For one Denver Broncos player in particular, there couldn't have been a better homecoming.
There are times in life where it can be bitter sweet going back home. A storyboard of emotions exist for players heading back to the city of the franchise that gave them their first chance to don an NFL jersey.
Some are bitter that the team that drafted them gave up on them a little to early. Some use that bitterness as fuel to add to the fire that burns inside them to show that giving up on them was indeed a big mistake.
In 2008, the Jon Gruden led Buccaneers rolled the dice in the first-round on a high-profile Jayhawk ballhawk out of the University of Kansas. That player was Aqib Talib.
Despite touting top ten talent and All-Pro ability with a penchant for making game-changing plays and impeccable ball skills — character and off the field concerns dropped Talib to the 20th overall selection, where he was swooped up by Gruden who believed that he could become one of the NFL's best defensive players.
After nine stellar seasons in the NFL, I think it is safe to say that Talib has cemented himself as one of the best in the league to play the position. Heck, he may go down as one of the best players to play cornerback in the history of the NFL.
Talib had himself quite the day this afternoon in the Broncos' victory over the Buccaneers. His two first half interceptions on Jameis Winston and brought his total to three on the season and a grand total of ten since signing with Denver several years ago. Overall, Talib now has 33 interceptions on his career.
Hats off to Talib on another spectacular day and moreover, a tremendous career to date. I don't know if there is any cornerback in the league who has better ball skills and instincts for making game changing interceptions.
Those big plays helped the offense out tremendously and gave them short fields to capitalize on. The offense didn't disappoint in that regard, with both interceptions leading to touchdown drives by the Broncos.
Trevor Siemian connected with Demaryius Thomas on a 12 yard touchdown pass the play immediately after Talib's first interception, and the second scoring drive was helped out tremendously from defensive penalties and capped off by a one yard C.J. Anderson touchdown run. After several weeks of play, Denver's red zone efficiency looks much better than it did in their first two games of the year.
Outside of those two scoring drives, the Broncos' offense struggled to have any chemistry in the first half. They were only able to amass 28 yards on 8 rushes and the offensive line did a horrendous job protecting Siemian, who was sacked four times and exited the game late in the second quarter after suffering an apparent shoulder injury.
Semian was replaced by rookie Paxton Lynch, who went 4/8 for 47 yards and helped lead the Broncos offense down the field on a two minute drill. The drive didn't result in a touchdown, but gave them three more points after Brandon McManus connected on a 38 yard field goal and gave the Broncos a 17-7 lead heading into halftime.
Denver received the ball to start the second half and it was Lynch at the helm for the Broncos' offense. The running game was much improved over the first two quarters of the game, and Lynch was able to move the chains effectively on a 16 play, 69 yard drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock and netted Denver three more points to improve their lead to thirteen points by a score of 20-7.
Neither team had much success moving the ball the rest of the third quarter, and Denver's defense improved tremendously in the second half. By the start of the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay had only registered ten plays for negative yardage (-4) offensively.
With just over thirteen minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Lynch took the reins of the offense once again and under his leadership and poise, the Broncos were able to march 80 yards down the field in 9 plays that ended with tremendous success. Lynch connected with Emmanuel Sanders for his first NFL touchdown pass of his career and gave the Broncos a 27-7 lead.
The Broncos defense continued to rattle and disrupt the Buccaneers' offensive capabilities to the point where fans of the were sending roaring boos from the stands of Raymond James Stadium upon their beloved hometown team.
With a storm rolling in and for the second straight week in a row, the game at Raymond James Stadium was put on hold due to inclement weather. The delay caused by the football gods didn't help the Buccaneers aspirations of winning at all, who lost in grand fashion to the Broncos 27-7, who are now 4-0 on the season.
The Broncos will head home next week to take on red hot Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
Hart's Quick Hits
- The Broncos will be looking forward to Donald Stephenson assuming his starting role at right tackle. In his stead, second-year offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo continued to struggle. He was beaten several times for sacks and had issues holding his ground at the point of attack in the running game.
- Pro Football Focus has given second-year left guard Max Garcia some love with positive grades in his first few games, but I haven't been as impressed as they have with his play. I see a young player who makes too many mental issues, struggles to get to the second level and has issues in pass protection when blitzes come through his gap. I'd like to see the Broncos add more talent to their offensive line at both tackle and guard this offseason in order to give our offense the best chance possible at succeeded continuously in the trenches.
- How good is defensive end Derek Wolfe? The leader of the Broncos' defensive line had himself another fantastic day on the gridiron. The veteran out of the University of Cincinnati was active all game long, registering several key sacks and was a disruptive force in limiting the Buccaneers' rushing attack. I think it's safe to say that John Elway made the right decision keeping Wolfe over Malik Jackson. There is no doubt that Wolfe has cemented himself as one of the league's best defensive linemen.
- Paxton Lynch looked impressive replacing Trevor Siemian. He was 14/24 for 170 yards and a touchdown pass. If Siemian's shoulder injury is serious, look for Lynch to be the starter next week at home against the Falcons.
- C.J. Anderson's touchdown in the first half gives him seven in the last nine games which is an NFL best during that time frame. He had 19 carries on the day for 49 yards and a score.
- The Broncos' defense entered today's contest against the Buccaneers ranked 30th in the NFL in third down defense. That ranking should improve a tad after doing a much better job that regard by holding Tampa Bay to only 5 conversions on 16 attempts.
- However, the Broncos struggled mightily on third down conversions. They were only 3/13 for the entire game for a horrendous 23 percent conversion rate.
- Overall, Denver's defense held the Buccaneers' offense to 215 yards offensively, registered six sacks and forced three turnovers. The Broncos have now won 26 straight games when being ahead in the turnover margin battle.