DENVER (AP) — Journeyman Josh Johnson threw a pair of first-half touchdowns and the Denver Broncos beat the penalty-prone Dallas Cowboys 17-7 on a starless Saturday night that featured a steady rain for much of the second half.
Johnson, who’s 36 years old and playing for his 14th NFL team, was signed in the offseason to compete with Brett Rypien for the job backing up new Broncos starter Russell Wilson.
Wilson sat this one out, as did Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, leaving the passing duties to backups.
Rypien was 8 of 18 for 113 yards. Cooper Rush got the start for Dallas and was 12 of 20 for 84 yards and an interception. Ben DiNucci (9 of 16 for 112 yards) finally got the Cowboys on the board with a 12-yard TD toss to Simi Fehoko with just under five minutes remaining, capping a 16-play, 95-yard drive.
The Cowboys committed a whopping 17 penalties for 129 yards 48 hours after Dallas’ first-string offense was dominated by Denver’s front-line defense in a chippy joint practice that featured a half-dozen skirmishes.
After yielding 17 second-quarter points, the Cowboys turned away Denver with a goal line stand on the Broncos’ first drive after halftime when cornerback Kyron Brown broke up Rypien’s pass to Darrius Shepherd on fourth-and-goal from the 3.
Only a handful of regulars started for each team, including Broncos inside linebacker Jonas Griffith, who injured his left elbow on the game’s second snap and didn’t return.
Johnson overcame a slow start to throw for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-23 passing. He hit Seth Williams from a yard out and added a 24-yarder to Kendall Hinton. Williams’ grab followed a 40-yard reception by rookie Brandon Johnson, son of former Colorado Rockies catcher Charles Johnson.
Brandon McManus sent the Broncos into halftime with a 17-0 lead by nailing a 52-yarder at the end of the first half.
The game marked Nathaniel Hackett’s debut as an NFL head coach and the introduction of the Broncos’ new Walton-Penner ownership group, which purchased the team from the Pat Bowlen Trust for a record $4.65 billion, and new team president Damani Leech.
P.J. Locke intercepted Cooper’s fourth-and-2 pass from the Denver 38 in the first quarter and both of Dallas’ QBs were sacked once.
Even though Wilson didn’t play, the crowd was relatively large for a preseason game — 64,541.
Cowboys: TE Ian Bunting (neck) sat out. He was injured in practice Thursday.
Broncos: CB Michael Ojemudia was evaluated for a concussion late in the first quarter.
McManus was wide right on a 57-yard attempt as the first half expired, but Dallas cornerback Kelvin Johnson was offside, setting up an untimed play, and McManus nailed it from 52 yards out.
Dallas K Lirim Hajrullahu was wide right on a 56-yard try early in the fourth quarter.
Cowboys: Visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night.
Broncos: Visit the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.