DENVER --The Broncos wrapped up their first undefeated preseason in 12 years with a 30-2 rout of the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
What did we learn from the game?
- Kyle Sloter is resilient**
Denver's offense struggled early; its first four possessions yielded a field goal, one first down and 12 yards on 13 snaps. Sloter was sacked twice -- once for a safety, and on the second sack, he was brought down at the Denver 1-yard line, ending the Broncos' fourth series.
But on the next possession, the offense began to click. Sloter completed back-to-back 32-yard passes to open the next series, finding Jordan Taylor on a slant route and Anthony Nash down the left sideline past two defenders, launching a 98-yard drive that ended in a 3-yard Stevan Ridley touchdown burst.
Sloter led another 98-yard march in the fourth quarter, capped by what might have been his best pass of the game: a 21-yard touchdown strike to Steven Scheu with 9:13 left in the game. Sloter looked off the safety, then spotted Scheu splitting two defenders down the right seam. He placed the pass on the money for the Broncos' second offensive touchdown of the night.
"Hats off to him, he's really done an incredible job," Taylor said. "He's slowly making a name for himself."
Whether Sloter did enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster is a question now in the hands of the Broncos' coaches and personnel executives. But at the minimum, the undrafted rookie showed the ability to shake off early hiccups. His 15-of-23, 220-yard, one-touchdown performance capped a promising preseason of work.
"Those [roster] calls are going to happen [Friday] and Saturday, but he's played very well," Joseph said. "He had a slow start with a safety and taking a sack backed up [near the end zone], but he came out of it with three 80-yard scoring drives.
"He's been impressive. He's a young, poised quarterback. He's very, very intelligent. I've been impressed with Kyle."
- Secondary depth shows off**
The standard set by first-teamers in the "No-Fly Zone" seems to seep down the depth chart, and rookies Brendan Langley and Dymonte' Thomas did a good job of upholding it Thursday night.
Langley broke up a pass and also had some some strong work against the run, including one stop of Arizona running back Elijhaa Penny for a 5-yard loss on a third-and-4 midway through the second quarter that helped knock the Cardinals out of field-goal range.
Thomas, one of a strong crop of rookie safeties, continued his knack for making plays on the football by grabbing an errant Trevor Knight pass, quickly accelerating into fifth gear and returning it 58 yards for a touchdown that put the Broncos in front 17-2 with 1:54 left in the the first half.
"It's crazy how all week the vets were talking about [how] this is the young guys' turn," Thomas said.
By holding the Cardinals to a meager 2.8 yards per pass play, the young defensive backs more than did their part.
- Shelby Harris continued to make plays**
Harris followed his three-sack game against the Packers by posting one hit of Knight and a pair of tackles. Harris and Adam Gotsis started at the two defensive end spots, flanking rookie nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett, who finished with a pair of assists.
4. Broncos didn't need Taylor to play QB
To the relief of everyone associated with the Broncos, the team's emergency option at quarterback wasn't required. Taylor took some snaps during practice this week in cause injuries wrecked the Broncos' complement under center, but he was able to simply stick to wide receiver.
Taylor caught a 32-yard pass on a slant route in the second quarter to get the Broncos out of bad field position at their 2-yard line and launch a 98-yard sprint to their first touchdown of the night.