Denver Broncos defensive back Dymonte Thomas (35) celebrates as he scores a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Denver. Thomas intercepted a pass for the touchdown. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER | Kyle Sloter bounced back from a sack for a safety and another sack in the shadow of his own goal line to lead Denver on touchdown drives of 98 and 96 yards Thursday night that sparked the Broncos’ 30-2 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

That capped a 4-0 preseason for rookie head coach Vance Joseph.

Sloter’s 98-yard drive was Sloter’s best argument to win a roster spot as ailing backup QB Paxton Lynch’s temporary fill-in.

It came after he was sacked in the end zone on his first series and narrowly avoided an encore in the opposite end zone in the second quarter.

It looked ominous for Sloter when the Cardinals downed a punt at the Denver 2 following his first two foibles.

But he connected on consecutive 32-yard passes, one to Jordan Taylor, the other to Anthony Nash, before Stevan Ridley reeled off a 27-yard gain to the 3. Ridley took it in from there to cap an impressive drive that put Denver up 10-2.

Facing third-and-9 from his 12 on Denver’s opening series, Sloter double-clutched with linebacker Alex Bazzie bearing down for the sack and safety that put Arizona ahead 2-0 .

Facing the same down and distance in the second quarter, Sloter again held onto the ball for too long and this time was sacked by linebacker Philp Wheeler inches from another safety.

Beaten both times was veteran tackle Donald Stephenson, who recently accepted a second pay cut in a bid to stick around.

Sloter, who finished 15 of 23 for 220 yards and a touchdown, also was solid in driving the Broncos into field goal range in the final 1:14 of the second quarter for a 20-2 halftime cushion.

“He got off to a slow start, but he made some plays in that last two-minute drive and the drive before to get us in scoring range and get us some points, so I’m excited about Kyle,” Joseph said at halftime.

Sloter directed a 13-play, 96-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a 21-yard TD pass to tight end Steven Scheu in double coverage.

Sloter began his college career as a wide receiver at Southern Mississippi and finished it as a quarterback at Northern Colorado. He was brought in as a camp arm while Trevor Siemian and Lynch battled for the starting job. When Lynch sprained his right shoulder against Green Bay last weekend it opened the door for Sloter to make the 53-man roster.

General manager John Elway and his personnel department also will evaluate all quarterbacks among the some 1,200 players who will be cut this weekend.

PUNT-OFF: The Cardinals’ punting competition kicked into high gear with an abundance of stalled drives by Arizona’s offense. And the battle stayed close.

The highlight came when Krishawn Hogan downed Richie Leone’s 38-yard punt at the Denver 2 in the first half. Matt Wile’s best punt was a 49-yarder to the Denver 8, but he also badly missed on a 53-yard field goal and had a touchback in the first half along with a punt that Kalif Raymond returned from the goal line.

PICK-SIX: Safety Dymonte Thomas had a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown off Trevor Knight’s errant pass. Thomas snared the ball and raced right up the middle for the score that made it 17-2.

WARD’S WORLD: T.J. Ward was among 27 Broncos starters and key backups who didn’t play. He is the biggest name on Denver’s roster bubble because he missed the entire preseason after pulling a hamstring and watched Justin Simmons impress the coaching staff. The Broncos might also have found a bigger, younger version of Ward in undrafted rookie thumper Jamal Carter of Miami.

Linebacker Brandon Marshall tweeted before kickoff: “Letting go of TJ would b a mistake. With all the plays he’s made and leadership he’s brought. He deserves to at least play out his contract.”

Ward is due $4.5 million this season in the final year of his contract and figures to command something similar to the five-year, $60 million deal that strong safety Reshad Jones, 29, got from the Dolphins.


Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...