A Denver Broncos fan yells against the Minnesota Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 4, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images)
The Denver Broncos went in to the Metrodome on Sunday and defeated the Minnesota Vikings in what surprisingly ended up as a shootout. It was a wild and exciting victory to put them at 7-5. I don't know about you, but five straight Bronco wins is enough to make me giddy. I thought we were headed for another Overtime game there for a minute too. Anyway, handing out Game Balls is getting increasingly difficult because there are so many players making plays this year, so I called an audible from my to fit the theme. I may end up creating another category for this series and I'm sure no one will mind if that happens. After all, we are celebrating wins here, right? Don't worry, I won't copy/paste the entire roster, just follow the jump and see who made the cut this week.
The Game Ball on Offense goes to Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas, whose 4 catches for 144 yards, 36-yard per catch average and 2 touchdowns were the top performance on Sunday. Bay Bay caught both touchdowns by the Denver Offense, but his 42-yard touchdown reception (posted here by John Bena) tipped the scales over the other two nominees below. Thomas missed two other opportunities for touchdowns including a 3rd and Goal situation, but it was the kind of day Bronco fans have been waiting to see from the 22nd overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. On the season, Demaryius has 11 catches for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns in 7 games. Let's just hope his injuries are behind him and we can move forward.
Willis McGahee gets the final Horseshoe on Offense. Willis ran for 111 yards on 20 carries, a 5.6 average and added a 24-yard touchdown that with Tebow's 2-point conversion, tied the game at 29 with 9 minutes remaining in the game. Willis also had a Fumble in the game at 03:51 in the 1st Quarter. Minnesota CB Cedric Griffin knocked the ball loose and Safety Jamarca Sanford recovered it at the Denver 36. The Defense held and the Vikings had to settle for a 40 yard Ryan Longwell Field Goal to bring the Vikes to within one point. Willis was already sore about Jared Allen's Safety in the Broncos first possession and this just added insult to injury. Suffice it to say, having his sixth 100+ yard game this season offset any effects of a broken hand suffered in Week 7. McGahee's season totals are 886 yards on 182 carries, a 4.9 average and 4 touchdowns. He also has 22 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.
With Rookie Linebacker Von Miller's absence due to thumb surgery, Mario Haggan became the next man up. Boy did he deliver too. Mario responded with a 12 Tackle game. He had 3 Tackles for a Loss, one Pass Break Up and a 16 yard Interception return for a touchdown that tore any momentum the Vikings had to shreds. It wasn't enough for Haggan to simply "fill in." He must have watched Von's speed rush last week when the rookie tore into the San Diego backfield and stuffed Mike Tolbert for a 4-yard loss, because Mario did his best imitation three times on Sunday. And it didn't take long either. On Minnesota's very first possession of the game, Haggan let everyone know there wouldn't be a drop off at Linebacker when he dropped Lorenzo Booker for a 3 yard loss on 2nd and 6. Two plays later, the Vikings had to punt.
The very next series, on 2nd down again, Percy Harvin tried to run around the left end, but Mario was there once more and took him for a 1 yard loss. And like his first TFL, the Vikings had to punt two plays later. Haggan's third Tackle For a Loss arrived in the 2nd Quarter on wait for it...2nd down. Toby Gerhart attempted to run behind his Left Guard. Haggan wouldn't have any of it and took the bull by the horns, throwing him for a 6 yard loss. Only this time Minnesota didn't punt. Ponder found Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown four plays later.
Andre' Goodman gets a Horseshoe for not only his 7 Tackles and 2 Pass Break Ups, but for stopping any chance that the Vikings had to win the game in the final minutes. With a minute and a half left in regulation, Christian Ponder took the snap from the shotgun and wanted to connect with Percy Harvin on a short pass to the left. Goodman, who'd had an up and down game, intercepted the pass at Minnesota's 35 yard line and ran it back for 20 yards, going out of bounds at the 15. That was just about all she wrote. Lance Ball had an 11-yard run and the Broncos ate up the rest of the clock. Matt Prater kicked a 23-yard Field Goal and the Broncos put the women and children to bed.
The Honorable Mention for this week goes out to Brian Dawkins for his 5 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Flying Pass Deflection and a critical Forced Fumble. Weapon X was flying around and rallying the troops. It was a good thing his Unobtainium Claws were retracted on that pass deflection, otherwise the ball would have exploded.
I gave the Game Ball for Special Teams to Kick Returner Quan Cosby, who had 132 yards on 4 returns, including a 63-yard effort that set the stage for that Tebow to Demaryius Thomas 41-yard touchdown to make the score 21-22. Cosby forced Vikings Kicker Ryan Longwell to Tackle him twice in the game. In his 8 games as a Bronco, Quan has made 13 Kick Returns for a 29.7 average and 18 Punt Returns for a 10.9 yard average.
Punter Britton Colquitt gets a Gold Horseshoe for consistently and single-handedly keeping the Field Position battle tilted in the Broncos favor. Sunday was no different. Britton punted 6 times for a 51.2 yard gross average, including 3 Inside the Vikings 20 yard line and forcing one fair Catch. His longest of the day went 59 yards and he didn't out-kick his coverage guys because his Net average of 48.8 is only 2.4 yards less than his gross. That is an impressive statistic. For the year, Colquitt is tied for the 2nd most punts (74), 2nd in yardage (3,547), 1st in Net yards, 6th in gross average (47.9), 4th in Net average (41.6), 4th with 23 Punts Inside the 20 and tied for 4th with 19 Fair Catches Forced.
Honorable Mentions go out to Chris Harris, who had a crucial Special Teams Fumble Recovery on Matthew Willis muffed punt and Matt Prater for his 3 Extra Points and 2 Field Goals. A 46-yarder and the game winner from 23 yards out
That's it for this week. Next up is a visit from the Windy City boys, the Chicago Bears. Let's go for six in a row.