The Broncos scored a touchdown with 1:26 to play to earn a 14-10 victory over the Falcons in the Hall of Fame exhibition game Thursday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Here are five things we learned from the loss:
1. Game balls. Quarterback Kurt Benkert completed 19 of 34 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown before leaving the game with a toe injury.
Also, running back Brian Hill had a nice 1-yard touchdown pass.
“The two that I was most excited about was Kurt and Brian Hill,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “For Brian Hill on that touchdown catch, if I could tell you the amount of hours that he’s put in catching the ball, that’s an area that was not a strength of his. He worked at it.”
Hill was a fifth-round draft pick by the Falcons in 2017 whose career got off to a slow start and he was cut. After spending some time with the Bengals, the Falcons re-signed Hill. He rushed 11 times for 57 yards to go with his touchdown catch.
“I knew coming in that I couldn’t catch that well,” Hill said. “I got a little better last year, but I’m happy with my progression this year. Every since coming into the league, that was the knock on my game, ‘could he catch. It was a little shaky. I’m happy that I got better with it.”
If Benkert’s injury is serious, the Falcons will bring in another quarterback, Quinn said.
2. Rookies make mixed debuts. Top-pick Chris Lindstorm and fourth-round pick John Cominsky both played well.
Lindstrom played a quarter and had some nice blocks. Cominsky had a fumble recovery, a sack and five tackles.
“Every play, I was just trying to go as hard as I could,” Lindstrom said. “I was just competing tough. I was trying to come off the ball. It worked out great that play (when got two blocks). …To have that first moment in the NFL was really, really special. I can’t want to keep getting better.”
Cominsky, who played at Division II Charleston (W.Va.) University, is from nearby Barberton, Ohio.
“It was extra special for me because this is my hometown,” Cominsky said. “I grew up 20 minutes from here. So, I heard Cominsky yelled all over the stands. People from all over Barberton showed up, friends and family. It was extra special to be in my backyard.”
Cominsky believes the rookies made the most of their opportunities.
“It think it was like a big confidence booster,” Cominsky said. “I think all of the rookies struggled because they need to get their feet wet. They need to get out there and make a couple of plays which I was able to do and a lot of rookies were able to do tonight.”
Rookie returner Marcus Green flashed his speed, muffed a punt and then left the game with a hamstring injury.
The Falcons are looking for replacements at punt returner and kickoff returner.
Green was drafted in the sixth round out of Louisiana-Monroe.
3. Hageman injured. Former second-round pick Ra’Shede Hageman started the game, but left with a groin injury in the first quarter.
4. Tavecchio off the mark. Giorgio Tavecchio, who handled the kickoffs and field goals, missed a 54-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter.
He made a 27-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 10-7 lead in the third quarter.
5. Backup quarterback practice. Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub had to return into the game after Benkert was injured in the fourth quarter.
“You never like to have the backup go in, but that’s the exact scenario that would take place,” Quinn said.
Schaub, playing with a reserve line, wasn’t able to mount much offense. After Denver’s late touchdown, the Falcons needed a late drive.
“You have to try to take some chances,” Schaub said. “We lost our last timeout with the one penalty. You have to try to get ourselves in position to get in the end zone to give ourselves a chance. We found ourselves in a difficult spot. They knew we were going to throw it, it’s just something that you have to deal with in this league.”
When it was apparent Benkert was down and would not return. Schaub was frantically twirling his arms on the sidelines to get ready. He then started taking snaps from center Alex Mack.
“It’s part of the game, I knew that going in with having just two of us up,” Schaub said. “I knew I had to stay ready in case something happened. You never want to see it take place. ... That’ my job and my responsibility to be ready and able to do that.”
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