Kurt Warner was just 2-for-7 passing for 48 yards and one interception before heading to the bench following the first quarter as the Cardinals fell to 0-4 in the preseason with a 19-0 loss to the Denver Broncos.
DENVER — Rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater turned in a solid dress rehearsal. Next up just may be the real thing.
With Denver's top two quarterbacks injured, Brandstater stepped in and guided the Broncos to a 19-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason finale Thursday night.
In a composed and effective performance, Brandstater finished 16-for-30 passing for 187 yards, and led the Broncos to scores on four of their first five possessions. The only blemish for the sixth-round draft pick out of Fresno State was an interception by Michael Adams just before halftime.
While Brandstater shined, the defending NFC champion Cardinals (0-4) struggled — again. On the heels of a disappointing performance last week against Green Bay, coach Ken Whisenhunt hinted he might play his starters longer than usual for a final exhibition game.
But he gave Kurt Warner & Co. an early exit. Warner was just 2-for-7 passing for 48 yards and one interception before heading to the bench following the first quarter. Warner, who threw 30 touchdown passes last season, had none in the preseason.
The Broncos (1-3) avoided their first winless preseason since their first year of existence in 1960. The team will officially kick off the Josh McDaniels era on Sept. 13 at Cincinnati.
Just who may be at quarterback, though, remains up in the air.
Brandstater could be in line to start should Kyle Orton and Chris Simms not heal in time.
Orton cut and dislocated his right index finger when he smacked his right hand on a defender while following through on a pass against Chicago on Sunday night. Simms, who's backing up Orton, was already sidelined after spraining his left ankle two weeks ago at Seattle.
Brandstater looked sharp in his first start, completing a 43-yard pass to Chad Jackson and another 32-yarder to Brandon Lloyd down the sideline that set up the Broncos' only touchdown, a 1-yard run by Darius Walker in the first quarter.
He nearly threw a touchdown pass to fellow rookie Kenny McKinley, but Greg Toler swatted it out of McKinley's hands in the end zone at the last moment.
While the Broncos moved the ball efficiently, their drives stalled out near the red zone. Matt Prater connected on four field goals, making him 7-for-7 in the preseason. Prater went through camp with no competition.
Denver's defense has scuffled at times to pick up new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4 scheme, producing zero turnovers through the first three preseason games.
However, the Broncos forced four on Thursday, including one by defensive end Darrell Reid when he drifted back into coverage and intercepted Warner's pass over the middle. Backup safety David Bruton had an interception and recovered a fumble.
Walker received the bulk of the carries for the Broncos, rushing for 68 yards on 21 carries. He finishes the preseason as the team's leading rusher.
The team's top draft pick, running back Knowshon Moreno, returned to practice this week for the first time since spraining his knee Aug. 14, but was held out of the exhibition finale as a precaution. Moreno carried just three times in the preseason.
EXTRA POINTS: The Broncos are 15-5 against the Cardinals in the preseason. ... Denver went with a patchwork offensive line as rookie Seth Olsen started at left guard for Ben Hamilton (back) and Russ Hochstein stepped in for Chris Kuper (ankle). ... Cardinals OL Elton Brown was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected after bumping an official on the final play of the first half. ... The Cardinals begin their NFC title defense on Sept. 13 by hosting San Francisco. ... Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin sat out with a hamstring injury.