While the Broncos have been on the upside of late, the Cardinals have struggled, with three consecutive losses, the most recent being a 17-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Combined with earlier losses to the Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Chargers, Arizona has been outscored 78-35 throughout the preseason.
A fact that does not sit well with head coach Dennis Green
"We have not run the ball well and I think it starts with the line," said Green. "You have to create holes that the backs can run through. We have not done a good job of that, hopefully we'll do a better job of that. As long as the linemen realize their job is to open holes for the all-time leading rusher in the NFL (Emmitt Smith), and I think we will get that point across, then we'll have a very effective offense."
The addition of Smith has not provided the spark the Cardinals have hoped for. Currently Smith ranks third on the team in rushing with only 49-yards on thirteen carries. Running back Larry Croom (19 carries for 62-yards) and quarterback Josh McCown (62-yards on 12 carries) rank above the former Dallas Cowboy great.
Defensively the Cardinals have not fared much better, giving up 1,018-yards in three games, with opponents averaging nearly 340-yards per game. As a team, Arizona's defense ranks 27th out of thirty-two NFL teams , a sharp contrast to the Broncos third place status.
While the final game of the preseason is generally a time for resting the starters, Arizona may focus otherwise, giving their first team units playing time well into the first half as preparation for their upcoming season opener when they take to the road to face the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 12.
"Denver is a great place to play because they
have an outstanding win/loss record at home, very similar to the team we'll
play against in our opener," pointed out Green.
"St. Louis is 34-6 in the last five years and that is the best and Denver is probably right behind them. So this will be a good test for us."
The Denver - Arizona matchup will feature several old friends on both sides of the ball. Two key positions in particular, hold a special bond, as starters for both squads will be facing former teammates when the teams do battle.
Cardinals defensive end Bertrand Berry spent three seasons with the Denver Broncos before landing in Arizona this past off-season.
"It will be a little weird," Berry said of his return to Invesco Field. "Knowing that I will be battling against guys that I just battled with six months ago is a little different. But, they are still my friends but we both know we have a job to do and we're going to do it and then we can go back to being friends afterwards."
On the flip side Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, is only one-full season removed from the team that once considered him to be the future of the franchise. Thursday's game will reunite Plummer with several members of a Cardinal team that he still considers as friends.
"It will be good to see Jake," Cardinals starting quarterback Josh McCown said. "I'm excited to visit with him before or after the game. He's in a great situation there, they've got a good team and it will be fun. It is a neat situation when you go and start against a guy who when you came into the game helped mentor you. I think it'll be fun and I look forward to seeing him."
BRONCOS vs. CARDINALS
The Broncos hold a 10-4 (.714) edge over the
Cardinals in preseason games dating back to their first meeting in 1970. Denver
is 3-3 on the road against the Cardinals, and 2-2 in Arizona after the team
moved from St. Louis. At home, the Broncos are 7-1 against Arizona. Under
Head Coach Mike Shanahan, the Broncos have won their three preseason meetings
with Arizona, 19-13 in 2002, 31-17 in 2000 and 38-7 in 1999.
In regular season play, Denver has a 6-0-1 lead in the series, which includes the most-recent victory, a 37-7 win in 2002.
HEAD COACH MATCHUP
Shanahan (Head Coach)
10th Year as Broncos Head Coach (91-53)
12 th Year NFL Head Coach (99-65)
Green (Head Coach)
1st Year as Cardinals Head Coach (0-0)
11 th Year NFL Head Coach (101-70)
Locally in Denver the game will be broadcast on KCNC-TV (CBS-Channel 4). Gary Miller will provide the play-by-play, and joining him in the booth will be Steve Atkinson and Mark Schlereth doing the color commentary. Radio coverage will be supplied by KOA radio (850am), the flagship station for the Denver Broncos radio network. Mark Johnson and Scott Hastings will provide the play-by-play and color commentary, with Alan Roach on the sidelines.
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