Sep 3, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (33) runs the football during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Cardinals won 20-22. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
It may have only been a preseason game, but the Arizona Cardinals played as though they were on a verge of a Super Bowl win.
With guys competing for a roster spot, the Cardinals played with heart and determination as they handed the Denver Broncos their first loss of the preseason in a 22-20 victory.
Typical of any final preseason game, none of the regular starters played. It was the young guys, some of whom we may not see again come tomorrow, who got it done.
The Broncos led for a majority of the game. They were up 13-0 at the end of the first quarter, 13-10 at the half and 20-16 at the end of the third quarter.
But the Cardinals kept pace and never let the Broncos overpower their defense. The pivotal point in the game came when Cardinals Quarterback Logan Thomas tossed the eventual game-winning touchdown pass to J.J. Nelson in the fourth.
Nelson ran the ball all the way in for a 59-yard touchdown. The Cardinals took the lead, 22-20, and held on the rest of the way.
The Broncos had a chance to win the game in the final minute of the fourth, but Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard field goal wide right of the goal posts.
For the first time since December, running back Chris Johnson appeared in a pro football game. Johnson ran 11 times and picked up 45 yards. He was responsible for igniting a 15-play, 80-yard drive in the second quarter that resulted in the Cardinals first touch down of the night.
With Carson Palmer out of the game, Bruce Arians gave the start to Phillip Sims. Sims completed 14-of-22 passes for 101 yards. He led the Cardinals down the field in that 80-yard drive that got Arizona back in the game.
Sims was replaced by Thomas, who put on another stellar performance in his short outing in the game. Thomas completed nine of his ten attempts and racked up 116 yards on the night. He also tallied 15 rushing yards.
While the offense rallied late in the game, kicker Chandler Catanzaro struggled. Catanzaro missed two PATs, including one on the touchdown drive in the fourth that gave Arizona the lead. Those misses would have proven costly had McManus nailed the field goal for the Broncos in the final minute of the game.
The Cardinals have to be proud of the way they played. They defeated an unbeaten team this preseason without having any of their big stars on the field.
It’s a good feeling as they head back to The Valley and prepare for their 2015 regular season home opener against the New Orleans Saints on September 13.