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Cardinals Happy With Preseason Tune-Up Win Against Broncos

Rookie quarterback plays bulk of game in 18-17 win

Rookie quarterback Clayton Tune throws a pass during Friday night's preseason opener against the Broncos.
Rookie quarterback Clayton Tune throws a pass during Friday night's preseason opener against the Broncos.

The operation, as they say, was clean.

The Cardinals didn't commit a lot of penalties, their starters were effective on defense against Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, and there was some of that cram-it-vertical/play-action offense that had been promised.

And the Cardinals also got a dramatic win like Jonathan Gannon wanted, with an 18-17 win over to the Denver Broncos Friday night at State Farm Stadium in the preseason opener. Third-string quarterback David Blough threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Brian Cobbs with two seconds left and running back Emari Demercado powered in a two-point conversion, and the celebration – even for a preseason game – could be heard through the walls from the locker room after.

"You're happy for the guys," Gannon said. "They are all juiced up. But they know they have to go back to work tomorrow.

"Any preseason game, any game you play, you play to win and you put a lot into it. So it's important for us to win."

Blough got the game-winner but it was rookie QB Clayton Tune that was in the spotlight most of the night. Starting quarterback Colt McCoy played one series, completing 4-of-4 passes for 17 yards, before Tune took over and played into the fourth quarter.

"It felt good to be playing football again," Tune said.

Tune finished 13-for-23 for 135 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He, as a rookie would, had good moments (a seven-yard TD pass to Kaden Davis for his final throw of the evening) and bad (twice he airmailed a wide-open Greg Dortch in the right flat.)

Of the Dortch throws, "maybe (I was) a little juiced up, got excited and threw it too hard. Easy fix," Tune said.

Tune's interception came when Rondale Moore fell on a slant pattern.

"He probably wants a couple throws back just like I want a couple things back," Gannon said. "But I thought he settled down. I thought he made some plays with his legs, which is huge in today's NFL. I was pleased with the operation from him."

McCoy still figures to have a safe edge with being the starting quarterback, but Tune still has two more preseason games to make inroads.

The starting defense also looked better than expected, making life hard on Broncos starting quarterback Russell Wilson – who eventually threw a TD pass after Cardinals defensive coordinator Nick Rallis started substituting freely.

Dennis Gardeck had a sack and the Cardinals batted down a few passes.

"We let loose," new outside linebacker Zaven Collins said. "Didn't game up anything too fancy, just let us go and see how we rushed. I thought we did well."

The Cardinals committed only four penalties (although one, a late pass interference on cornerback Antonio Hamilton, set up a Broncos touchdown), and had no trouble getting the plays off on time.

"What I was most pleased with, was when we did have a few (mistakes) our attitude didn't get down," Gannon said.

There was some strategy too. After Hamilton's pass interference, Blough said the Cardinals let the Broncos score the touchdown – "It's the only way to have a chance," Blough said – and it worked out. He rolled right and found Cobbs, who barely got his feet in.

"I don't really know exactly what happened," Blough said. "I remember feeling a little pressure. I had a coach on their team kind of say 'I'm saving the blitzes for you.' (Cobbs) was wide open and it was great."

Former Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is now the Broncos defensive coordinator.

"The most important thing, and I told the team, the good, the bad and the ugly, we've got to learn from it," Gannon said.