To most, the Broncos/Cardinals preseason finale might have seemed like a meaningless game, but to others, especially within the organization, to them, this game was very important, as the futures of 22 men hung in the balance.
Broncos kicker Matt Prater kicked a 44-yard field goal with 52 seconds left, giving Denver a 16-13 win over the Cardinals.
Arizona ends the preseason with a 1-4 record, while Denver improved to 2-2 with the victory.
Rookie Ryan Lindley made the start at quarterback for the Cardinals, and did a very good job overall.
Lindley was 14-of-26 for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Lindley thought he did pretty well in his first start, despite making some typical rookie mistakes.
“I felt pretty good, I feel like I’m functioning better each week,” Lindley said. “That’s all you can look to do is improve.”
Lindley’s night seemed to be over at halftime, as Richard Bartel came in relief of Lindley to start the third quarter, but on the Cardinals second offensive series of the quarter, Bartel was sacked by nose tackle Sealver Siliga, suffering a shoulder injury, effectively ending his night right there.
Lindley was forced back into action, and late in the fourth quarter, Lindley took the offense on a five-play, 52-yard drive, which culminated with Jay Feely kicking a 35-yard field goal to knot the game at 13.
Whisenhunt was quite impressed with Lindley’s poise, considering the circumstances.
“That’s kind of the way he’s handled himself the whole camp ” Whisenhunt said. “I thought the thing that was most impressive about him early in the game was the accuracy of his throws.”
Beanie Wells saw his first extended action of the preseason and looked very good.
Wells showed some great acceleration and cuts once he got the ball. Wells ended up with 35 yards on seven carries, before Whisenhunt decided to pull him.
“It was decent,” Wells said of his performance. “It was good to get back out there and get a little feel for it.”
The defense was especially bullish in the first half, collecting five sacks. For the game they gave up 308 yards of offense, 168 of that on the ground, as the Broncos running backs seemed to be able to run at will, compared to the Cardinals running game which struggled all game long.
Along with Bartel’s injury, running back Javarris James got injured during Omar Bolden’s 103-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.
Whisenhunt gave about the worst news you could hear about the injury.
“J.J. got a knee,” Whisenhunt said. “Probably an ACL.”
Tough news for a young man who was fighting hard for a roster spot on this team.
The Cardinals have until 6 p.m. Arizona time to make their final cuts and get their roster down to 53 players, something Whisenhunt knows won’t be easy to do.
“It’s no question it’s going to be a tough decision getting down to 53,” Whisenhunt said. “Some guys helped themselves tonight and some guys hurt themselves tonight, that’s what happens.”