Each first team was fairly even, going blow-for-blow in the first half before the Broncos ultimately pulled away on the strength of their depth in the second half and held off a comeback attempt by the Rams.
The running game got going, the defense did what they always do, and the quarterbacks did just enough to keep the Broncos on top. It wasn't particularly flashy, but that's the winning formula that won 15 games a season ago.
For many of the players who took the field tonight, it would be their last time donning the orange and blue. Others rode stellar performances and bought themselves more time in Denver. With cuts looming on Monday, we'll get the full picture.
Here's how it all shook out on Saturday night:
The Trevor, Paxton, and (No) Mark Show
Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian didn’t even throw a pass until Denver’s third possession, fourteen minutes into the first quarter. His first test was a third-and-10, which he slung to Emmanuel Sanders to move the chains. A questionable third-down effort by Demaryius Thomas led to a stuffed fourth-down run and a promising drive was quashed.
On his next opportunity, Siemian started hot, darting passes to both Sanders and Thomas on the outside and moving the ball. Trying to cash in, Siemian went air to Cody Latimer, but it was a touch underthrown, batted, and picked (or so the officials stated). Having called for Siemian to take shots, I can't fault him too much for taking a shot and coming up snake eyes.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p...It was nice to see Siemian return unfazed from the turnover. He came out firing, hitting Sanders and Virgil Green en route to a one-yard touchdown pass to the aforementioned tight end. The scoring play was the result of a beautiful fake, set up by the hard running of C.J. Anderson on the drive, and Siemian patiently waiting for Green to come open in the back of the end zone.
The drive was a superb testament to the progress of Trevor Siemian and the commitment to the run game behind Anderson. The offense's rhythm was completely encouraging and it just may have won the job for Siemian.
He got one last shot with under 50 ticks left in the half, shooting a pass to Green and then lofting a long pass to Thomas who corralled the ball with one hand despite interference. He got away with what should have been an interception, and Brandon McManus drilled a 50-yarder. Siemian finished 10-17 with 122 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
The first drive was a bit frustrating, as Lynch was slow to collect the right personnel and threw short of the sticks on third down to Jordan Taylor. He picked up some steam on the next drive, impressing on a play in which he avoided a tackle and got off a screen pass to Devontae Booker for 17 yards and the drive was finished off by a Ronnie Hillman touchdown.
It was a three-and-out the next time as Lynch sailed a pass far too high for Kalif Raymond, and the same result was had a drive later as Lynch was flushed out of the pocket and had to throw the ball out of bounds on third down.
Lynch showed why he's just not quite ready, missing a third-down pass to Durron Neal on the next drive, again failing to pick up a first down. After the defense held on fourth down, Lynch effectively iced the game on a 16-yard strike to Mose Frazier on third down. Lynch finished 6-13 for 57 yards, no touchdowns, and no picks.
Mark Sanchez, as we reported earlier, did not see any action tonight. That might be a result of having enough tape on Sanchez, or it might be a sign of things to come. We shall find out soon enough.
Bending But Not Breaking
The Broncos first-team defense looked nearly perfect in the first couple of games, but it showed a few minor cracks against the Rams.
The first possession culminated in a lightning-fast Von Miller sack, but Case Keenum and the Rams responded well, picking up chunks of yards on passes to Kenny Britt and Lance Kendricks. The defense tightened up in their own territory and forced a punt.
LA came back with a vengeance and Keenum looked tremendous on a 23-yard pass down the seam to Kendricks. The quick passes of the Rams neutralized the rush of Miller and Barrett and worked deep into Denver territory. In the red zone, the sure tackling of Chris Harris stifled the drive and the Rams settled for a 29-yard field goal.
In the second quarter, the story was the same. A personal foul by Aqib Talib brought the Rams into field-goal range, and the Rams dutifully obliged with a 38-yarder.
After a three-and-out, the Jared Goff-led Rams offense picked up 35 yards on a circus catch by Pharoh Cooper. Another late hit, this time by Bradley Roby, allowed the Rams to work into field goal range. Darian Stewart had a pick-six in his hands, but let the ball slip away or else he might still be running. The Rams, again, hit a 48-yard field goal.
As the backups took over, Dekoda Watson came in screaming off the edge and quickly notched his third sack in three games to end the first series of the second half.
Later on, the Rams gained ground thanks to a Lorenzo Doss pass interference call and an illegal contact from Taurean Nixon. After a punishing hit by Vontarrius Dora on the top pick, the Rams tried their luck on fourth down, but Kayvon Webster jarred the ball from the hands of Mike Thomas and forced the turnover.
The bruised Goff left the game and Sean Mannion took over, and the Rams promptly punted after three plays. Dekoda Watson stole the show after that, bringing down Mannion twice and forcing a punt after what started as a promising Rams effort.
The Rams finally broke through a funk with a massive 73-yard run from Terrance Magee, but the defense held in the red zone with a Sadat Sulleyman sack and a crushing fourth-down hit by safety Brandion Ross.
LA had one last chance with under two minutes, but another fourth-down stop (another sack by Sulleyman) closed the door.
Overall, the Broncos gave up plenty of yards through both penalty and otherwise, but when it mattered, the held tough and kept the Rams out of the end zone. It was a nice bounce-back performance after a porous effort last week.
Odds and Ends
One of the more encouraging sights from this game was the success of the run game, particularly from , C.J. Anderson, who totaled 50 yards on 11 carries. The main beneficiary was Siemian, who seemed to find a rhythm as the ground game started to get hot.
Ronnie Hillman wants to make the team and he played like it. On his first three carries, he picked up 20 yards and scored from eight yards out. He snagged 21 yards on another run, finishing with 45 yards on just five attempts.
Riley Dixon, deadlocked in a punting battle with Britton Colquitt, was the holder on each field goal and handled all of the punting duties, booting some nice shots off of his right foot in the process.
Dekoda Watson secured 2.5 sacks and shall make this team. What an impressive job by him of moving outside and immediately making an impact.
To get instant Broncos notifications, download the NEW Scout mobile app for iOS HERE!
Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.