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Cardinals Fall to Broncos in Preseason, Kyler Murray Sits Ahead of Week 1 Debut

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2019

Denver Broncos wide receiver Fred Brown (19) makes a touchdown catch as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams (26) defends during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Denver Broncos finished their preseason schedule with a 20-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.

Denver improved to 2-3 in the preseason, while Arizona fell to 1-3.

Kevin Hogan started at quarterback for the victors and went 12-of-23 for 138 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Fred Brown (five catches for 66 yards and a touchdown) and Devontae Jackson (11 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown) found the end zone, and the Broncos defense kept Arizona largely in check.

Denver Broncos @Broncos

There's a reason his handle is @DowntownFBrown_ 😏 #AZvsDEN https://t.co/GyY33Bh8vH

Brett Hundley started at quarterback for the Cardinals, but rookie Drew Anderson saw more action and went 9-of-17 for 118 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.

As is often the case with the final game of the preseason, the story was as much about who didn't play as who did.

Both starting quarterbacks were on the sideline, which was notable since the Cardinals and Broncos are each beginning new eras under center in 2019. Arizona selected Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick after he won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, and Denver acquired Joe Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens via trade.

How Murray adjusts to the NFL game is a source of intrigue after he shredded collegiate defenses on his way to 4,361 passing yards, 1,001 rushing yards and 54 total touchdowns in his final collegiate season.

There are questions about whether he can succeed in the NFL at 5'10", and he hasn't provided an answer in either direction in the preseason. He played in Arizona's first three games and completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 193 yards, zero touchdowns and zero picks while adding just 13 yards on the ground.

Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals

Mixtape dropping Sept. 8 https://t.co/QAxyXdmOmS

Additional preseason experience in head coach Kliff Kingsbury's system may have helped him prepare for the regular season, but Arizona decided it wasn't worth the injury risk.

Denver didn't want to risk Flacco either, especially since reserve Drew Lock is dealing with a thumb injury.

Flacco is a veteran who doesn't need the experience as much as Murray, but he is still playing for a different team than the Ravens for the first time in his career. He also lost his job to Lamar Jackson last year and didn't resemble the same quarterback who led Baltimore to a Super Bowl title in the 2012 season.

Denver Broncos @Broncos

We're SO close to seeing these guys in action. 🙌 https://t.co/aCowlSSZaV

Flacco joining Murray on the sideline opened the door for Hundley and Hogan, and the latter made the first statement.

He directed a field-goal drive on the first possession of the game and capped a 13-play, 78-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Brown in the second quarter. The Mississippi State receiver was the best player on the field for extended stretches in the first half.

It wasn't all great for Hogan, though one of his two interceptions came on a Hail Mary to end the half.

Hundley couldn't match Hogan in the scoring department even though he was a solid 7-of-8 passing. He threw for just 55 yards and kept it safe rather than taking too many chances, which wasn't a formula for success.

Malik Reed ended Arizona's best scoring chance with Hundley when he sacked the UCLA product on 4th-and-2 inside Denver's territory. Reed finished with two of the Broncos' three sacks in an impressive overall performance from the defense.

Denver Broncos @Broncos

THE DREAM KILLER‼️ @MTR_90 with the sack 💪 #AZvsDEN https://t.co/uGWkYDy2QF

Hundley turned the reins over to Anderson, and the rookie was unable to lead a comeback even though he found A.J. Richardson with an impressive touchdown throw when he was flushed out of the pocket.

Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals

Drew Anderson ➡️ A.J. Richardson DEN 10 | ARZ 7 https://t.co/xGOKJwo6oh

Brett Rypien (8-of-11 for 86 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception) was solid but unspectacular for the Broncos, but he at least got the touchdown from Jackson and 70 rushing yards from Khalfani Muhammad in support.

            

What's Next?

Both teams shift their attention to their regular-season openers. Arizona hosts the Detroit Lions on Sept. 8, while Denver is at the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 9.