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Broncos 17, Rams 9: Three keys, unlocked

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DENVER --Two good drives and plenty of defensive stops were the equation to a 17-9 Broncos win over the Los Angeles Rams in their preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Saturday night.

A quick look back at the three key areas of the game and how the Broncos fared in them:

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  1. OFFENSE: THE QUARTERBACK**

As it turned out, it was all about Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Head Coach Gary Kubiak said he told Mark Sanchez on Saturday morning that he would not see any playing time against Los Angeles, leaving all the work with the two young passers.

"Bottom line: I've got a lot to go off of on Mark," Kubiak said. "He's played a lot of football. But I needed to see these other two kids play again."

As with the last two games, there were positives and negatives to take from both young quarterbacks.

For Siemian, it was the ability to recover from a throw he wanted back -- a deep ball to Cody Latimer that ended in a Cody Davis interception. Latimer had a go route against Trumaine Johnson, who along with Davis had the play covered. But if the ball had been to Latimer's outside shoulder, the worst that would have happened barring an unlikely deflection was an incompletion. Instead, it ended in an interception -- despite the fact that Davis appeared to lose the football as he hit the ground.

But Siemian's response was his best work of the evening: three consecutive completions to open his next drive, and then a 1-yard play-action strike to Virgil Green to close it.

"He gets a bad break on the go ball, but comes right back and goes right down the field," Kubiak said. "What I see is I see a guy getting better every time out and working real hard."

Siemian finished the game with 10 completions in 17 attempts for 122 yards, with a 76.1 quarterback rating.

Lynch entered in the third quarter and did a good job functioning under pressure. His ability to step back and away from a lunging Zach Colvin made an 17-yard screen pass to Devontae Booker possible, and launched the Broncos on their second and final touchdown drive of the night.

Lynch finished 6-of-13 for 57 yards. But some of his best work came on incompletions. Early in the fourth quarter, he stood tall under a heavy rush and floated a pass for Mose Frazier just past a defender. The ball was perfectly placed, dropping in behind coverage, but Frazier could not get both feet inbounds.

However, Lynch missed some makeable throws. Two plays after he dropped in the pass to Frazier, his pass to Durron Neal was behind the rookie receiver as he ran a quick slant, forcing the Broncos to settle for a three-and-out.

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  1. DEFENSE: LEARNING MORE ABOUT LINE DEPTH**

With Derek Wolfe not playing after missing three days of practice this week to attend to a personal matter, Adam Gotsis started and played extensively. Although he missed an early opportunity to break up a pass at the line of scrimmage when he didn't get his arms up fast enough, he did finish with a pair of quarterback hurries.

Gotsis set up a Sadat Sulleyman sack late in the fourth quarter with an inside rush that saw him lunge at Rams QB Sean Mannion; rookie outside linebacker Sadat Sulleyman cleaned up for the sack that forced the Rams into fourth-and-goal from the Denver 12, which they failed to convert.

Newly acquired Henry Melton did not start, but rotated into the game on the second series and played extensively in the second half. He burst past Los Angeles' Andrew Donnal for pressure that led to a sack that was split between Dekoda Watson and Darius Kilgo.

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The Broncos pulled out a narrow victory over the Rams after falling down early and battling back. (photos by Gabriel Christus unless otherwise noted)

  1. SPECIAL TEAMS: RETURN GAME AND PUNTERS**

It was not a notable night for the Broncos on punt returns. Jordan Norwood fielded two punts and had scant room to run, with one 2-yard return and another for no gain. Kalif Raymond had two returns and one fair catch in the second half; he finished with 11 yards on his two returns, for eight and there yards, respectively.

Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis opted to use Cody Latimer on kickoff returns in the first half, and he turned one kickoff into a 26-yard return on which he took the available alley to the right sideline and was eventually forced out of bounds. But Latimer left the game early in the third quarter with a hyperextended knee suffered on a punt play.

Riley Dixon handled all of the punting work and held on all of Brandon McManus' placekicks Saturday. Dixon finished with a net average of 40.9 yards and dropped one of his eight punts inside the 20-yard-line. The Rams returned five of his eight punts, but gained just 12 total yards on the returns.

Dixon said he was told Saturday morning that he would handle all of the night's work.

"It felt good to just kind of get into a rhythm and start to feel it out and play the course of the game," he said. "I had a couple that I wish I could have back, but that's how it goes."

Dixon's net average was affected by a punt that he dropped inside the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter, but could not be corralled by Shiloh Keo or Will Parks, leading to a touchback and Los Angeles possession at their 20.

"That's a mis-hit, [and] my fault," Dixon said. "That was supposed to be end over end, and the ball came out a little straight."

McManus was perfect on his three placekicks Saturday and praised Dixon's improvement on holds over the course of the summer.

"He's done better. I definitely struggled with him in the beginning," McManus said. "It's a different body; he's getting the holds down, but it just was something different visually to me, so I've continued to work more and more with him, and I've gotten to that point where I feel like I'll be able to put the ball where I want to be, and I'll be able to make the kick."

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