Rich Bartel is pushing for the backup quarterback job in Arizona. Brady Quinn did little to prove he deserves to be Denver’s No. 2.
Bartel completed 12 of 16 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns in one half of play to lead the Cardinals past Denver 26-7 on Thursday night. Bartel, who never had played in an NFL game before he came to Arizona late last season, had touchdown pass plays of 19 yards to LaRod Stephens-Howling and 48 yards to Chansi Stuckey.
”We’ve got guys showing up all over the place making plays,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ”That’s probably the thing that was missing last year.”
Quinn, who started the game, was just 4 of 12 for 26 yards with one interception in his two quarters.
”It was the offense, I think, all the way around,” Quinn said. ”We need to run the ball better, I need to play better as far as making throws and we need to catch the ball. We didn’t make the plays when we needed to, and unfortunately it was a bad game to end the preseason.”
Tim Tebow came on after halftime to complete 7 of 11 for 116 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to rookie Eron Riley with 2:57 to play.
”Going into this game I didn’t know exactly when I was going to get in there, when I was going to play or how long,” Tebow said. ”With my opportunity, I tried to make the most of it, try and figure a way to get the team in the end zone, which I was able to do, so that was good.
Coach John Fox had resisted publicly naming a backup to starter Kyle Orton, who had the night off along with the rest of Denver’s first unit.
”I have mentioned that we will more than likely not name a two or three, because it’s a competitive situation,” Fox said.
Whisenhunt characterized Bartel as pushing John Skelton to be the backup to starter Kevin Kolb.
”The thing I liked to see Rich tonight do was stand in there and make the throws,” Whisenhunt said. ”He didn’t seem rushed. He was very calm. Don’t mistake the fact that John Skelton had a very good preseason as well. I think we have three very good quarterbacks.”
Skelton, a second-year pro who started the final four games last season, missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain and his availability for the Sept. 11 season opener is uncertain.
Asked if he had made his case to be the No. 2 guy, Bartel said, ”I just want to make my case to contribute to this team any way possible.”
”Decision-makers will make that decision,” Bartel said. ”I’ll just leave it at that. This is the best opportunity that I’ve ever had in my life.”
Former Philadelphia linebacker Stewart Bradley, signed as a free agent, intercepted Quinn’s pass and returned it 27 yards to the Denver 10-yard line with 1:55 left in the first half to set up Feely’s second field goal. Bradley said he is becoming increasingly comfortable in a 2-3 defensive scheme.
”It’s definitely different,” he said. ”The 3-4 to the 4-3 is such a different mindset. I think the 3-4 gives you a lot more ways to move around and attack quarterbacks. It’s a scheme that’s geared toward linebacker play and that’s why it’s fun to play in.”
The Cardinals outgained Denver (2-2) 254-46 while building a 20-0 halftime lead.
The Broncos had three first-half first downs, one by penalty. Quinn, who didn’t play in the previous week’s game against Seattle, completed 1 of 7 passes for 10 yards in the second quarter.
Arizona’s first unit played one series with Kolb completing 1 of 2 passes for 3 yards.
Bartel completed 7 of his first 8 passes for 155 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns.
The first TD came on a short pass over the middle to LaRod Stephens-Howling, who dashed in for the score on a 19-yard play. The next time Arizona had the ball, Bartel found Stuckey wide open for a 48-yard touchdown. Denver cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson went down with a right Achilles’ strain on the play and did not return.
”It doesn’t matter that it’s preseason or anything, you still have to go out and make plays and execute the offense,” Bartel said.
Brodie Croyle, the former Kansas City backup signed when Skelton and Max Hall were injured, played the entire second half in his first game action for Arizona. He completed 10 of 16 for 104 yards.
The Broncos lost wide receiver Britt Davis to a head injury in the second quarter. Tight end Jim Dray, battling Stephen Spach for a spot on the Cardinals’ 53-man roster, left the game in the first half with a left pectoral strain.
Stephens-Howling caught a touchdown pass for the second straight game.
”I love it. I love being a part of helping out the offense,” he said. ”Having a bigger role in the offense now, it feels good.”
Arizona opens its regular season Sept. 11 at home against Carolina. Denver opens Monday night, Sept. 12, at Oakland.
Notes: Spach had a team-high five catches for 54 yards. … Riley had an 89-yard reception from Adam Weber in the game’s final seconds to the Arizona 4, but penalties helped ruin a chance for a score. … The Arizona first-team line played in front of Bartel through part of the first quarter.