The portion of the NFL season that doesn’t count in the standings is officially underway.
In a game dominated by backups, mistakes and a coach patrolling the sidelines after spending the day in the hospital, the Denver Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons 14-10 in the preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio, on Thursday.
The finish was actually a rather dramatic one, as undrafted rookie quarterback Brett Rypien — nephew of former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien — hit 2019 sixth-round pick Juwann Winfree for the game-winning touchdown with 1:26 to play for the Broncos, on a ball that was tipped and Winfree caught in the end zone.
With the starters sitting this game out, the night belonged primarily to players making their pro debuts and veterans fighting for a spot on the final roster all the way through camp.
The most highly anticipated debut was that of Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, a second-round pick who put together a record-setting career at Missouri. After Kevin Hogan played the first three series and led Denver to a touchdown, Lock entered the game in the second quarter and looked inconsistent. Flashing his big arm, he overthrew some receivers and took a couple of sacks, finishing the game 7 of 11 for 34 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions.
Falcons quarterback Kurt Benkert, who came in after Matt Schaub started, had the best stats of the night. Benkert, an undrafted rookie out of Virginia, was 19 of 34 for 185 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio, making his debut as an NFL head coach after more than three decades as an assistant, was on the sidelines despite spending much of the day in the hospital dealing with what the team confirmed was a kidney stone. The stone reportedly had yet to pass before Fangio left the hospital for the game.
Fangio also made a little history when he became the first coach to challenge a pass-interference call. He lost the challenge, however, as the call against Broncos cornerback Linden Stephens late in the second quarter was upheld after a booth review.
—Field Level Media