CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The future became the present on Saturday. At least for this Sunday.
Rookie Paxton Lynch will make his first start against the Atlanta Falcons with Trevor Siemian's sprained left shoulder requiring more time to heal, an NFL source confirmed. When Broncos coach Gary Kubiak failed to clear Siemian on Friday, the pendulum shifted toward the kid. Lynch has taken the majority of first-team reps this week, leaving him in a position to lead the team.
Siemian made progress with his injury but continued to favor his arm to different degrees on Thursday and Friday. Siemian, who is 4-0 as a starter, could throw in drills. However, he must be able to protect himself because as Kubiak acknowledged "you are going to get hit" in a game. A scheduling wrinkle, even if not emphasized, likely figured into the thinking. The Broncos play two games in five days, heading to San Diego on Thursday. Denver has won 15 straight AFC West road games.
Multiple players reached on Saturday emphasized that "they have to win" no matter who is at quarterback. Such urgency and competitiveness fueled a 4-0 start and a current nine-game winning streak, dating to last season. There's no guarantee Siemian will be active on game day. If Kubiak and the training staff deem Siemian would benefit from complete rest -- which would not be a surprise -- Austin Davis will serve as the backup to Lynch.
Lynch played well in a relief role last week. He entered in the second quarter against Tampa Bay and completed 14 of 24 passes for 170 yards and a 5-yard touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders. Lynch starting should not be viewed as a lack of confidence in Siemian. It is related, an NFL source said, solely to his injury. The Broncos have been pleased with Siemian's play. Not only is he unbeaten, but he owns the NFL's top passer rating in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos face an Atlanta defense that is struggling. The Falcons have produced just four sacks in four games, and allow 31 points per game. The Broncos will look to establish the running game. However, right tackle Donald Stephenson and tight end Virgil Green are not expected to start because of their left calf injuries.
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