GLENDALE | A near-perfect second half in the preseason finale didn’t appear to be enough to give Paxton Lynch the No. 2 quarterback job in Denver.
Lynch completed 14 of 15 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns and was not intercepted, leading the Broncos to a 21-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.
Chad Kelly, who appeared to keep his tenuous hold on the backup job behind Denver starter Case Keenum, played the first half and went 12 of 19 for 126 yards and no touchdowns with one interception.
“Right now, he’s our (No.) 2,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said of Kelly. “That’s what I’ve said the last week. Things could change, but right now he’s our 2.”
Lynch had TD passes of 16 yards to Jordan Leslie in the third quarter and 10 yards to Matt LaCosse on the first play of the fourth. He also ran for a 2-point conversion.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to them,” Lynch said of the Broncos coaches and front office. “They make the decisions on what goes on and who goes where and who plays and who doesn’t. My job is to come out here and play football and play well. I came out here and did that and I’m proud I did.”
Joseph said Kelly “played efficient football. He bounced back (from the interception) and played with confidence and that was important for a young quarterback.”
Mike Glennon, the subject of some trade speculation as Arizona’s No. 3 quarterback behind Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen, played the entire first half, going 8 of 10 for 69 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
Virtually all of the Cardinals’ starters and all of the Broncos’ regulars sat out the finale. Arizona finished the preseason 3-1 and Denver 2-2.
The Broncos were moving the ball on the game’s first possession when Jacquies Smith, among those competing for a roster spot at defensive end, intercepted Kelly’s short pass and returned it 21 yards to the Denver 41.
It was the 17th takeaway by the Arizona defense in the four preseason games, the most in four preseason games since Tampa Bay had 17 in 2000.
Kelly said Smith dropped into coverage on that play, surprising him.
“It’s a look I haven’t seen before, but you have to be prepared for everything,” Kelly said.
Glennon threaded a 26-yard pass to undrafted rookie Trent Sherfield to the 3-yard line. Two plays later, Glennon threw a 2-yard TD pass to Greg Little, who hasn’t played in an NFL regular-season game in four years.
“I feel really good. It’s been a blessing,” Little said. “… I thank coach (Steve) Wilks and (general manager) Steve Keim and the whole Cardinals organization for giving me a shot. It’s been a blessing, that’s for sure.”
Adam Jones had a pair of kickoff returns and one punt return and played a few defensive snaps in his first action since signing with Denver on Sunday.
“It felt good to get hit,” he said. “That’s what I needed. I’m eager and ready to prepare myself for Week 1.”
Wilks chose to sit rookie quarterback Josh Rosen for a second straight week. Rosen didn’t play in Sunday night’s win at Dallas after slamming the thumb of his throwing hand against a helmet in practice earlier in the week. Rosen said this week he was fine, but Wilks chose not to risk anything with the first-round pick, who will enter the season as Sam Bradford’s backup.
Rosen was 16 of 29 in his brief preseason playing time for 148 yards and a touchdown. He was not intercepted.
A brief video tribute and moment of silence in honor of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain preceded the game.
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was among those who spoke at McCain’s memorial service in Phoenix earlier in the day.
“I’m black, he was white,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m young. He wasn’t so young. He lived with physical limitations brought on by war. I’m a professional athlete. He ran for president. I run out of bounds.
“He was the epitome of toughness and I do everything I can to avoid contact. I have flowing locks, and well, he didn’t. How does this unlikely pair become friends? I’ve asked myself the same question. You know what the answer is? That’s just who he is.”
There was no protest by either team during the national anthem.
Broncos: host Seattle in regular-season opener Sept. 9.
Cardinals: host Washington in regular-season opener Sept. 9.
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