The first taste of 2019 NFL football is in the books and with it a first look at a highly scrutinized penalty implemented before the season.
In a Hall of Fame game that saw the Denver Broncos top the Atlanta Falcons, 14-10, the league saw its first-ever pass interference challenge.
First pass interference challenge
With 3:19 left in the second quarter, officials flagged Denver Broncos defensive back Linden Stephens for pass interference.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio challenged the penalty, putting officials to the test for the new rule that came about as a result of the controversial no-call in the waning moments of the NFC Championship game that saw officials miss a blatant penalty on the Los Angeles Rams.
The penalty was clear-cut, and officials upheld the call on the field.
Fangio coached with kidney stone
Prior to the game, there was some drama around first-year Broncos head coach Vic Fangio.
Fangio spent Thursday in a Cleveland hospital with a kidney stone. He reportedly did not pass it.
But he was on the sideline for the start of Thursday’s Hall of Fame game, presumably still with kidney stone, clearly not wanting to miss his head coaching debut with the Broncos.
From there, he witnessed Broncos running back Khalfani Muhammad cross the goal line for the first touchdown of the NFL preseason, giving Denver a 7-0 lead.
The Falcons tied the game in the second quarter on a 61-yard touchdown drive culminated by a one-yard Kurt Benkert pass to Brian Hill before eventually taking the lead with a third-quarter field goal.
Broncos rally late
Offenses struggled for most of the night, but the Broncos woke up in the game’s final moments to retake the lead, 14-10 on a 15-yard Brett Rypien touchdown pass to Juwann Winfree on fourth and 14 with 1:26 remaining.
The Falcons could not answer as the Broncos prevailed.
Drew Lock’s debut
The Broncos got their first look at rookie quarterback Drew Lock, a second-round pick out of Missouri. Kevin Hogan started for Denver before Lock took over in the second quarter.
He threw two incomplete passes in a three-and out on his first drive and finished completing 7-of-11 pass attempts for 34 yards while taking a pair of sacks.
Even if it was preseason, it was a welcome-to-the-NFL type performance for the rookie who’s expected to sit behind Joe Flacco this season but is the presumed quarterback of the future in Denver.
“Drew’s a very talented young guy that we think has got a bright future ahead,” Broncos general manager John Elway told NBC. “I think that he saw some different things that he wasn’t expecting. He saw a little more man coverage tonight than he was planning on seeing. Saw a little pressure.”
Flacco did not play.
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