DENVER (CBS4/AP) — A month ago, Kendall Hinton was the guy you’d contact if you wanted some candy bars or merchandise for a high school fundraiser. On Sunday, he was the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback, a twist befitting the 2020 NFL season during a pandemic that brings twists and turns every day.
Hinton switched from quarterback to wide receiver his final year at Wake Forest in 2019, and he caught 73 passes for 1,001 yards and four touchdowns, good enough to catch the eyes of the Broncos, who signed him after he went undrafted. But Hinton was no match for the likes of drafted rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Tyrie Cleveland, so he was cut after training camp and went to work in sales.
The Broncos called him back earlier this month and re-signed him to their practice squad on Nov. 4.
His life took a turn when all of the Denver Broncos healthy quarterbacks were forced to go into quarantine over the weekend. The Broncos ended up losing to the New Orleans Saints 31-3 and for Hinton, it jut wasn’t a fair fight. He completed one of nine passes for 13 yards, threw two interceptions and was sacked once for a passer rating of zero.
“He did everything he could,” Fangio said. “He was excited for the opportunity. We had about a two, three, four-hour window to get him ready, which isn’t a lot, obviously. … That’s a big, big ask and it just didn’t work out.”
It was both the peak and nadir of Hinton’s athletic career.
“I can easily say that was the most eventful 24 hours of my life, but when I got the call there was pure excitement. Of course, there was nerves and disbelief, but the encouragement the team gave me and guys just keeping me up the whole time, they made it a lot easier for me,” Hinton said, adding he “eventually got some sleep” Saturday night.
On Sunday, the Saints limited the Broncos to a single third-down conversion and Denver became the first team with more interceptions than conversions in a game since the Chargers on Sept. 20, 1998.
When Hinton switched to receiver his senior year, he never figured he’d play quarterback again, but “after a while it’s like riding a bike.”
Or tumbling over the handlebars. Hinton didn’t complete any of his seven first-half throws, one of which was picked off by Janoris Jenkins. The Broncos managed 37 yards and a single first down before halftime.
He hadn’t been tackled in two years, so “tomorrow morning probably won’t be fun,” Hinton said. “But it was great to get back out there.
“I would not say this is how I planned it out in my dreams, but it usually doesn’t work out how you want it. So, just getting this opportunity and this experience has been amazing.”
Tight end Noah Fant’s 13-yard catch was Denver’s only reception.
Sometimes, the Broncos had their running backs take direct snaps. But the Broncos converted just once in 10 third-down tries.
Starting quarterback Drew Lock, backup Brett Rypien and practice squad veteran Blake Bortles were disqualified over the weekend when the NFL discovered the three weren’t wearing masks Wednesday, the day before No. 3 QB Jeff Driskel tested positive for the coronavirus.
"I can easily say this has been the most eventful 24 hours of my life…when I got the call it was pure excitement."@Kendall_Hinton2 reflects on what the last day has been like for him.#BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/Vl2DAPZS04
— Ryan Greene 📷 (@RyanCBS4) November 30, 2020
The Saints led 7-0 until scoring twice off turnovers in the final 2:22 of the first half.
Center Lloyd Cushenberry III’s low snap skittered past Lindsay and Kwon Alexander was headed for the end zone after scooping it up. Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles, who signed a four-year, $68 million extension Saturday, tripped him up at the 23.
The Broncos scored on Brandon McManus’ 58-yard field goal in the third quarter set up by rookie Essang Bassey’s 26-yard interception return.
An hour before kickoff, Lock tweeted an explanation and a mea culpa in which he admitted the QBs weren’t wearing their masks when they gathered Wednesday.
While some players such as tight end Noah Fant were incredulous over the league forcing Denver to play a game without any of its QBs, other Broncos took the news in stride.
Von Miller and Bradley Chubb both made posts comically suggesting they could play quarterback, and the team’s Twitter account even had a mock request inquiring if Nuggets supreme passer Nikola Jokic might be available.
Is Jokic available?
Asking for a friend.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 29, 2020
On Saturday night, Fant also tweeted, “Anybody know if Peyton Manning is busy tomorrow? Laughing but serious.”
Saints: Visit Atlanta for the second leg of a three-week road trip.
Broncos: Visit Kansas City to try snapping a 10-game losing streak to the Chiefs.
(© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)