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Flashbacks a steady theme in Broncos' first preseason game

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 12, 2018

DENVER — The Denver Broncos fell asleep on Saturday night and woke up in a dream right around 7:05 MST, playing a game. At least it felt like that.

The flashbacks to 2017 started right out of the gate. The nightmares ensued first.

“We didn’t start well, obviously,” head coach Vance Joseph said after Saturday nights 42-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the team’s preseason opener. “We didn’t start fast, and they did.”

That statement, while made Saturday night, was one made many, many times following regular season games during the team’s self-admitted unacceptable 5-11 season just one year ago.

“We didn’t move the ball at all. I think it was three-and-out both times,” Joseph said, talking about the first team’s only drives. “So, disappointing obviously.”

In 2017, a three-and-out could nearly be counted on at the start of each and every game from the offense.

“Offensively, we had a nice first-down play and second play we jumped offsides—self-inflicted wounds,” Joseph said with clear disappointment.

Self-inflicted wounds, another staple from 2017.

And just like last year, the Broncos’ mistakes led directly to points for the bad guys. Following both Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly’s interceptions, the Vikings quickly capitalized by turning each of them into six, which then became seven.

Last year, the Broncos mastered giving opposing teams touchdowns off their turnovers. Saturday, they batted 1.000.

Speaking of Lynch, the former first-round pick is currently starring at potentially losing another quarterback battle against a seventh-round pick — a familiar tale with a different foe, this time against Kelly after he threw out a 22.2 passer rating, while the seventh-rounder more than quadrupled him with a 104.7 rating.

“Up and down” were the words Joseph used to describe Lynch’s performance — a similar sentiment to the past two years in which Lynch started the season as Trevor Siemian’s backup, another seventh-round pick.

But as the night wore on, the flashbacks went from nightmares to pleasant dreams about better days to come.

Much like last year, amidst commotion in spots above them on the depth chart, the Broncos’ third quarterback stole the hearts of Broncos Country through superb play. Last year — and on Saturday night, just for the opposing team — Kyle Sloter put on a show.

This year, it was 2017’s Mr. Irrelevant.

Entering the night, Kelly already had the usual affection surrounding third-string quarterbacks. After his two-touchdown, 200-plus yard performance, he sent the Mile High City into a full love affair.

One game into the preseason, Kelly was already writing the sequel to Sloter’s 2017 tale.

The final flashback was, well, really not a flashback at all. Last year, Isaiah McKenzie encapsulated the team’s dreadful season to a tee.

Despite the second-most fumbles (six) in the entire NFL, excluding quarterbacks, last year, McKenzie remained the team’s punt returner even as he tried to fumble, and fumble and fumble the job away until finally, Jordan Taylor stepped in.

New year, new McKenzie, no flashbacks.

Instead of putting the ball on the ground, McKenzie looked the lone punt he returned fully into his body, stopped to assess the situation and took off for a 78-yard score.

For one night, at least, the 5-foot-7 speedster proved the organization right in a “huge” way, according to the head coach.

“[It was] huge for him,” Joseph said. “He’s obviously a talent. His issue last year wasn’t talent, it was more decision making. We’re helping him fix that so he can help us win games.”

To help themselves win games in 2018, they’ll want to follow McKenzie’s path he laid out on Saturday night: No fumbles and no flashbacks.


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