10:00 PM ET, September 2, 2005
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Count depth among the strengths of the Denver Broncos this season.Even though none of their starters played, the Broncos beat the Arizona Cardinals 30-21 on Friday night behind Bradlee Van Pelt's three touchdown passes."That's what you want to see," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "Obviously it wasn't perfect by any means, but we had a chance to see some of our second unit play against their starters, and it's always a good evaluation. You never know when a guy's going to go down in the regular season."Van Pelt, a second-year pro from Colorado State who won the No. 2 quarterback job behind Jake Plummer, completed 16 of 26 passes for 129 yards."I'm slowly going to get better," Van Pelt said. "As I get more comfortable with the NFL defenses and with our scheme itself, I'm going to be able to get my rhythm on. It's going to take a little while, but I just keep on plugging away and I'll be OK."Two of the scoring passes went to Darius Watts, who gained some redemption after botching two catches in the end zone two weeks ago against San Francisco."A guy's got to do that," Shanahan said. "There's a lot of pressure on them. They're getting paid to perform. When they're inconsistent, they've got a responsibility to the entire football team to go out there and get the job done."The other TD catch was made by rookie Todd Devoe, in a fight to make Denver's roster.Tatum Bell rushed for 78 yards in eight carries for the Broncos, and Ron Dayne 44 in six attempts.The victory left Denver the lone unbeaten team in the preseason at 4-0. Arizona finished 3-1.Shanahan sat his starters for the fourth and final preseason game, resting them for their season opener Sept. 11 at Miami. The backups were good enough and then some on a hot night at Sun Devil Stadium, where the temperature at kickoff was 99 degrees."We just couldn't get it," Arizona coach Dennis Green said. "They outplayed us across the board."Arizona's first-team offense struggled again, especially the running game. Rookie J.J. Arrington gained 7 yards on five carries."We're not running the ball very well, but we are I think going to throw the ball pretty well," Green said, "so we might throw more than we'd like to. If that's the case, we'll live with it."The Cardinals' first string did put together a touchdown drive, going 85 yards in nine plays, Kurt Warner throwing 23 yards to Bryant Johnson for the score to put Arizona up 7-3 late in the first quarter."It was just me being in the right place and Kurt getting the ball there," Johnson said. "There was nothing spectacular or anything. We were both just doing our job."But the Broncos, still going against the Cardinals' starters, responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive on their next possession. Bell's 35-yard run helped set up Van Pelt's 4-yard touchdown pass to Watts and Denver led for good, 10-7.Arizona's Neil Rackers had field goals of 26, 28 and 23 yards. Third-string quarterback John Navarre directed an eight-play, 90-yard touchdown drive, throwing 17 yards to Reggie Newhouse for the score with 36 seconds to play.Warner, who played the first two series, was 4-of-7 for 66 yards. He was not intercepted."I still think we have a lot of work to do, but guys are getting more comfortable and coming into their own," Warner said. "We have a lot of guys mixing in and out of the offensive line. You're talking basically the fourth center we've had in four games."Arizona backup Josh McCown completed 10 of 19 passes for 123 yards and had what would have been a 10-yard touchdown pass dropped by rookie Dan Sheldon in the third quarter.
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