Rookie quarterback Kyle Sloter completed 15 of 23 passes for 220 yards as the host Denver Broncos overcame an early hiccup to take control and defeat the Arizona Cardinals 30-2 in the preseason finale for both teams Thursday night.
Sloter, who entered the game looking to make his case to be the backup behind Trevor Siemian in Week 1, settled down after a wobbly start, eventually leading the Broncos on a pair of 98-yard touchdown drives.
Arizona took a 2-0 lead 5:34 into the game when Cardinals linebacker Alex Bazzie sprinted past Donald Stephenson and sacked Sloter for a safety. Sloter was trying to set up for a screen pass and pumped the football twice in his hands before being hit in the end zone.
But a theme of Sloter’s night was how he rebounded from his mistakes. After the second sack he absorbed, he took the field for his next series and completed consecutive 32-yard passes to launch the Broncos’ first touchdown drive of the night.
The Broncos finished the preseason undefeated for the fourth time in franchise history and the first time since 2005.
Blaine Gabbert started for the Cardinals and completed 5 of 10 passes for 51 yards. The Cardinals ran the ball effectively in the first half, particularly when handing the football to Elijhaa Penny, who led Arizona with 77 yards on 17 carries.
Arizona finished the game with 148 rushing yards on 38 carries, but accounted for only 65 yards through the air. Backup quarterback Trevor Knight completed only 2 of 12 passes for 19 yards with an interception.
Denver played the game as rumors continued to swirl about the status of three-time Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward, who has reportedly been the subject of trade talks this week. A day before the game, All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller suggested that the reports of Ward’s departure were “fake news.” Just over three hours before kickoff, Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall tweeted, “Letting go of TJ would (be) a mistake.”
Ward is in the final year of a four-year contract that he signed in March 2014, and the Broncos could be tempted to let him go because of the growth shown by second-year safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks and the emergence of undrafted rookie Jamal Carter.