Canton, Ohio – In a stadium normally utilized for high school games, the Broncos and the Falcons frequently looked like junior varsity teams in the Hall of Fame Lame Game.
If anyone misses the defunct Alliance of America Football league, Thursday night’s event was a reminder.
But, all’s well that ends well, and the Broncos scored a touchdown with 1:26 left on what coach Vic Fangio called “an acrobatic catch’’ by Juwann Winfree to prevail 14-10.
“Nobody’s in the locker room doing back flips, but winning cures more ills than penicillin,’’ Fangio said afterward.
Fangio knows ills. Making his debut, he was coaching in pain after being diagnosed earlier in the day with a kidney stone.
The 61-year-old Fangio began to feel intense discomfort about 1 a.m. Thursday in his hotel room in downtown Cleveland by Lake Erie. He declined initially to go to the hospital, but the symptoms in his intestinal area didn’t subside. He was taken to a nearby hospital about noon, and doctors believed he had appendicitis or a kidney stone. After a CT Scan proved there was a kidney stone, Fangio, who had the same malady once before, was released and determined to coach — in his usual gray sweatshirt — in the opening exhibition.
He took Tylenol. “It’s not great,’’ he told me in the hallway. “But I think it (stone) is on the way to passing. It’s a long path to get there.’’
Before the Broncos arrived at the stadium in late afternoon, the Hall of Fame game committee offered to loan Fangio a golf cart ride from the team bus to the locker room. He declined (indignantly).
Throughout the game Fangio constantly moved up and down the sideline and showed no effects of the agony. “I was too busy concentrating on the game.’’
As he has indicated in camp, Fangio called the defensive plays and tried to figure out where he would stand. He watched the offense as Rich Scangarello, also in his first exhibition as a coordinator, was determining plays.
The defense shut out the Falcons for 29 minutes and 42 seconds, and the Broncos’ offense scored one touchdown, with Kevin Hogan at quarterback, with 12:59 left in the opening quarter.
Hogan completed 5 of 8 passes for 37 yards, and was victimized by drops by rookies Winfree, the sixth-round pick who has produced a solid training camp, and first-round draft pick Noah Fant.
Only six potential starters saw action. “We wanted to get those guys a handful of plays,’’ the coach said.
Drew Lock made his first appearance with 13:01 left in the second quarter and, on second down, overthrew Fant. Three and out. Working entirely from the shotgun, as he did at Missouri, Lock was not impressive, managing just 34 yards (7 of 11), with two sacks. Brett Rypien was inserted in the fourth quarter and hit on 5 of 10 for 41 yards and the lone passing touchdown — for 15 yards to Winfree, who scored at the side of the end zone after tipping the ball and securing it just inbounds.
But, for much of the evening, the Broncos’ offense did not resemble the boy band NSYNC. The Broncos had only 93 net yards passing and 95 yards rushing from Khalfani Muhammad, Devontae Jackson and David Williams — all vying for a running back spot that likely won’t exist.
The defense had only two likely starters — nose tackle Shelby Harris and defensive end Adam Gotsis — who worked in early. Reserve safeties Su’a Cravens and Will Parks were sincere in their efforts. Draft pick Justin Hollins looked solid in business action, and another — rookie defensive end Dre’Mont Jones was praised by Fangio, but the rest of the second-, third- and fourth-stringers didn’t show much.
Brendan Langley, who couldn’t make it with the Broncos as a cornerback, was given a start as a wide receiver and a punt returner. He finished with one reception for 8 yards and one fumbled return.
I’ve witnessed many of these Hall of Fame demonstrations, and this certain was one. As expected, it was an sloppy exhibition in futility for Broncos and Falcons wannabes who likely won’t be.
Most in the crowd of 20,802 — dominated by approximately 5,000 fans clad in orange jerseys — departed before the late, winning score. Those who stayed got an exciting conclusion.
And the Broncos made Fangio feel better all over.