The Denver Broncos defense held the Baltimore Ravens offense to just six points of offensive production, so predictably the game balls are flowing heavily to all of the defensive stalwarts from the first game of the 2015 regular season. The Orange Crush defense lives!
The old reliable, Son of Bum gets my opening season game ball. He had the Broncos defense prepared for all situations and limited the Ravens offense to 173 yards of offense and his play-calling and teams' execution forced Baltimore to convert only 2 of it's 13 (15%) of their third down conversions. His defense was responsible for putting the only touchdown on the board for the Broncos with Aqib Talib's 51 yard interception return for a touchdown. The two sacks and timely pressures of his pass rushers made Flacco errant with his throws all day, completing only 18 of 32 passes for 117 yards. If today was just a minor glimpse of what the Broncos defense is capable of under Phillips, the aspirations the team has of winning the Super Bowl in 2015 look much, much brighter. - Christopher Hart
Defense powers Broncos to 1-0 after tough win
Constant pressure from the Broncos' defense denied the Ravens a victory in superior fashion with a game-sealing interception, solidifying this Wade Phillips' group as one to be reckoned with.
When Peyton Manning needing a first down, he looked towards Emmanuel Sanders. He-Manuel showed up third down after third down and was mere inches away from scoring the only offensive touchdown of the game in the first half. He was truly the only offensive highlight in what was most certainly a defensive slugfest. He finished with 8 catches for 65 yards. A big chunk of those were first down conversions. - Tim Lynch
It's not often that a kicker receives a game ball, but Brandon McMakeIt was money for us in the first game. Brandon came into the game having never hit a 50+ yard FG in the regular season in his (albeit short) NFL career.
So what did he proceed to do in the first quarter? Hit one from 57 and another from 56 (and they both would have been good from much farther away). He also hit from 44 and 33. Every single one of his kickoffs went for a touchback. I was hoping that hitting two 50+ yard FGs in one quarter was rare, but it's not that rare (Gostkowski did it in 2013 - in the 4th quarter against the Texans). Justin Tucker did it for the Raisins (what my 5-year old daughter calls them) that same year (hitting a 53 and a 61 yarder in the 4th against the Lions).
It's still special for Brandon, though, and puts him in some good company as Brandon joins Greg Zuerlein as the only kickers in NFL history with multiple field goals of 56 yards or more in the same game. Elam never did that. Prater never did that. Even the fat kicker in Oakland with the cannon attached to his hip never did that. Brandon's leg is going to be a valuable weapon for us this year. - Joe Mahoney
My big questions all off season has been, "Who the hell is Darian Stewart and who in their right mind thinks he's a free safety?" He's taken a big step in shoving some answers in my face with his boot after getting the game winning interception to make this Bronco fan an insanely happy camper. He read the ball, broke on the play, and sealed the game in short order exactly how you want to see a free safety play the game. It was a huge NFL play against a great NFL team. Welcome to the Denver Broncos, Darian Stewart! - Sadaraine
Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan
Both of these players were coming off offseasons where they both were rehabbing injuries. Marshall had surgery on his foot, and Trevathan has a new knee cap. However, on Sunday these guys were forces in the middle of the Broncos defense. Trevathan lead the team in tackles, and Marshall was second. Both had impact plays, and neither looked bothered by their past injuries.
These two earned their game ball from me because of their impact play on the field Sunday, and all the hardwork they put in during the offseason to get to this spot. - Scotty Payne
Before Sunday's game the last time Gary Kubiak coached a game he was fired (December 6th, 2013 following a December 5th loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars) after going 2-11 in Houston. So what does Kubiak pull in his first game back as a head coach? Twenty men that he once trained to never miss their target. My game ball goes to the same man that John Elway gave the actual game ball to, head coach Gary Kubiak. That may seem a bit much, but defensively that was one of the better games that Denver has ever played, the 17 play drive to seal the game at the end was orchestrated by the offensive play-calling (a credit to Kubiak as well). With the win today Kubiak goes to 62-64 in his career and 2-2 in the playoffs. - Ian Henson
David Bruton, Jr.
While David Bruton Jr. wasn't the obvious star of the game, his clutch play earned him my game ball. Throughout the game Bruton was great in coverage when Flacco targeted him, defending several passes. But where Bruton's muscle (from riding his bike to practice every day and clutch pass coverage mattered most, was the last play of the game. Darian Stewart deserves props, but if it weren't for David Bruton, he may not have caught that Joe Flacco pass to end the nail-biter game. Bruton never let up on his man, intended receiver Gillmore Crockett; when Flacco threw the ball his way Bolden got his hands in the way and broke up the pass into Darian Stewart's possession, which is more obvious viewed in slow motion.
He anticipated the pass, stating, "Oh, three-by-one, I knew they were going to go to their tight end. He [Ravens TE Crockett Gilmore] is a big target; he's made plays throughout the preseason. They went to him on the fourth down [earlier on the drive], so I felt like they probably had something. So I was just playing for that, and if he ran it out, he ran it out. I was going to take care of that middle read." - Kelly Fleming
Chris Harris Jr.
Chris Harris Jr. gave up, what, less than 5 yards the entire game? That includes a tackle for loss and exemplary run support. I haven't seen such a complete cornerback playing at this high of a level since 2005 with Champ Bailey. This guy knows how to play and act like a pro. Whenever I see a quarterback dare to throw in CHJ's direction, I always get a smile on my face because I know at the worst, it's a wasted play, and at the best, it's a pick six. Yesterday, Chris Harris showed us that he's picking up where he left off last year, and that his side of the field is indeed on lockdown. He was money well, well spent. - Big Pete
Before Darian Stewart made the play of the game – and before David Bruton Jr. enabled that play of the game – Aqib Talib sparked the Broncos in a huge way, swinging momentum toward the home team and setting up an exhilarating (if not heart attack-inducing) fourth quarter.
The Broncos’ defense had been bringing it all day, but Jimmy Smith’s pick 6 on Peyton Manning to lead off the third quarter followed soon after by a Ravens’ field goal to put them in the lead could have signaled a downward spiral for Denver. But Wade Phillips has coached this defense well, and players assume every down is a chance to make a big play – which Talib did in impressive fashion. Picking off Joe Flacco in Broncos territory, the cornerback danced 51 yards to not just a big score but a big pick-me-up for all of Broncos Country.
That INT marked Broncos CB Aqib Talib's 7th "Pick Six" since 2009, marking the most in the NFL during that time.— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) September 13, 2015
So I’m also giving an honorable mention to the offense for its fourth-quarter 11-minute drive that was no doubt fueled by the energy of Talib’s interception. Manning and the offense couldn’t get into the end zone on that final drive, but they kept the drive alive, ate up the clock, added another score and allowed the defense to stay fresh so it could elevate the Broncos to 1-0. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann