DENVER (AP) – The Denver Broncos’ wild offseason came to an end Thursday night when Arizona’s Ryan Lindley threw for two touchdowns in a 32-24 victory at Denver.
“That’s the true measure of a quarterback,” Lindley said of the win, which he secured with a fourth-quarter rally, one he hopes lands him on the Cardinals’ 53-man roster as their third QB.
The Broncos were just glad to get through this one relatively intact, although promising rookie linebacker Lerentee McCray did sprain his right ankle and had to be helped from the field.
Just another speed bump on this uneven ride the Broncos have been on since their playoff pratfall against Baltimore in January. Now, they get to put the turmoil of the offseason aside and see if they can use all this adversity to drive them to great heights, like so many expect.
“What tumult?” Broncos coach John Fox asked incredulously. “This job is tumult.”
Well, there was losing Elvis Dumervil to the Ravens in free agency after a fax foul-up on his renegotiated contract, followed by John Elway’s top two assistants getting suspended for drunken driving arrests; All-Pro linebacker Von Miller’s six-game suspension; and a rash of injuries to key players such as Champ Bailey.
“I enjoyed the offseason,” Fox insisted. “Everybody goes through the same things. We’re done with the offseason and we’re getting ready to start the regular season.”
The Broncos head into next week’s NFL Kickoff against defending champion Baltimore – with gigantic banners of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hanging from their stadium next to those of Peyton Manning, no less – with Dumervil on the other side and Miller sidelined.
Together, they accounted for 29 1/2 of Denver’s league-leading 52 sacks last season.
How the Broncos make up for their absences will go a long way in determining if Miller’s Super Bowl guarantee he made back in February was bold or blather.
The Broncos have some tough choices when filling out their 53-man roster because several players they’d like to keep are injured, and they’re already without their defensive superstar until mid-October.
Before spraining his right ankle, McCray made a strong case for extending Denver’s streak to a full decade in which at least one undrafted player made the 53-man roster in Week 1. McCray started at Miller’s strong side spot and had a sack and a forced fumble in the first half.
Lindley threw a 55-yard TD pass to Jaron Brown on the play after McCray was helped off the field in the third quarter.
The Broncos responded with Lance Ball’s 69-yard gain on a screen and rookie Zac Dysert’s keeper from 7 yards that put Denver back on top, 24-17.
Denver tight end Jake O’Connell’s second fumble of the night, however, led to Mike Thomas’ 13-yard TD catch from Lindley, whose 2-point conversion pass to Andre Ellington gave Arizona its first lead at 25-24 with less than 6 minutes remaining.
Stepfan Taylor added a 15-yard TD run with 1:05 left.
Miller was among Broncos starters who didn’t play but went through a workout 3 1/2 hours before kickoff. Also in that group was rookie running back Montee Ball. Absent was Ronnie Hillman, who had fumbles that were returned for touchdowns in back-to-back games.
Hillman started for Denver and got the first two carries, gaining 14 yards, before Jeremiah Johnson took over and capped the opening drive with a 9-yard burst up the middle.
Brock Osweiler’s 45-yard pass to Gerell Robinson set up a 27-yard field goal by Matt Prater before the Cardinals countered with Ryan Williams’ 1-yard TD run and Jay Feely’s 52-yarder to knot the score at 10 at halftime.
“I thought the offensive line played lights out. I didn’t have a hand put on me,” Osweiler said. “The receivers made plays. Gerell Robinson had a huge night. It was a lot of fun reconnecting with him on the field. We had quite a few completions in our careers at ASU together.”
Robinson caught five passes for 99 yards, including a 25-yard TD pass from Dysert.
“Even if I do feel like I did (enough to make the roster), it doesn’t matter what I think,” Robinson said. “It ultimately comes down to what the heads in the top room think. I’ve been down this road before”
Arizona coach Bruce Arians indicated Williams, who had been hobbled by a knee injury, did enough to make the cut.
“Right now I would keep all five” running backs, he said. “They are solid. They can all play. You can’t have enough good backs. We have a stable of them. I am not going to cut a running back that’s a good football player to keep an average player just to have eight players at another position. We are going to keep the best 53 players we have.”
Notes: Arians said TE Jeff King will likely have knee surgery Friday. … Cardinals DT Ricky Lumpkin injured a shoulder. … Denver rookie CB Kayvon Webster tied for the team lead with seven tackles, but his hard hits drew two 15-yard penalties. “That’s my game,” he said. “I pride myself on being a good tackler.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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