GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It took a while, but the Broncos eventually found their form in the preseason finale against Arizona Cardinals.
After falling behind 7-0 when the Cardinals sprinted 45 yards to a score on their opening possession, Denver narrowed the deficit before halftime, then surged past the Cardinals fo a 21-10 as Paxton Lynch delivered his best performance of the preseason, guiding the No. 3 offense to a pair of touchdown drives while completing 14 of 15 passes in the second half.
"Paxton played well," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "I thought Paxton played well last week and against Chicago, so I'm not surprised that he played good football tonight
Observations from the preseason finale follow ...
... Two of the most impressive aspects of De'Angelo Henderson's work are his ability to accumulate yardage after contact and his proficiency at making defenders miss him. Both of these were on display on his second carry of the game, which saw him work through a tackle attempt, then dodge a Cardinals defender for the final two yards of an 8-yard game.
... Henderson and Dave Williams split the work at running back. Henderson led in rushing, gaining 53 yards on 11 carries, while Williams picked up 43 yards on 13 carries. But Williams finished as the leader in yards from scrimmage, posting 78 yards, including 35 yards on six receptions. Henderson added 17 yards on three catches to end the night with 17 yards from scrimmage.
... Quarterback Chad Kelly's first professional start opened with promise, as he completed a third-and-3 pass to River Cracraft for 12 yards to get the offense going on its first series. But after six runs and a 7-yard pass to Jordan Leslie got the Broncos to the Arizona 26-yard line, the drive stalled, as a scramble to the right set up a holding penalty, which led to an interception on the subsequent third-and-11.
Kelly settled down after that, later leading a 76-yard march to a Brandon McManus field goal. He finished the preseason with a 92.8 passer rating on 40-of-60 passing for 466 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
"I thought Chad played efficient football, obviously outside of the interception the led to a touchdown for [Arizona]," Joseph said. "He bounced back and he played with confidence and that's important for a young quarterback.
"You don't want those guys to make a mistake and come back and be timid. He wasn't. He was aggressive. He was Chad after the mistake."
In 15 possessions over four preseason games, the Broncos averaged 2.4 points, 43.1 net yards and 2.3 first downs per series with Kelly at the helm. All of those easily eclipsed NFL league averages last season.
... Three days after returning to practice, Su'a Cravens started and played the entire first half. He finished the game with three total tackles.
"I was impressed with Su'a, how physical he played. That's what he was in Washington," Joseph said. "It was good to get him back on the field and have him play some live football before the real deal starts."
... Inside linebacker Josey Jewell turned in a dominant first half, notching seven total tackles, including five solo stops.
... Outside linebacker Jeff Holland concluded the first half with a sack despite the best efforts of Cunningham, who held the undrafted rookie as he burst toward Arizona quarterback Mike Glennon. Arizona was trying to set up a "Hail Mary" attempt as time ran out before halftime, leading Glennon to drift back in the pocket and extend the play.
The play gave Holland the team lead in sacks for the preseason.
... Position flexibility is a key to sticking around as a reserve offensive lineman, and Elijah Wilkinson showed the extent of his versatility Thursday night. He started and played the entire first half at right guard, then switched to left tackle for the second half.
... Joe Jones' most likely path to a roster spot is on special teams, and he made his case for a spot on the 53-man roster in the first quarter. Jones sprinted downfield, stopping Arizona punt returner Corey Willis for no gain after Marquette King's 39-yard punt.
Jordan Leslie later followed suit, sprinting downfield on a Brandon McManus kickoff with 8:26 left in the third quarter to tackle Willis at the Arizona 13-yard line. That play was a signature moment of a night that saw him post a team-leading 70 yards on five receptions, including a 16-yard touchdown catch that put the Broncos in front to stay.