GLENDALE, Ariz. — The message from Head Coach Sean Payton was clear.
It didn't much matter that Friday's 18-17 loss to the Cardinals was simply a preseason game or that it won't count in the standings as the Broncos aim to turn the page on 2022 and return to the postseason.
As Payton spoke to his team in the locker room following the game, he emphasized the importance of winning — no matter the time of year — and the disappointment that comes with allowing a last-second drive.
"What I told the team, regardless of whether it's a preseason game, regular-season game, [I] just can't stand losing, especially in that fashion," Payton said Friday night. "We'll look at the tape tomorrow — there will be a number of things we'll be excited about, there will be a number of things we've got to clean up. And so we're in a race to do that now that we have an opponent on film against us. We start from there."
The Broncos felt that urgency following the game, and wide receiver Courtland Sutton said the mentality around winning has to circulate throughout the team.
"Hate losing," said Sutton as he summarized Payton's message. "It has to run through everybody in the locker room. It has to touch everybody, from all the players all the way down to everyone who has to be in here who's a part of this."
Added Jerry Jeudy: "It's a preseason game, but at the end of the day, it's still football. Nobody likes losing. Coach Payton's a guy that don't like losing. His team, [we] don't like losing. Everybody just doesn't like losing, so it's never a good feeling to lose. We're going to correct the mistakes that we made on the field and move on from there."
SPECIAL TEAMS REVIEW
As the Broncos move ahead, their field-goal unit will likely be an area of emphasis. Brett Maher and Elliott Fry combined to go 1-of-4 on field-goal attempts, with Fry's 55-yarder as the lone successful attempt. On Maher's second attempt, the Cardinals got quick penetration that led to a field-goal block.
While Payton said the Broncos must improve in that area, he noted the struggles in the kicking game were not an overall condemnation of the special teams play.
"We had a blocked field goal and gave up penetration at left guard with a young player," Payton said. "Coverage units were solid. Two longer field-goal attempts, but that's not the whole special teams. We've obviously got to be better in that unit. Keep working the timing of it and the protection. We'll look at the film."
Punter Riley Dixon rebounded from an initial 32-yard punt with a 47-yarder to pin Arizona inside its own 10-yard line, and Montrell Washington recorded punt returns of 11 and 18 yards.
Cornerback Essang Bassey alertly jumped on a second-half squib kick, and Denver prevented Arizona from taking any kickoffs past the 25-yard line.
The following players did not play in Friday's game: CB Pat Surtain II, CB K'Waun Williams, CB Art Green, S Justin Simmons, RB Javonte Williams, CB Riley Moss, OLB Frank Clark, T Mike McGlinchey, WR Marvin Mims Jr., TE Chris Manhertz, WR Brandon Johnson and OLB Aaron Patrick.
Tackle Alex Palczewski led all offensive players with 38 snaps, while cornerback Tremon Smith paced the defense with 55 plays.