In every game there’s winners or losers, but especially in the preseason when the fight for 53 as a game can be a win or a loss for someone’s spot on a roster.
With two games to go, what did we see tonight?
#1. Winner - The Pass Rush
Dennis Gardeck got a sack, Zaven Collins looked solid and made some plays, and the Cardinals got in a large amount of hits on Russell Wilson in DC Nick Rallis’s first game calling defense.
For a team that has a lot of young guys, seeing them flying around and getting pressure, especially when there’s ZERO expectations of them, shows a bit of the buy-in Cardinals fans are looking for from the players.
#2. Loser - Russell Wilson’s body
While Sean Payton’s return to the NFL wasn’t smooth as he burned a timeout needlessly that nearly cost the Broncos 3 points, it was his quarterback who started out slow and ended up finishing strong.
Albeit beat up. Wilson took hit after hit and Arizona on one play brought the house with Cover Zero to bring him down. That same play Wilson read and threw a touchdown on them later to Jerry Jeudy, but it was encouraging to see a physical Cardinals defense.
He’s 34 years old. Payton played him.
But that’s a tough look for your quarterback in preseason, no less.
#3. Clayton Tune, baby
Poised is the best way to describe Tune. He had an early interception with a receiver falling down but bounced back, delivered throws in stride over the middle (under pressure no less) and ended his day with a Touchdown.
He had a few misfires, especially to the flat where he overthrew guys and did much better over the middle than to the outside. But if you’re in need of a quarterback who can play in case Colt McCoy goes down, tonight’s showing should have you feel pretty confident in Clayton.
Speaking of Tune...how about that comeback from David Blough? Poised and a game winning drive. The backup QB spot looks bright.
#4. Loser - Broncos Kicker Brett Maher
Maher ended up making one kick but he went 0/2 with a block and a bad miss from 50+ and really cast quite a bit of doubt as far as his stability for Denver.
He was wide on his first kick and while Matt Prater also missed a field goal with Nolan Cooney holding (he made a later one) the confidence wasn’t there.
The game came down to not having to have him make a kick fortunately, but if you’re a Broncos fan you’re nervous.
#5. Winner - The Coaching Staff’s decisions overall
Arizona looked buttoned up, without delay of games, a large amount of penalties as we’ve seen in the past, especially at seemingly crucial times.
Still, it wasn’t a clean game:
- Gannon didn’t have the personnel correct and called a timeout...when he should have let the clock run down on a Broncos team with no timeouts:
Yeah. Even if you have only 10, you let it go and make them scramble.— Vince Marotta (@Vincemarotta) August 12, 2023
- Arizona should have run the ball after the pass interference call in the 4th quarter to take some time off the clock
- They ran out of time at the end of the third quarter in getting an additional play off
- Live by the zero blitz, die by the zero blitz as a sack and easy TD for Russell Wilson
How did it end, though?
Still, it felt...different. The team seemed disciplined and well coached and poised for the moment.
And when that moment came, they got a walk-off victory.
Maybe that’s reading into a more discipline-focused staff and we will see when live bullets are flying in the real games, but it’s encouraging.
#6. Loser - Corey Clement and Andre Baccellia
Thought about putting Marquis Hayes here given he had a few penalties and struggled some, but he put it together in the 4th quarter. Good for him.
Clement left to the locker room and Baccellia left with a concussion.
Clement seemed to be the RB2 with Keontay Ingram hurting and had been used as a fullback even for the Cards in this game before he left the game.
Meanwhile, Baccellia seemed to have a connection with Clayton Tune and given that he’s on the bubble and no guarantees of a spot, that’s just brutal. Here’s hoping for their recovery.
Bonus: Ke’Trel Clark looks like the real deal. For a 6th round pick, he was everywhere and looks like an absolute steal.