ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch don't need to worry about anyone but each other.
Heading into the zenith of their QB competition next week, they can rest assured the Broncos brass has their backs even as fans fret over the duo's oft-times ho-hum jockeying for the job.
Neither quarterback was particularly inspiring in the Broncos' 24-17 win at Chicago in their preseason opener Thursday night – particularly in comparison to Bears rookie Mitch Trubisky, who threw for 166 yards and led three scoring drives.
Siemian did nothing to loosen his grip on the job, and Lynch did nothing to bridge the gap. Neither one had a turnover or a touchdown.
Before the game, however, general manager John Elway again refuted a report that he'd been scouring other rosters for a passer. And after the game, coach Vance Joseph put the kibosh on the notion that Kyle Sloter had moved into the mix with his magnificent mop-up performance.
After Siemian and Lynch managed just three points on seven combined drives, Sloter led two long TD drives in the fourth quarter. He threw a 47-yard scoring pass to rookie Isaiah McKenzie and then handed off to rookie De'Angelo Henderson for a game-winning 41-yard scamper with 1:58 remaining.
Sloter's passer rating was a perfect 158.3.
"It was awesome," said Sloter, an undrafted rookie from Northern Colorado who's been getting some snaps with the third-stringers only because seventh-round draft pick Chad Kelly is recovering from knee and wrist injuries.
"That's everything you dream of as a kid: dropping back and throwing a touchdown in the National Football League and leading another one," Sloter said. "It was just a blessing to have an opportunity to be in this position."
His performance begs the question: shouldn't he be included in the Broncos' quarterback race?
"As a starter for us?" Joseph responded. "No. We've got Trevor and we've got Paxton, who we're satisfied with. They're both playing good football. Outside of the penalties, I was impressed with both guys.
In the Broncos' pregame television broadcast, Elway reaffirmed his faith in Siemian and Lynch and once again refuted a report that he'd sought a trade for Bengals backup QB AJ McCarron this month.
When the radio report surfaced Wednesday, Elway responded with this tweet: "Rumor of us being interested in anyone other than the QBs we have is another example of irresponsible, fake news!!"
Asked why he felt compelled to reply so forcefully (even channeling Donald Trump and the president's trademark phrase) Elway said, "Because it was not true. It's flat-out not true. We have not talked to anybody in Cincinnati. That has not been on our radar screen at all."
Elway said he wanted to make sure his players knew there was nothing to the rumor, "so that's why we came out as hard as we did." He especially wanted Siemian and Lynch to know management hadn't lost faith in them, he added.
"I'm excited about Trevor and Paxton and the way they've been working," Elway said. "We feel good about them."
Siemian began to separate himself from Lynch last week and time is running out for Lynch to catch up. The Broncos practice with the 49ers two days next week in advance of their game in which Lynch will start.
BIG IMPRESSIONS: Jamaal Carter, an undrafted rookie safety out of Miami, led the team with six solo stops and also recovered a fumble. Wide receiver Cody Latimer, on the hot seat after the Broncos drafted two wide receivers caught all seven passes thrown his way.
SPOKE TOO SOON? The Broncos didn't wait for the preseason to arrive before announcing McKenzie had won the punt return job. Then, Kalif Raymond went out and piled up 75 yards on two touches against the Bears backups, a 34-yard punt return and a 41-yard kickoff return.
GONE IN 60 SECONDS: The starting defense was slated to play longer, but Chris Harris Jr.'s 50-yard pick-6 on the third snap meant the end of the day for many of the starters after exactly one minute.
"We were good after that one," Harris said. "I'm glad I was able to cut it short for everybody."