Broncos’ players and coaches can breathe a sigh of relief; their eight-week nightmare has finally come to an end. On Sunday afternoon at Mile High in front of Broncos’ faithful, Denver’s defense returned to form and led the way in a 23-0 dominating performance over the Jets. The win at least for this afternoon, softened the criticism and marked the first shut out victory for the Broncos in twelve years.
Without two key starters in Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko on the defensive line, the Denver defense held the Jets to just 100 net yards. Broncos’ defensive tackle Shelby Harris filled in nicely and added a sack and deflected pass to a front that held the Jets to a mere 59 yards rushing. Denver’s secondary finally got the chance to play with a lead and Von Miller finally got to dance and gave Broncos’ fans a reason to cheer.
“We play this game for our families and we play this game for each other, but we play this game for the fans,” declared Miller. “We want to entertain the fans. We want the fans to be proud of the whole entire team. You know to get a win and win the way we did you know here at home it feels great.” Miller became the first player in Broncos history with six 10-sack seasons.
For once Denver’s secondary got to play with a lead and they made sure they kept it. Denver held Jets’ quarterback Josh McCown to 46 yards passing while adding a Darian Stewart interception.
“We don’t have to take so many chances,” described Chris Harris Jr. “We can just control the football game.”
The most important stat of the afternoon was a big fat zero in the turnover column. The Broncos entered Sunday next to last and only in front of the Cleveland Browns in turnover differential (-16). Against the Jets, Trevor Siemian and the Denver offense effectively played the type of football their head coach has been demanding for all season.
“It feels great,” noted Joseph with a smile across his face. “When you’re plus two and control the field position you have a chance to win football games and it looks really simple you know to do that, but it’s not. Our guys again have been working hard and the effort’s been there every week. It’s just we hadn’t played clean football and today we did.”
The formula offensively had been there all along for the Broncos; run the football and let their receivers on the outside make plays when they need to. While this formula hasn’t been put to good use for most of the season, Denver was able to create a much needed balance offensively on Sunday. Denver ran the ball 35 times while throwing 31 times. Eight of those passes went into the arms of Broncos’ receiver Demaryius Thomas for 93 yards including a 20-yard touchdown catch from Siemian. No other receiver caught more than two passes.
“He (Thomas) played inspired football,” proclaimed Joseph. “You know I challenged those guys last night all of our team leaders to play better football. You know he came out and played inspired football.”
Thomas passed Shannon Sharpe (8,439) for second- place on the Broncos all-time list for receiving yards. The success also brought the fun back in football.
“We came out and started fast and it was opposite what we are used to,” noted Thomas. “We’re used to going down and starting fast and turning the ball over or giving the other team points. So we was able to go out and get points and then come back and score a touchdown. That was basically it. The game is about always having fun and that was what I was doing.”
Sunday in Denver was a meaningless game in the playoff race, an expression all too new for Broncos’ fans. However, after the nightmare and embarrassment that carried over the team for the last two months, it was nice to see a team that bears the weight of championship expectations smiling again at least for one week.