BRONCOS DEBUT IN PRESEASON WITH VICTORY
Henderson’s 41-yard TD run wins preseason opener
Cornerback Chris Harris scores on an early interception return and the backup offense scores twice in the fourth quarter as Denver defeats the Chicago Bears 24-17.
In the center stood a young girl donning an orange No. 18 Peyton Manning jersey. At her side was an older man wearing John Elway’s No. 7. There was no No. 13. No No. 12, either. No sign of the Broncos’ future.
Thursday’s preseason opener — a 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears — put them one step closer to finding him.
Siemian, as planned by firstyear coach Vance Joseph, started and played 19 plays before handing the reins to Lynch midway through the second quarter. Kyle Sloter closed out the final quarter and was the only one of the three quarterbacks to throw a touchdown pass.
“I was satisfied,” Joseph said. “Trevor was solid. He made some nice plays in the pass game. Paxton had some nice plays, but we had so many penalties . ... It hurt his drives. That’s why he played more. But overall it was a solid performance.”
While eyes were on the quarterbacks, the victory highlighted many persistent issues on offense for Denver — protection problems, penalties and general inefficiency — with only 144 net yards and a 13 percent conversion rate on third downs when Siemian and Lynch played.
Siemian began with a seven-
CHICAGO» An hour before kickoff Thursday night, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch trotted out onto Soldier Field to warm up, setting up shop at the 20-yard line in front of a swath of fans who quickly pulled out camera phones and dangled photos for signatures.
point cushion, thanks to Chris Harris’ picksix play on the third play of the game, and went 6-of-7 passing for 51 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions for a passer rating of 97.0. He was sacked once — on the first play — as Leonard Floyd flew around right tackle Menelik Watson for the takedown as protection issues and penalties littered Siemian’s three drives.
“It’s the preseason, so we’ve been doing all of our things we want to do in the regular season,” said rookie offensive tackle Garett Bolles. “We’re just trying to be consistent, run plays we know we can run and continue to get better. It was a good start. There are things we need to work on, definitely, but I feel like everyone is out there playing with their heart tonight.”
Both teams racked up a total of six flags on Denver’s opening drive, but Siemian held his own, connecting with Demaryius Thomas for a conversion on third-and-11 and setting up a 38-yard field goal by Brandon McManus.
Siemian’s second drive was a three-andout, and his final go was a seven-play, 37yard drive that included two completions to Cody Latimer. One, however, was nullified by penalties. The drive ended on a 3-yard loss on a run by Stevan Ridley on third-and-1.
“I thought I did some good things, I thought Paxton did some good things,” Siemian said. “There is definitely some stuff we’re going to watch and clean up. I can’t really give a reaction right now without watching the tape, but I thought everybody did something good tonight.”
Where Siemian appeared in control under pressure, Lynch struggled early with his reads and reacting quickly to the defense. He took over with 7:41 left in the second quarter and played four series, going 6of-9 passing for 42 yards and a 77.1 rating, while adding 11 yards on four carries. He closed the first half with back-to-back three-and-outs, often tucking the ball and scrambling to evade pressure. To compensate for his late reads, he appeared to throw harder, affecting his accuracy.
“I thought I did pretty good,” Lynch said. “Before we went to halftime, I think we struggled a little bit moving the ball. Missed some third downs that we should have converted and had a lot of penalties. That kind of set us back. We came out of the locker room at halftime, and I thought we did a really good job of moving the ball. But like Coach Joseph said, it was just too many penalties to keep us from the moving the ball downfield and get in scoring position.”
Lynch showed flashes of potential, though, as he connected early and often with Latimer and, in the third quarter, hit Jordan Taylor for a 14-yard completion.
Sloter played the entire fourth quarter and found rookie receiver Isaiah McKenzie for a 47-yard touchdown and then handed off to De’Angelo Henderson for a 41-yard, go-ahead score late in the game.
Joseph and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said before the game that while the preseason performances count the most for the quarterbacks, the race will be decided by the players’ full body of work since April. Decision-making will weigh heavily.
Siemian arrived in Chicago with an edge, showing more consistency and comfort in practice and owning more game experience. He left with a firmer grip on his position, but the competition isn’t over.
Next week, following joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Lynch will get his turn as the starter.
“It’s an ongoing battle,” Joseph said. “Next week, Paxton is going to be with the first team for the first quarter and a half . ... Right now, we’re still competing. We’re all learning the offense still. So after next week we can sit down and talk about if there’s separation.”
Broncos running back De’Angelo Henderson gallops for a 41-yard touchdown late in Thursday night’s game against the Bears in Chicago.