he has a winning record overall when he starts (his defense last year was average, not the great chicago bears d of the early decade). if tb really has the potential to be a great qb, lets bring him along slower so when he comes in he’s ready and really puts it on people. seriously, how many rookie qb’s come right in and have success? yes, matt ryan did last year- but how long did brady sit? how was mannings first year? elways? we’ve got a complex system for qb’s- i say give him time to learn it first.

  • Katch22

    Like I said before our team is coming together pretty good. For all you bad mouthers and Orton haters here’s a stat you won’t like.

    Orton 39 of 58 – 67.2 367 passing yards
    Cuntler 28 of 44 – 63.6 329 passing yards

    So Cutler doesn’t have everything over Orton in “PRESEASON”

    Let the haters come out with the TD to INT ratio and how the bears are a run first team and all that crap. All I’m saying is Orton is holding his own with out BM and all the real fans need to let him play, bandwagoners will continue to b*tch. TB looks to have the makeings of a good QB if McD can develop him. Orton might be a band aid or something better but either way Cutler is gone, get over it! I can’t wait untill all you haters have to eat your own words about lucky to win a game this season.

    “Support you troops”

  • alm034

    If nothing else, it was great to be able to watch a Broncos game and ENJOY IT. Keep it up, guys, you’re looking better.

  • anthony33

    At the very least, I think you’d have to say that Brandstater can develop into a solid backup. Way too early to tell if he’s ‘the guy’. Also, he’s a Bronco from day one, that’s cool.
    He got the size, the brains and a resonable arm.

    I know it was basically a meaningless game. but it sure feels better to see them play solid football, in all three phases, than that mess we witnessed last week.

    The defense is going to be a whole lot better than last year. I know that’s not saying much, but I think they will keep us in games.

    Gotta get Cincy now.

  • Pete

    I LOVED what I saw last night, yet there is always a “but”…


    Remember Griese -vs- Brister circa 1999? That was a back2back Super Bowl Championship team. Sharpe was quoted as saying “All Bubby has to do is NOT WRECK THE FERRARI” well, Shanahan pulled Brister out because Griese looked good in the preseason. A 6-10 season followed. This team just won back to back championships. To go to 6-10 was horrendous!
    The moral of the story? Just because your young QB looks good in a preseason game doesn’t mean he should be given the keys to drive!

    I hope Brandstater is our solution to the QB problems, but I highly doubt he’s the solution this year. Give Orton a shot with a real game plan during a game that means something before you throw him out with the rest of the garbage.

    Remember, if we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it. And by the sounds of things, a lot of people want to repeat history.

  • AtomicLeo

    Amen Pete!

    Folks it’s pre-season! And the 4th game of pre-season at that.

    If Simms is at least 50% he should start, let Brandstater watch an NFL game at full speed before throwing him to the wolves.

  • AdamOrange

    So, was play calling much different this game than the other preseason games? I’m wondering if some of the difference between this game and the others is that this game we simplified and relied on talent instead of complexity.

    Anyone have a take?

  • DHB

    I liked seeing Branstud (TM) getting the ball and decision on a couple third-and-shorts. I am no expert, but it seems he made good decisions most of the time. But before we anoint him the new Brady (sixth round pick…) he needs to play more. He will have to keep improving. I would almost like to see them be “cautious” with the other QBs and let TB start in Cincy. But does McD need more QB controversy?

  • TJ

    The defense was the main positive thing to take from this last game. I saw vast improvement from the entire D. The offense still can’t put points on the board and that concerns me. Watching Prater score all of the points is not encouraging at all.

  • roshon2411

    It’s funny how both Simms and Brandstater looks better playing with the second team offense than Orton does with the first. If Simms can play he should start but only if he can get reps this week. If not go with Brandstater. Orton can’t throw with 5 good fingers let alone a bad index. He hasn’t shown in his career or this preseason that he should be a starter in this league.

    As for the game…

    Offensive MVP: Tom Brandstater… numbers weren’t great but a couple drops and McKinley dropped TD could of changed that, either way he lead this team to a win and moved the ball down the field.

    Defense MVP: The whole D deserves it but David Bruton was the top dog.

    QB’s – Brandstater wasn’t amazing but very effective. More excited about the season with the giant leaps he has taken within a few week.

    RB’s – Darius Walker to me has played his way on this team. Just don’t know if McDaniels keeps 5 or 4 RB’s, if only 4, don’t see McD letting Jordan go over Walker even though he deserve it. Buckhalter looks to be our first week starter. But confident either way with Buckhalter, Moreno, and Hillis getting carries.

    WR’s – McKinley is turning into a good 2/3 receiver. I’ve been very impressed with Brandon Lloyd and hope he makes the team. McKinley and Chad Jackson had a couple drops but Jackson seems to be a nice big play receiver just not sure if he makes the team.

    TE’s – Richard Quinn with another catch but don’t think any of our TE’s wll be fantasy studs this year.

    OL’s – Much better than last week solid. Russ Hochstein and Seth Olsen look to be good backup replacments.

    DL-‘s Other than Kenny Peterson, i couldn’t guarentee anyone else making the team. Chris Baker has played well, Ronald Fields is probably safe but haven’t seen much out of him.

    LB’s – Crowder, Moss, and Ayers with sacks was nice to see. Just might be too little too late for Crowder and Moss. I think Woodyard safe and really would like them to keep Lee Robinson.

    DB’s – Bruton had a good game, Jack Williams as well. Alphonso Smith has been very dissapointing through out preseason. Though all Denver’s day one selections haven’t been very impressive. Though Moreno has been hurt.

    ST’s- ST’s looks much better. Prater and Kern have been great, lets hope that stays the same in the regular season.

    All and all, still areas that need improvement, especially red zone, but that was an exciting game to watch and hopefully so will next week.

  • Steeplebomb

    I liked our defense. A lot. We put solid constant pressure on the QB, which is so nice to see for a change. On the other hand, redzone offense is beginning to scare me…

  • kerry


    yeah here is another stat you conveniently left out.

    Orton VS Culter:

    Culter 1
    Orton 0

    Orton winless in preseason with 4 INT’s and one TD.

    yeah wins are what matters. and Orton certainly hasnt done that.

  • Andpark

    I have heard a quote_

    “If you think you have 2 QB’s then you have none.”
    _I think Schlereth on NFL Live

    Well I think we have 3 QB’s and I am completely torn. Orton just cannot be ready right? The injury was too horriffic to be back. Was Simms ever that great? Career backup, a good Career backup but still. So do we start Tommy B?

    Got to have faith in McD knowing his shit I guess.

    My guess, start Simms v. Cin. try and manage the game with him. If he can’t do it or looks hurt then the Tommy B show it is.

  • Steeplebomb

    I was impressed by Brandstater but lets be honest: He put up merely ok numbers playing with mostly 2nd and 3rd stringers on the field. Its exciting to think of what he could be a year or two from now but I don’t think there’s any way he’s a solution to our problems this season. Orton hasn’t inspired much confidence but I’d rather give him or Simms a shot than just throw TB to the wolves.

  • Chris Chan

    You guys are so results oriented. Brandstater looked good in one preseason game – a sample size of, you guessed it, ONE. I hate Kyle Orton as much as the next guy, I think he’s a terrible quarterback, but aside from the INTs (which he will correct) he looks like our best QB based on the whole body of work. We’re never going to advance past the AFC Championship game with him because, like Plummer, he can’t make a play when the system breaks down, but he’ll be fine running this system. He sucks in a way we know he sucks…pretty much he doesn’t really look deep and he panics on 3rd and long but he runs the offense better than the other guys. When he throws further than 12 yards, he has 0 confidence and becomes inaccurate.

    Honestly, Brandstater looked poised, made some good throws against backups, held the ball for too long, and threw a few balls up for grabs that we happened to come up with.

    Results oriented thinking shows itself when you guys talk about defense. WE HAVE 0 TURNOVERS IN 3 GAMES OMG!!!!! Well, turnovers are largely a function of pressure and a bad QB (arm strength, misreads, etc). We have generated pressure…the turnovers will come. Last year, we had 0 TOs cause of 0 pressure.

  • Kent R. Sawatzky

    No way he starts the season. What he eneds is seasoning not a trial by fire. Now if Orton gets hurt and Simms either got hurt or looked bad in releif of Orton, then you put Bradstater in. But then I think he could be a Tom Brady type coming out of nowhere and winning the job that way. But you saw last night that McDaniels opened up the offense something he didn’t do with Orton the whole preseason. I think he was holding some back in the preseason from the Orton and the first team offense. Wait and see what happens in the opener in Cincy!

  • Flavio

    Tom B. is a great QB, he got his chance and took it the right way. He deserves it and hope he starts. He also went to the same high school I am going to right now, huge fan.