Updated: August 30, 2009 at 12:00 am
DENVER • After booing Jay Cutler, Denver Broncos fans had little to cheer about. With less than two weeks remaining before the regular season, the list of necessary improvements and the injury report are getting longer.
The offense scored three points in the first half, hurt itself with penalties, and lost quarterback Kyle Orton to a lacerated right index finger. The special teams gave up a long punt return to Devin Hester. And Cutler, who was traded to the Bears this offseason after a rift with coach Josh McDaniels, carved up Denver’s defense.
Denver is 0-3 in the preseason after a 27-17 loss at Invesco Field at Mile High. McDaniels described the Broncos’ play as “sloppy, certainly.”
“Can’t play like that and win against a good football team,” said McDaniels, whose team had 10 penalties. “We’ve got to do a hell of a lot better job.”
Orton’s injured finger was bandaged and he will have more tests. He was confident he would be able to play in the season opener Sept. 13.
“I’ll be ready to go,” Orton said.
Orton was optimistic, but McDaniels raised the possibility of Orton missing some time. Chris Simms missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, so rookie Tom Brandstater replaced Orton.
“Look, we’ll play with who we can play with,” McDaniels said. “Obviously we’ll want the best group out there that we can get out there, but life goes on sometimes in this league and you play with who you have. Tom Brandstater has done a nice job of learning our offense and he knows what to do, and if needed he’ll go in there and play.”
Brandstater completed 8-of-12 passes for 110 yards and an interception.
Denver played without other key members of the offense. Receiver Jabar Gaffney was held out with a thumb injury and early in the first quarter a Bears defender rolled on right guard Chris Kuper’s right leg. Kuper couldn’t put much weight on his right leg as he was helped off the field.
The bad news wasn’t limited to injuries. Cutler’s 15-for-21, 144-yard performance will make Broncos fans wonder what they’ll miss.
Cutler was sharp on a 98-yard drive at the end of the first half. He finished that drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to running back Matt Forte. That gave the Bears a 17-3 lead at halftime. In Denver’s last two first halves, Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck and Cutler combined to complete 31-of-44 passes for 315 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Cutler was booed loudly, but he played the villain role well.
“I think it was exactly what I thought it would be,” Cutler said. “It was a hostile environment.”
The crowd reaction to Cutler and the trash talking on both sides made it feel like more than a normal preseason game.
“Certainly more than a six on a scale of 1-10, in terms of the crowd,” said McDaniels with a tongue-in-cheek jab at Cutler’s statement this summer that Broncos fans were a “6” and Bears fans were a “9.”