It wasn't the best game the Broncos could have played, but a gutsy team effort on both side of the ball when it mattered the most helped propel Denver to a 24-12 victory over the Detroit Lions.
At the end of the day, a win is a win and all that matters is that it our beloved Broncos came out of Detroit Rock City with a victory. Two gutsy road wins back-to-back allow Denver to reign supreme in the AFC West and will give them a boost of confidence heading into next weeks battle at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
Though Aqib Talib and, Jr. receive a bulk of the press for their prowess in pass defense, second-year player Bradley Roby's incredible interception off of Stafford in the second quarter proved the former Ohio State Buckeye has the elite talent necessary to become one of the NFL's premier corners. According to reports, Roby has been more diligent in film study sessions and has done everything necessary to become the best pro he can be. Take a look at his sweet pick below:
Great pick! pic.twitter.com/AfedX7tMGB— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) September 28, 2015
After Roby's interception, the Broncos had the opportunity to put some points on the board offensively, but weren't able to do so. Detroit came away with a turnover of their own when Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata tipped a Peyton Manning pass at the line of scrimmage that ended up in the hands of safety Glover Quin who was Johnny On-the-Spot, but Detroit was unable to capitalize on Denver's misfortune.
Denver's offense took over once more and methodically, thanks to a couple of Bennie "Mr. Homecoming" Fowler snags that moved them down the field and the Broncos capped off a 12 play drive that took six and a half minutes off the clock with a one yard touchdown run by Ronnie Hillman to put them up 7-0. But the shutout was short lived as the Lions, thanks in part to a crazy Calvin Johnson catch that robbed Talib of an interception and a handful of Denver defensive penalties set up a Joique Bell touchdown run.
It seemed as if the Lions would tie the game, but Talib showed how valuable he is on special teams and came up big with a blocked the extra point attempt from Matt Prater which was almost returned by Harris for a touchdown before Eric Ebron sprinted down the field and knocked him out of bounds.
With just over a minute left in the first half, the Broncos took over with a full slate of timeouts and once more, Fowler came up big connecting with Manning on an early pass to help the Broncos move down the field. Fowler had an impressive first half for the Broncos, amassing three for 37 yards in what was the most productive game of his NFL career in front of friends and family who watched his career closely in East Lansing with the Michigan State Spartans.
With just a handful of seconds on the clock and the Broncos facing a fourth and one -- Manning unloaded on a deep bomb to Demaryius Thomas, who beat Darius Slay and showboated his way into the endzone for 45 yards.
It was the big play the Broncos have been hoping for thus far this season and it couldn't have come at a better time. Denver converted on the extra point attempt from Brandon McManus and took a 14-6 lead into halftime and were set to receive the ball in the second half.
A handful of positives were easily witnessed from the first 30 minutes of Broncos football in Detroit. The offensive line gave Manning ample time to pass in the pocket. An observation that could have helped aid that and needs to be pointed out is that Denver ran every passing play but two in the first half out of the shotgun or pistol formation. Manning was sharp and efficient in the first half and completed 17 out of 24 for 195 yards and a touchdown.
Furthermore, eight different receivers caught passes from Manning in the first half. Head Coach Gary Kubiak had six receivers active for the game and stated he would make use of all of them and that certainly showed in the state sheet. The only receiver who didn't catch a reception was second-year player Cody Latimer, who continues to be a disappointment on game day and looks to be the worst out of all the great young receivers selected from his draft class.
When Denver took the ball in the second half, the slow march began down the field, but a Thomas fumble after a run and catch was recovered by cornerback Quandre Diggs at the 29 yard line and the Lions were licking their chops to capitalize on the turnover and they got more help than they may have needed. A Sylvester Williams late hit on Matthew Stafford tacked on another fifteen yards on an already shortened field on a scramble out of the pocket and the Lions were within striking distance in the red zone. It wasn't long before rookie running back Ameer Abdullah hauled in a 16 yard catch and run right before Stafford was pummeled to bring the score to 14-12. Alas, it wasn't all positive for the Lions, who were stuffed on their two point conversion attempt.
Neither offense could do anything the remainder of the third quarter and continued to struggle through the first portion of the fourth quarter as well. Denver fans began to worry for a while with Detroit driving down the field, but budding star Shaquil Barrett came up big for Denver's defense and caused Stafford to fumble the ball which was recovered by Malik Jackson. Though they didn't get a touchdown after the turnover, the Broncos capitalized with McManus hitting a 48 yard field goal to put the Broncos up by five points.
It was desperation time for Detroit, who had to pass the ball aggressively if they wanted to have any shot at winning the game. The tide seemed to turn in their favor when Broncos safety David Bruton was burned for 29 yards by Ebron on a route down the field, but redeemed himself shortly thereafter with an interception with three and a half minutes left to play.
GIF: David Bruton picks Matt Stafford pic.twitter.com/9K4CiOI9pM— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) September 28, 2015
When the going gets tough, the tough get going and the Broncos did just that, with Broncos star wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders making a phenomenal leaping grab over Slay, who was once again burned on a route similar to Thomas score in the first half. While the Broncos offense struggled most of the second half, it came through when it mattered most and Manning threw a beautiful pass to tight end Owen Daniels who made a spectacular grab to put the nail in the coffin against the Lions and put the Broncos up for good and helped earn them their third victory of the season by a margin of 24-12.
Broncos fans should sleep soundly tonight knowing that their team is one of the few remaining undefeated teams in the AFC (New England and Cincinnati being the others) and have set themselves up well for the post-season with this win, coupled with other big named teams and playoff competitors struggling this weekend.
Quote of the Game:
— Peyton Manning
Hart's Quick Hits:
- Outside of the batted interception earlier in the game, Manning was very impressive and completed 31/42 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. He looked poised and stepped up in the pocket and fired a lot of quality passes to a plethora of receivers. You can tell that he is starting to take some of the talk of him being washed up personally.
- Nine different Broncos players caught passes on the evening, with Thomas having nine receptions and Sanders with six to lead the team. The two combined for 179 of the Broncos 324 receiving yards.
- Don't let the 282 passing yards the Lions put up on Denver's pass defense fool you into believing the secondary had a bad game. A majority of Detroit's passing yardage came through short routes, primarily screen passes to receivers or running backs. Denver's impeccable secondary did not yield many big plays down the field and faced a lot of passes simply because the Lions couldn't run on the Broncos all game long. It was another strong game from a unit that continues to create turnovers and show why they are the best in the NFL. Here's a tweet from Mile High Report writer Jon Heath that helps demonstrate that in full:
- Denver's defensive front seven were fierce in stopping the Lions run game that only gained 28 yards on the ground all night. Vance Walker, Antonio Smith, Malik Jackson and Sylvester Williams showed dominance at the line of scrimmage and were a huge reason Detroit was unable to get anything going in that regard.
- Unfortunately, Denver's running game wasn't great either and the team continues to move the ball that way offensively. On 19 carries, the Broncos only racked up 41 yards. Folks, that's a 2.15 YPC average and simply unacceptable for a franchise that has almost always had a successful rushing attack.
- Denver's pass rush continued to impress and totaled four sacks on the evening, with a fifth by Von Miller being wiped away due to a penalty late in the game. Their continued harassment of Stafford was a big reason why the Lions were only 4/12 on third downs.
- A very interesting tweet from Scott Kascmar of Football Outsider's sums up what we have witnessed offensively from the Broncos thus far offensively Despite having a deplorable running game, they continue to win games.
2015 Broncos will be 3-0 throwing it 40+ times and rushing for < 70 yards every game. No team has even 4 wins in a season doing that.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 28, 2015