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It's all about roster battles and new vets coming off the injury list: Sims vs. Thomas...CJ2K...How many RB's...Massey & Watford...Golden vs. Shipley...Shaughnessy vs. Mauro vs. Stinson...Who Will be Our Pass Rushers?...The 4th CB.
Cards overcome first play stinker to win 22 - 20.
The Bottom Line:
The Cards got toasted on the very first play when they gave up a 78-yard Hail Mary TD pass, but eventually won an otherwise meaningless contest. Huge positives included (1) only one significant injury (to rookie TE Christian) and (2) ipressive debutsd of a couple of veteran newcomers (C Johnson and Weatherspoon) who proved that they're ready for prime time (Johnson reeled off a couple of nifty runs - making the first man miss. "Spoon played well into the second half).
Sims took a step backward from his Oakland performance (starting slowly, antsy under pressure, passes batted down). Thomas went 9 for 10 (including a 59-yard thing of beauty to JJ Nelson for the winning TD...While it looks like we'll have "pass rush by committee", I think we have the individual horses to get to the QB on any given defensive down....I like our overall defensive depth (especially in the secondary)...I'm nervous about our offensive line - especially at center.
On the very first play from scrimmage, the Cards bit on a run fake and Jones-Quartey got burned deep on a 78-yard throw by Osweiler to a wide-open Caldwell. Denver continued to dominate early and built up a 10 - 0 lead, but the Cards whittled away and eventualy pulled abreast of Denver in the second half and came out the better after exchanging the lead a couple of times. 59-yard Thomas to Nelson deep bomb was the game-changer. (Note - I still thought Thomas's throw was a tiny bit underthrown). Game was won on the basis of a missed Denver FG with less than a minute to play.
Cards received. Williams returned the KO to the Card 31. Sims reached midfield but then was sacked for minus-12. Punt was fair caught at the Denver 22. On the very first play from scrimmage, the entire Cardinal defense bit on a run fake and Osweiler hit a wide-open Caldwell deep for a 78 yard TD. Broncos 7 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. Sims went 3 & out. Broncs too over on their own 38 and drove to the Cardinal 29 where Golden's 5-yard stop of Burse in the backfield forced Broncs to settle for a 50-yard FG. (An apparent fumble recovery by Legree was overturned by the zebras to set up the FG). Broncos 10 - Cards 0.
On the next series, the Cards started out from their own 20, but - on 3rd & 6 - Sims was sacked for minus-7, fumbled and lost the ball. Denver's ball on the Card 7. Defense stiffened and McManus kicked a 31-yarder. Broncos 13 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. Cards moved to their own 25 to end the quarter (on a 5-yard sack of Sims).
1st Quarter Score: Broncos 13 - Cards 0.
Sims took his offense all the way to the Denver 2 and, after losing 2 yards, threw to Momah in the right corner of the end zone only to have Lasike step in to steal the throw for a 4-yard TD. Drive took 15 plays and used up 8:39. Broncos 13 - Cards 7.
TB on the KO. Denver made it out to their own 42 before punting. A holding flag on Brooks bottled Sims up at his own 9. He led his offense on another 15-play drive, overcoming two Halapio false start flags andusing up 4:31 worth of clock. He reached the Denver 16 where Cards settled for a 34-yard Cat Man FG. Broncos 13 - Cards 10.
Broncs ran Ball up the middle to end the half.
First Half Score: Broncos 13 - Cards 10..
Raiders received. TB on the KO. 3 & out. Shipley returned punt to his own 49. Thomas in for Sims. Nifty steady yardage sequence: +9...+7...+3...+2...+5...+16...+9 (a TD run by K Williams). XP no good. Cards take the lead. Cards 16 - Denver 13.
TB on the KO. Denver went 3 & out again. (Big play: minus-9 yard sack by Golden). Shipley returned the pnt to his 30, but the Cards were held to 3 & out. Broncs took over on their own 19. They ran the ball 6 times out of 9 plays with Siemian hitting Fowler for a 16-yard TD. (Key play - Interference call on CJ Roberts). Denver 20 - Cards 16.
TB on the KO. A holding penalty on Humphreys rendered a 10 yard completion on the previous play to Harman null. Cards still on their 20 as the quarter ended.
Third Quarter Score: Denver 20 - Cards 16.
3 plays later Butler punted from his 31. Fair caught on the Denver 24. Denver went 3 & out yet again. Punt fair caught by Shipey at the Card 27. After Thomas scooted around RE for +14 yards, he hit JJ Nelson deep for a 59-yard TD. Cat Man's XP attempt was no good. (Oh well, at least it rendered the possibility of an OT game highly unlikely). Cards 22 - Broncos 20.
TB on the KO. Denver moved from their own 20 to their own 45 (despite having to overcome a 10-yard sack by K-Mart). On the 8th play of the drive Clemons picked off a pass intended for Burse. He then fumbled. Ball was recovered by Jones-Quartey. Challenge was denied. Cards took over at the Denver 47 and the two teams exchanged 3 & outs with AZ then going 3 & out a second straight time. Butler's punt was fair caught at the Denver 21 with 4:10 left to play. Denver then reeled off 18 straight plays to reach the Cardinal 33 with 0:57 left to play. McManus' 51-yard FG attempt was wide right. Two knees. Game over.
Final Score: Cards 22 - Broncos 20.
Sims was 14 for 22 (101 yards, 1 TD and no picks). Thomas went 9 for 10 (116 yards, 1 TD, no picks). Sims lost a fumble.
C Johnson carried 11 times for 45 yards. K Williams gained 32 yards on 7 carries.
Shipley had 9 catches for 58 yards. Nelson gained 70 yards on two catches.
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 28 /Pass: 32).
Catanzaro was 1 for 3 on XP's.
G Martin and Walter led the team in tackles (4 apiece)
K Martin, G Martin and Golden were each credited with a sack.
Card QB's were sacked five times.
Cards were 8 for 16 (50%) in Third Down Efficiency. Broncs were 5 for 16 (31%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 2 for 3 (66%). Oakland 1 for 2 (50%)
Penalties: Cards were penalized 8 times (compared to Denver's 4)
Time of Possession: Cards 33:07 - Oakland .26:53
Card defense gave up an average of 2.0 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 3.9)
Thomas went 9 for 10 and his deep TD throw to Nelson was well-thrown. Sims had his good and not-so-good moments. Either would make a pretty good #3 and possible QBOF. I like LT slightly more, but it's still a coin flip.
Shipley (9 catches) had a good enough game to make it unlikely he'd escape waivers.
Chris Johnson made tacklers miss and looked good enough to start.
That K Williams scoot up the middle for a TD suggests we've got better than expected depth at RB
Cariel Brooks' one-on-one tackle in the flat suggests he can be trusted. He was also aggressive in coverage.
Golden followed by Riddick and K Martin (and G Martin) were effective both in pass rushing and pursuit.
Weatherspoon played nearly the entire game (& looked good doing so)..
Clemons had a strong game - either he or Brooks makes the 53-man roster - it's that close.
Defense (too many individuals to single out) continues to hang tough most of the time. .
The Dark Side
That "gimme" TD on the first play was embarrassing.
Despite the improvement in the running game, too many instances of RB's nailed behind the LOS.
Humphreys had two penalties (though one might have mistaken him for #64).
Steen at #3 center may be a reach.
Two blocking in back calls on Brooks on special teams - he'll have to clean that up.
Cat Man was brutal on XP kicks.
We were kinda thin at TE.
Sims did not start the game exactly "on fire."
I'm going to be more than a little bit depressed over some very good football players being asked to "meet the coach and bring your playbook." But I'll be equally as excited about the arrival of some pretty nifty football talent - especially our new veterans (C Johnson and "Spoon) and youngsters (I'll be pulling for K Martin, Riddick, Golden, Brooks, Nelson, Momah, LT and Shipley). Just got to settle back, chew on a few nails and see what our final 53-man "Christmas package" turns out to be.