Despite being named the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Kyle Orton came out and did everything he could to lose the job to backup, Chris Simms.
Orton left many Broncos fans with a sick feeling in their stomachs, throwing interceptions on three straight series. Let's just say it wasn't his night.
However, Denver did come out and show some good flashes with Orton at the wheel.
In Orton's first series, the Broncos effectively moved the ball all over the field before stalling at the 49ers two yard line, where Orton was picked off by Nate Clements, in an apparent mis-communication with Daniel Graham.
After Denver's defense forced San Fransisco to punt the ball, Orton and the Broncos again marched straight down the field. After a couple very nice runs by Knowshon Moreno, Orton again found a red jersey for an interception, this time it was Dre Bly stepping in front of Brandon Stokley.
After shutting down the 49ers offense again, the Broncos got the ball back in the shadow of their own endzone, where things really got ugly for the offense.
Failing to pick up a first down on the first two snaps, Denver was faced with a third and long. Orton faced some heavy pressure which was picked up nicely by Knowshon Moreno, and then spotted Jabar Gaffney wide open about thirty yards up field. The pass went about 20 yards and was intercepted and returned to Denver's four yard line.
San Fransisco would go on to score their first touchdown of the night on the ensuing play.
The bright side for Denver had to be their defense. The front three did a tremendous job of driving the offensive line off the ball, and as a whole, the starting defense was excellent against the run.
Their week spot was undeniably there inability to cover Vernon Davis. This, unfortunately, was relatively to be expected. The toughest part of transition to a 3-4 defense is for the outside linebackers to learn proper pass coverage technique.
In the second half, Denver's offense came out in a much more conservative manner, led by Chris Simms and Peyton Hillis. McDaniels dialed up a lot more run plays, and the offense looked sharp.
Chris Simms was very efficient and showed off his strong arm in the second half. The highlight of his night was when he hit rookie, Kenny McKinley for a 52 yard touchdown. The play was especially impressive as Simms was on the run when he launched the ball over 50 yards through the air.
Chris Simms faced the second string defense, but I liked the play calling a lot more. Denver was still very creative, but what we saw with the first string offense looked like the Patriots in mid-season form. Too much, too soon.
While it's clear how special McDaniels is as a coach, I don't think the players are quite ready for such a complex offense, which is precisely what preseason is for. Things will start to come together as the season progresses.
After the night was through, Denver's second and third string had scored two touchdowns and a field goal, with Chris Simms taking every snap. After their final touchdown, with the score being 17-16, Denver tried to go for the win, but came up short on the two point conversion.
All in all, I think it was a great learning experience for the team. It was especially good for McDaniels, I think. I think he will try to run the ball more, and take baby steps with Kyle Orton and his Denver offense.
Defensively, Denver needs to focus on defending the tight end position. The secondary will prevent the big plays, but the young linebacking corps. clearly needs to work on pass coverage.
Rookie Tom Brandstater did not see any action vs San Fransisco. Orton played the entire first half, and Simms played the second.
Knowshon Moreno left the game in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury that is being called a sprained knee for now. MRI results will be known tomorrow.
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