Broncos 21, Cardinals 3

Todd Sauerbrun got all the work he could have wanted in the Denver Broncos' 21-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.

The Broncos' backups were throttled most of the night, but quarterback Darrell Hackney managed to guide Denver on three touchdown drives, two of which were capped by 2-yard runs from fellow rookie free agent Andre Hall.

Denver, however, was forced to punt four times in its first five possessions, and the only one on the Broncos would could have been happy about that was Sauerbrun. He said this week that he welcomed more playing time in the exhibition finale to work out the kinks following the release of incumbent punter Paul Ernster.

Sauerbrun averaged 52.9 yards on seven punts and boomed some very nice kickoffs.

Jettisoned by the Broncos last season after serving a four-game suspension for using the banned dietary aid ephedra, Sauerbrun re-signed with Denver in the offseason after winning his release from New England. He had a mediocre camp but beat out Ernster anyway and said he was eager to play a full game while virtually all of the Broncos' starters on offense and defense got the night off.

The Broncos (2-2), beset by injuries all preseason, lost two more key contributors. Defensive back Karl Paymah sustained a concussion in the second quarter when he dipped his head and took a knee to the helmet from running back Steve Baylark, and tight end Stephen Alexander left the game with a bruised left leg.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan stuck to his plan to rest his starters even though his first-string defense had surrendered 44 points and 574 yards in roughly six quarters this preseason.

At least for one series against Arizona's starting lineup, Denver's second unit looked just like its first, allowing 60 yards on six runs until a goal-line stand forced the Cardinals to settle for Neil Rackers' 19-yard field goal.

The Cardinals (0-4) played their starters for the first series as a final tuneup for their Sept. 10 opener against San Francisco. They especially wanted to see quarterback Matt Leinart continue to improve on his footwork, but the second-year pro took a step back instead.

Leinart completed just 2-of-6 passes for 13 yards and a paltry 42.4 passer rating. Time and again, his footwork was a mess, resulting in errant throws on his only series before he gave way to backup Kurt Warner.

Domenik Hixon's 43-yard reverse set up Hall's first TD, which capped an 88-yard drive. Hixon was sprung downfield by Alexander, who dived to take out two defenders but bruised his lower left leg and didn't return. Hall's second TD was a 2-yard run that made it 14-3 in the third quarter.

Fellow rookie free agent Selvin Young, who had an impressive debut against Cleveland last week, added a zigzagging 12-yard TD run to make it 21-3 early in the fourth quarter.

Hackney, a 240-pounder whom the Broncos would love to have on their practice squad, completed 6-of-13 passes for 84 yards and ran three times for 17 yards.

Notes: Arizona DT Ross Kolodziej sprained his left knee. ... P Mike Barr, picked up off waivers from Pittsburgh to replace Scott Player, made his Cardinals debut and averaged 42.8 yards on five punts. ... The Broncos tested RB Mike Bell at fullback. ... Denver C Mark Fenton was whistled three times.


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