What we learned from Broncos-Falcons in HOF Game

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Football, or something that looked like football, returned to our lives on Thursday night as the Denver Broncos topped the Atlanta Falcons, 14-10, in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Here's what we learned from the first game of the 2019 preseason:

1. The Broncos got their first in-game look at their possible quarterback of the future in Drew Lock on Thursday night, and the second-round rookie's debut was a mixed bag at best.

The second Broncos QB to see action in Canton after Kevin Hogan, Lock looked like the "hard-throwing pitcher that doesn't know how to pitch yet" he's been characterized as. The Mizzou product overthrew receivers on two of his first three tosses and lacked anticipation in the pocket on two sacks on his second drive. Lock's best toss of the night, a 12-yarder to Nick Williams, came on a bootleg to his left side.

Of Lock's seven drives, five ended in a punt, including three three-and-outs, one concluded in a fumble and one ended on downs. He finished 7-of-11 for 34 yards with one rush for six yards.

"I was hoping for more, but not surprised," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said of Lock after the game. "He's still got a lot of work to do. Thought his accuracy wasn't clean all the time, along with his reads. But you know, it's to be expected. We've got four more games. We've got to get him ready, more ready than he is right now. "

Now we're not going to read too much into a rookie's performance on the first day of August, but Lock did little in his national window to convince his detractors and/or Fangio that he is an "NFL-ready" quarterback. His status as Denver's No. 2 quarterback come September is anything but a Lock.

2. Speaking of Fangio, a hearty "bravo" is in order for the first-year skipper who battled through a bout with kidney stones so that he could make his coaching debut. Fangio was hospitalized in Cleveland earlier Thursday with a kidney stone but mustered up the strength to take the field in Canton thanks to, what he termed to NBC's Michele Tafoya, "wonder drugs."

Fangio confirmed after the win that he had not passed the stone before the start of Thursday's game, telling reporters, "It'd done most of its traveling by the time I left the [hospital]."

It's safe to say Fangio won't forget his first.

3. Fangio made history in other ways on Thursday night, becoming the first coach to challenge a pass-interference call in an NFL game, preseason or regular season. Called late in the second quarter, the penalty on Broncos cornerback Linden Stephens was upheld by referee Walt Anderson and his crew after a short booth review. It was the first time the new pass interference review rule had been used in-game since its institution this offseason. Expect more coaches to test out the rule, and their use of challenges, during the preseason, as they get used to this new reality.

4. Matt Schaub's been Matt Ryan's backup in Atlanta for what feels like forever, but Kurt Benkert (a fellow Hoo) could be coming for his job. The second-year player out of Virginia looked sharp and lively in his first career game action, completing 19 of 34 attempts for 185 yards and a score. Benkert, a UDFA, appeared far more comfortable in and out of the pocket in his eight drives than any other signal-caller on Thursday night. Unfortunately for him, his night ended early when he suffered an apparent toe injury in the fourth quarter, forcing Schaub back into the game for the final stretch.

5. There was no Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker or newly signed Theo Riddick in Denver's backfield on Thursday night. That freed up snaps for Broncos backs further down the depth chart, including Khalfani Muhammad, who stood out when given the opportunity. The speedy third-year pro out of Cal scored Denver's first touchdown and showed great burst on a 11-touch, 74-yard evening.

On the other sideline, third-year back Brian Hill got more run than Ito Smith and made the most for his carries, grinding out 57 yards on 11 rushes. Atlanta needs to settle on a backup to Devonta Freeman with Tevin Coleman in San Francisco, and Hill made an early case for more consideration.

6. As for the first-round rookies, Broncos tight end Noah Fant caught one pass on three targets for seven yards -- he dropped one as well -- while Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom made his presence felt early on.

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