Ten things about the Broncos in their 17-7 preseason win over Dallas on Saturday night:
1. Four players who have worked with the first team in camp saw time against the Cowboys: Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (17 of 69 snaps), right tackle Calvin Anderson (14), outside linebacker Malik Reed (17 of 75) and inside linebacker Jonas Griffith (two). Why play them? “Watching (Thursday’s practice), we wanted to see them in live action,” coach Nathaniel Hackett said. Griffith departed with a left elbow injury when his arm was caught between two teammates and Cowboys running back Rico Dowdle.
2. Broncos quarterback Josh Johnson was 16-of-23 passing for 172 yards and two touchdowns (first half), followed by Brett Rypien, who was 8 of 18 for 113 yards (second half). “Both of them did some good things,” Hackett said. “I think Josh came out and was really patient with his footwork and was able to get the ball out on time and the receivers were able to get enough separation to get some catches. (Rypien) kept battling back. He was put in some rough situations early.”
3. Special teams highlights: Barrington Wade deflected a Cowboys punt and Montrell Washington had punt returns of 18 and 27 yards. Washington was decisive with his first move to get up the field; there was no dancing. “That’s one of the reasons we drafted him,” Hackett said. “He’s done some great things as a receiver, but to see him back there, catch those things and get some positive yards — field position is so critical so whenever you have somebody who get 1-2 first downs by himself, it’s huge.”
4. In the first quarter, the Broncos’ offense used at least two tight ends on seven snaps. Andrew Beck has been attending the tight end meetings exclusively, but showed his versatility by lining up at fullback.
5. Hackett took the running game to task and he’s right. The Broncos gained only 39 yards on 22 rushes (1.9-yard average). Take away two Rypien’s end-of-game kneel-downs and it was 20 carries for 37 yards. On the first drive, Quinn Bailey (who played every offensive snap) was beat for a “bad” run, followed on the next play by a split “bad” run between Luke Wattenberg and Zack Johnson.
6. On a fourth-and-2 play for Dallas in the first quarter, rookie nose tackle Matt Henningsen was unblocked and pressured Cooper Rush to throw in 1.59 seconds. Rush’s throw was behind the intended receiver and intercepted by safety P.J. Locke. Henningsen was credited with a quarterback knockdown. On the ensuing drive, the Broncos also had a fourth-and-2, but Okwuegbunam didn’t hold his block and Johnson was hit as he threw incomplete.
7. Receiver Brandon Johnson’s 40-yard catch was well done. The Cowboys rushed five against a six-man protection and defensive lineman Trysten Hill used a stunt to emerge unblocked. Josh Johnson, a split second before he was hit by Hill, lofted a pass to Johnson down the left sideline that he corralled and had about 10 yards post-catch. Three plays later, receiver Seth Williams started from the left slot and high-pointed the football for a 1-yard touchdown.
8. Hackett passed his first (exhibition) game management test in the final minute-plus of the first half. He called timeout at 1:14 following outside linebacker Baron Browning’s sack. He was able to save his second timeout because Dallas threw incomplete. The Broncos took over at their 10-yard line with 1:02 on the clock and two timeouts. The offense ran six plays (including passes of 14, 23 and eight yards), Hackett used timeouts at :41 and :03 and the half ended with a 52-yard field goal.
9. The Cowboys were a mess. At one point of the second half, Dallas had more penalties (15) than first downs (12). They ended with 17 penalties (for 129 yards), five more than any other team through the weekend’s first 15 games. New England had 12 and Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Houston all had 11. The Broncos had eight enforced penalties. One drive summed up Dallas’ night. From their 3-yard line, the Cowboys completed a 40-yard pass … but then had 10- and five-yard penalties. They had consecutive plays of 16, seven, six and six yards … but then had a 10-yard penalty. They eventually missed a field goal.
10. Twenty-nine Broncos players were scratched. Injured players whose statuses merit watching this week in practice: Receiver KJ Hamler (knee), running back Melvin Gordon (foot), tight end Greg Dulcich (hamstring), guard Netane Muti (knee), cornerback Ronald Darby (chest) and cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee).