It was the first "regular Sunday" for the Denver Broncos. No opening week. No Thursday Night Football. No Sunday Night game. Just a regular Sunday afternoon. And the Broncos rolled up their sleeves, brushed off their blue collars, and went to work.
The defense woke up early and made the donuts, sacking Teddy Bridgewater three times in the first half alone. DeMarcus Ware was constantly in the backfield, continuing his September tour of terror into October, while Shane Ray registered his first career NFL sack.
Then, in the morning commute, Ronnie Hillman dodged traffic and sped through the carpool lane, even though there was no way anyone was tagging along. His 72-yard touchdown run gave the Broncos a big lead in the first half and Denver some confidence in its stagnant running game.
But Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson would not go quietly into the office basement, while Peyton Manning had a bad day at the office (two interceptions, both looking like they were totally on Manning). The Vikings pushed back every time the Broncos pushed forward, tying the game late in the fourth quarter.
But it was Denver's defense that ultimately punched out as the Broncos won 23-20.
T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware boasted sacks within the game's first six plays, sending Bridgewater back 26 yards. Manning and the Broncos then executed a seven-play, 48-yard drive to take an early 3-0 lead.
After a pair of punts and a missed field goal by the Vikings, Ronnie Hillman did this:
Ronnie Hillman blows through the Vikings D for a 72 yd TD pic.twitter.com/9zoafBBwjq— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) October 4, 2015
Just like that, it was 10-0 Broncos, and a field goal a drive later gave the Broncos a 13-0 lead. The Vikings, thanks to continued targets to Mike Wallace, responded with three points to get on the scoreboard 13-3.
But Peyton Manning's bad day at the office reared its ugly head - near the end of the first half, Manning threw an interception to Minnesota's Anthony Barr. Barr nearly returned it to the house - Owen Daniels made the touchdown-saving tackle - but that only delayed the inevitable. The Vikings ended the first half with a touchdown drive of their own, entering the half only down 13-10 after suffering a shutout only minutes earlier.
We're still not sure how Adrian Peterson went untouched through the middle on 4th and 1. Isn't that where every defense should expect the run on 4th and short?
The easiest TD of Adrian Peterson's career. pic.twitter.com/O0G2hjpjXy— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) October 4, 2015
Still, the Broncos' defense would have an opportunity at redemption. After another Peyton Manning interception put the Broncos in a dire situation, it was the Orange Crush defense that stepped up and sealed the win (again), sacking Teddy Bridgewater for the seventh time.
@MileHighReport Forced fumble by TJ Ward pic.twitter.com/B1x6NvrDCp— W.E.B. BLOGGER (@oscargambler) October 4, 2015
The defense wasn't dominant for 60 minutes, and we saw today that this Broncos team can barely survive a mediocre offense, let alone a bad one. But the Broncos improved to 4-0 and can head home happy after a very hard day's work.