Denver Broncos open preseason with loss to Minnesota Vikings – The Denver Post


Remember, the Broncos went undefeated in last year’s preseason only to finish last in the AFC West and endure an eight-game losing streak.

That bit of reality out of the way, it doesn’t mean the first half of Saturday night’s 42-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings wasn’t equal parts an eyesore and concerning.

This is a Broncos team, off a 5-11 season but with renewed optimism thanks to the arrival of quarterback Case Keenum and several rookies, that desperately needs to start the regular season quickly. It can be argued that what happens in August stays in August, but conversely, the Broncos at least want to see if they can carry momentum past Labor Day.

The starters will have to wait at least another week to show progress. The Broncos (0-1) face the Chicago Bears next Saturday following two days of joint practice.

The Vikings (1-0) raced to a 17-0 lead before Broncos fans could inhale the new BBQ Thunder Dog. Minnesota outgained Denver 135-20 in the first quarter. The Broncos’ initial first down wasn’t until 5:47 remained in the first half on tailback Royce Freeman’s 23-yard touchdown run.

“We didn’t start well, obviously,” coach Vance Joseph said. “We didn’t start fast and they did.”

Freeman, who started his path toward a Week 1 starting assignment, and Isaiah McKenzie, who returned a second-quarter punt 78 yards for a touchdown to help his cause for making the team, were the first-half bright spots.

In the second half, quarterback Paxton Lynch did nothing to ease concern about his development. Nothing he does looks easy or suggests having confidence in him is a good idea. He was 6-of-11 passing for 24 yards, one interception and 22.2 rating. Late in the first half, he was booed off the field.

“Up and down,” Joseph said of Lynch’s performance. “He made some plays and didn’t make some.”

Fan favorite Chad Kelly, whose legend grows because of Lynch’s struggles, entered late in the third quarter to a loud ovation and immediately led a touchdown drive, throwing 35 yards to tight end Matt LaCosse to cut the Vikings’ lead to 27-21.

And this being Denver, and Lynch being a former first-round draft pick, Kelly’s production should be noted even if he was facing Minnesota’s third-team defense. The Broncos should be on the cusp of deciding whether a veteran quarterback is more suitable to back up Keenum.

The starters played two possessions. Left guard Ron Leary (ankle) and linebacker Von Miller (healthy scratch) didn’t see the field. That still meant many of the projected Week 1 players broke a sweat.

It didn’t go well.

First offensive series: A false start penalty on right tackle Jared Veldheer led to a three-and-out.

First defensive series: Backup Vikings tailback Latavius Murray had carries of 20 and 21 yards on consecutive plays against a leaky Broncos front. Two plays later, Stefon Diggs beat cornerback Bradley Roby for a 28-yard catch. Diggs’ 1-yard touchdown catch from Kirk Cousins staked Minnesota to a 7-0 lead.

Second offensive series: On third-and-4, Freeman dropped a Keenum pass in the right flat. That was it for the starters. Keenum was 1-of-4 passing for 5 yards.

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