ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Denver's second preseason game against the Bills may not have gone as the Broncos hoped, but they still gained an important learning experience.
This matchup was unbalanced from the beginning, as Buffalo played many of their starters — even quarterback Josh Allen for a drive — while the Broncos did not have most of their top players so much as suit up. Buffalo dominated from start to finish, defeating Denver 42-15, but it was not all doom and gloom for the Broncos. The offense showed flashes of promise, particularly on itslone touchdown drive in the second half.
For quarterbacks Josh Johnson and Brett Rypien, who are competing for the role of backing up Russell Wilson, this game allowed them to test their skills against a talented defense.
Facing many of the Bills' starting defenders, Johnson and the offense had difficulty finishing drives in the first half. They found a good rhythm on the first drive, marching the ball downfield with strong rushes and third-down conversions, but they had to settle for a field goal after not executing in the red zone. This became a theme of the night, as Buffalo's defense continued to snuff Denver's opportunities.
Despite the offense's struggles, Johnson said he appreciated the chance to go up against the Bills' starters. The veteran saw playing a stronger opponent as an opportunity to learn and develop as a team.
"It's great for us to really learn from as backups," Johnson said. "[We] got to go out there versus a team that went to the AFC Championship last year, and we're going to have some good film to learn from. In games like this, it's really all the details, so I'm excited to just get back and watch the film as a group and see where we can be more detailed, and hold ourselves to a better standard of finishing our drives like we want to."
The Broncos' offense was able to move the ball more in the second half, as Rypien put on a solid performance when he entered the game. Compared to the first preseason game against the Cowboys where he completed just eight-of-18 passes for 113 yards, Rypien went 22-of-26 for 191 yards and a touchdown this week against a strong Bills defense.
"I thought it was good," Rypien said after the game. "We were getting the ball out quick, guys were winning in man coverage, we were hitting the underneath stuff when we needed to [and] we hit some downfield shots too."
Rypien did not dwell on the Bills choosing to play their starters. The only thing the third-year quarterback focused on was performing to his potential and making plays for his receivers.
"I think you've just got to focus on doing your job," Rypien said. "I don't think you want to try to think about who's playing, who's not playing. … As a quarterback, you're just trying to see your read and go to the guy that you think is your best one-on-one matchup. Can't really think about any of that stuff, but I thought, like I said, in the second half especially, the guys did a good job."
Even with a lopsided scoreboard in favor of Buffalo, Rypien found a lot of value in this matchup, particularly for the young receivers. For players looking to make the 53-man roster or earn consideration for a spot on another team, he noted that every snap is an opportunity to showcase their skills.
"Overall, the scoreboard is what it is, but these preseason games — I tell these young guys all the time, you never know who's watching," Rypien said. "So, you always want to go out there and put up your tape. I thought they did a good job. We challenged them to win in man coverage in the second half, and they did that."
As the Broncos return to Empower Field at Mile High next weekend to take on the Vikings in the last game of the preseason, they will look to adjust after this loss. There might not be much to celebrate, but there is plenty to learn from.