The Denver Broncos (0-1) fell to the Dallas Cowboys (1-0) by a final score of 23-24 on Thursday evening, kicking off the 2011 NFL preseason. Below is a quick run-down of the game:
The Broncos started the game with a 9-3 lead after three Matt Prater field goals in the first quarter. Prater finished the night 3-of-3 with a long of 42 yards.
All three quarterbacks had their high moments as well as low lights. Incumbent starter Kyle Orton led the offense right down the field on the first drive before stalling at the one-yard line and settling for a field goal. Second year quarterback Tim Tebow had several exciting moments as well as some forgettable ones. His 43-yard strike to receiver Matthew Willis was on target. Playing behind a second team offensive line however, Tebow was heavily pressured, sacked and hurried.
Quarterback stats: Brady Quinn: 8/14 for 120 yards, 1 TD. Kyle Orton: 2/6 for 37 yards, Tim Tebow: 6/7 for 91 yards.
The running game looked vastly improved from last season, most noticeably on the team's first drive. The offensive line paved running lanes for backs Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee who combined for 6 carries that went for 40 yards. Moreno showed some fancy running while McGahee displayed a physical punch Denver's backfield had been lacking.
The reserve running backs were less impressive, all but Jeremiah Johnson. A former Oregon Duck, Johnson rushed 4 times for 28 yards and a 13-yard score in the fourth quarter. Equally exciting were Denver's young receivers.
First year wide receiver Eron Riley caught 3 passes for 50 yards and 1 touchdown delivered via the arm of Brady Quinn. Similar to last preseason, Matt Willis was once again productive, catching 2 passes for 50 yards while free agent acquisition David Anderson totaled 3 catches for 38 yards and second year receiver Eric Decker hauled in one pass that went for 29 yards.
The defense certainly looked improved, with run stuffing still being the biggest issue. The boys in the trenches, Marcus Thomas, Kevin Vickerson and Brodrick Bunkley were able to get some penetration and showed much potential. The defensive ends were more impressive.
Returning defensive end Elvis Dumervil moved around a lot while fellow end Jason Hunter seemingly had an easy time against the Cowboy's reserve offensive line on his way to recording 2.0 sacks. Across from Dumervil was Robert Ayers, who excelled against the run. The secondary could have played better, allowing several big plays.
Second year safety Kyle McCarthy was the most impressive defensive back of the night, recording 3 tackles, a sack and another quarterback hurry. McCarthy is currently ahead of rookie safety Quinton Carter on the team's depth chart. If McCarthy keeps playing this way, he won't have to worry about losing his job to the rookie.
Speaking of rookies, outside linebacker Von Miller only played one series, playing well in pass coverage and forcing some pressure. Right tackle Orlando Franklin looked good overall, but whiffed several blocks, which is a common rookie mistake.
The Broncos will now return home to face the Buffalo Bills in Week Two of the preseason on Saturday, August 20th.