ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The third-team offense stole the show at Sunday's summer scrimmage.
After the first- and second-team offenses failed to reach the end zone, Chad Kelly fired two long touchdown passes to Jordan Leslie and Mark Chapman in a three-play span, electrifying the crowd on a gray Sunday morning.
"It was fast, but it was pretty intense. For the threes, that was really a football game for those guys," Head Coach Vance Joseph said.
That quasi-game was highlighted by Leslie's 35-yard scoring catch down the left sideline despite tight coverage and Chapman's 50-yard catch-and-run that saw him run a go route down the seam past Brendan Langley, setting up a perfectly-placed, in-stride throw from Kelly for six points.
"Chad looked good," Joseph said, adding that Kelly could get second-team repetitions in the future.
But for now, Kelly provided a tantalizing glimpse that showed the fruit of his extensive work on the practice field and in meeting rooms.
"You don't really just go out there on game day and be a playmaker. You've got to put in the work," Kelly said. "You've got to work extremely hard out here on the practice field and know what your job is, know what your role is, know where everybody is going to be, because if you just get out there for a game and you don't know anything, you might be struggling.
"I think it comes from having a sense of urgency on the practice field and practicing the way you play. That's really what I've been told and taught, is [to] go out there and practice the way you play a game."
1 VS. 1
As is often the case in games, a third-down conversion was crucial to launching a drive.
With the offense facing a potential three-and-out after a Devontae Booker run and a De'Angelo Henderson reception mustered a combined seven yards, Keenum stepped up in the pocket -- eluding pressure from outside linebacker Shane Ray -- and found Courtland Sutton for a 7-yard gain that moved the chains and got the offense to its 49-yard line.
"People underestimate how Case can move in the pocket. He has great mobility in the pocket," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.
From there, the offense found its rhythm. A 6-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders was followed by Sanders gaining 10 yards on an end-around, moving the offense to the defense's 35-yard line and into scoring range. Another first down came via a defensive-holding penalty, and after a 7-yard Jake Butt reception on a third-and-8 play, the offense faced fourth-and-1 from the defense's 21-yard line.
On the 12th snap of the series -- including a third down wiped out by the holding penalty -- the offense went for it. Whether Royce Freeman earned the yardage or not depended on your point of view; nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. celebrated a stop, while the line judge signaled for the chains to move.
But with a dozen plays in the books, Joseph called off the period there.
"We wanted 12 plays with each group, and obviously, if it's fourth-and-1 in a scrimmage, you're going to go for it -- just like in preseason," he said. "You want to see guys get more turns."
One of the standout units during that period was the offensive line, which withstood a heavy rush and kept Keenum's pocket clean throughout the series.
"I think offensive-line wise, at this point, we've got five guys that we like as a group, and those guys have played together for the whole camp so far, so that's also important," Joseph said.
But the best sign in general was the offense's ability to convert a third down and extend a drive -- an 11-play march that, in a game, would allow the defense to stay fresh.
"It's huge. Just give us some rest, anything," Harris said, laughing.
2 VS. 2
A promising opening play quickly evaporated for the offense, as it couldn't follow Phillip Lindsay's 9-yard scamper to open the series with any positive momentum.
Pressure led to two consecutive incompletions after the offense was in second-and-1, including a third-and-1 play that saw Lynch fail to connect with Henderson after being flushed out to his right.
After the quick three-and-out, Lynch and the No. 2 offense got two more chances. On the first of these opportunities, the defense forced another three-and-out. The pass rush provided the primary thrust, as DeMarcus Walker and Bradley Chubb burst into the backfield on second-and-15 to sack Lynch for a 7-yard loss.
After the reset, the No. 2 offense finally got moving on its third series, picking up a first down via a 5-yard Lynch pass to Matt LaCosse and a 5-yard Henderson run. But after that, pressure forced what was ruled a sack, although the play continued and ended with a deep throw that Parks intercepted.
With second-and-18 after the sack, Lynch hit McKenzie for 10 yards and then scrambled for 7 more, giving the offense a fourth-and-1 that saw a 7-yard pass to Tim Patrick as flags flew.
3 VS. 3
For the third-team offense, their success started in the huddle, where Kelly took control.
"He's very calm," Leslie said. "You can tell he's thinking about the calls as he's saying it, but he's a great leader and I love having him in there."
Some of that comes naturally, but some of it also comes from heeding the advice of Quarterbacks Coach Mike Sullivan.
"Coach Sullivan preaches that you've got to market yourself in the huddle. You've got to go in there confident," Kelly said. "You've got to go in there making sure those guys have a sense of urgency, of completing this play, and doing well during the play, and everybody's doing their job.
"I think we're doing well altogether as whole group."
Kelly's work had the crowd buzzing, but he had plenty of help. The first sprint to a touchdown -- a three-play, 45-yard drive -- began with a 13-yard River Cracraft reception that came despite good coverage from Dymonte Thomas. Running back Dave Williams then made a nice cutback for a 7-yard gain on the next snap, setting up the Kelly-to-Leslie score.
After a two-play drive that ended in the Kelly-to-Chapman touchdown, the offense advanced to the 3-yard line before stalling. A pass-interference call allowed the offense to pick up 34 yards, and most of the rest of the drive came via a 15-yard Henderson carry -- which saw Kelly hustle downfield to provide blocking assistance -- and a 7-yard Lindsay run.
That series stalled on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, when defensive end Antonio Simmons burst through for a 7-yard sack of Kelly. C.J. Smith then blew up a fourth-and-goal screen pass to Lindsay, ending the drive and the scrimmage period.
... Marquette King had two punting opportunities during the second-team segment of the scrimmage, and dropped a pair of coffin-corner punts that went out of bounds at the 8-yard line. The punts covered 48 and 49 yards, respectively.
... After individual periods opened practice, the Broncos broke off into one-on-one work for the offensive linemen, defensive linemen and edge rushers, with the rest of the offense and defense going into seven-on-seven work.
Safety Justin Simmons was the star of that period. He stepped in front of a Keenum pass intended for Sanders and returned it for a score, then later had perfect anticipation to break up a Keenum pass intended for Demaryius Thomas.
... Langley also made a play during seven-on-seven, leaping to prevent a Lynch-to-Sutton connection. C.J. Smith was also in coverage on the play.
... Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton closed out the seven-on-seven period with back-to-back receptions from Lynch.
... The Broncos leaned on concepts they practiced during their first, second and third days of offensive installation during the scrimmage, Joseph said.
"Now we're getting ready to play a game, so you want to see guys put their best foot forward," Joseph said. "If you put too much in for young guys, you can't see them perform. So, to give them a chance to see them perform, we kept it pretty simple."
... Ron Leary was given a rest day, so Max Garcia worked with the first team at left guard.
"[Leary] could have gone, but he's a little sore from the week, so we're just being smart with him," Joseph said.
Defensive end Adam Gotsis was also held out because of a sore ankle, but could have played if it was a regular-season game, Joseph said.
... After an early-morning shower, the temperature quickly rose as skies began to clear, with the mercury rising from 70°F to 75°F during the session.
On a cloudy Sunday morning on the eighth day of training camp, the Broncos changed up practice with a scrimmage pitting the top offensive unit against the top defensive unit, and the No. 2 and No. 3 units against their respective counterparts.