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Instant reactions: Broncos stun Saints in the Battle of the Bayou

The Denver Broncos stunned the New Orleans Saints in an absolute thriller of a game on Sunday afternoon.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Do you believe in miracles?

If you were watching the game this afternoon, you just witnessed one.

In the most improbable of ways, the Denver Broncos were able to squeak out a 25-23 victory against the New Orleans Saints after Will Parks returned a blocked PAT attempt the distance in the final moments of regulation to secure their seventh win of the season.

If you missed the game, feel free to read my analysis below.  Folks, it was a wild one and a game that will certainly stick in our memory banks for many years to come!

For the first time in a long time, both the Broncos' offense and defense started off hot, but as the game went on, similar struggles on both sides of the ball emerged which caused Broncos Country to go into full blown panic attack mode.

The offense for the Broncos has been criticized all season long for their slow starts, but that changed this afternoon when they put together perhaps their most impressive drive of the year.  Their first possession was a thirteen play, 85 yard drive that took nearly half a quarter off of the clock.  Trevor Siemian was on point and was able to make a big league fourteen yard throw to Jordan Taylor in the end zone to put the Broncos up 7-0 early over the Saints.

For the second drive in a row, the Broncos' defense came up strong, and the Saints' ensuing drive came to a screeching halt when free safety Darian Stewart leaped in front of a pass intended for Tavaris Cadet and picked off Brees.

Alas, the Broncos weren't able to take advantage of the turnover and only accrued one first down before Siemian was sacked by Cameron Jordan on third down, forcing the Broncos to punt to close out the first quarter.

Once again, the Broncos' defense came up huge and forced yet another turnover.  Bradley Roby had perfect coverage on Michael Thomas and Brees' first pass of the second quarter was deflected and reeled in by Stewart, who notched his second interception of the game.

On the next drive, the Broncos were able to capitalize and upped their lead to 10-0 after Brandon McManus drilled a 50 yard field goal.  After that score, Denver's defense continued to hold strong, forcing the Saints to punt the ball once again.  Through almost two full quarters of play, the Saints offense had no answers for what Wade Phillips was calling on defense.

The Broncos were threatening to put more points on the board before the end of the half, but those dreams died when Siemian was picked off by Sterling Moore after staring down Emmanuel Sanders on a throw attempt to the left side of the field. Those are the kind of mistakes that infuriate fans the most, and what is even worse is that the turnover resulted in the Broncos likely losing points to close out the second quarter.

With momentum on their side after the Moore interception, the Saints were able to move the ball down the field 50 yards in 5 plays and get into field goal range, where rookie kicker Wil Lutz drilled a kick from 30 yards out to bring the score to 10-3 at halftime.

The Broncos dominated the time of possession in the first half, holding onto the ball for almost nine more minutes than the Saints.  They accumulated 181 total yards (112 through the air, 69 on the ground) and registered twelve first downs.  Comparatively, the Saints had eight first downs and 150 yards of total offense.

But could they keep Brees at bay in the bayou for long?

Denver received the ball to start the second half, but where stuffed on second and third down and were forced to punt.  On the arm of the ageless wonder Brees, the Saints were able to put together an impressive 7 play, 90 yard drive that resulted in a touchdown, with Brees connecting with Willie Snead from three yards out and evened the gridiron battle's score to 10-10.

After the Saints score, the Broncos started putting together a little drive of their own, but it imploded when Siemian was picked off for the second time, this time courtesy of Kenny Vaccaro who returned it into Denver territory. Once again, the Broncos paid dearly and in just four short plays, Brees connected with Snead for the second consecutive time to put the Saints up 17-10.

The Broncos started to hit their stride on offense in the final moments of the third quarter and into the early moments of the fourth, but Siemian was dropped for the fifth sack of the game, which ended any hope of a Broncos' touchdown to even the score.  To make matters worse, McManus missed his 42 yard field goal attempt and the Saints were ready to put the game away for good.

But you couldn't count the Broncos out just yet — the tide turned in Denver's favor when Roby stripped Thomas after a short reception that was gobbled up by, you guessed it, Darian Stewart who returned it deep into Saints' territory.  It was his third turnover of the game and if weren't for him and Roby, the team may have never had a shot at winning today.

After getting the ball to the Saints' two yard line, the Broncos were stopped on their first and second goal-to-go scenarios, but on third down, Siemian connected with Demaryius Thomas on a beautiful fade route in the left end of the end zone for a score, with McManus' extra point tying up the game at 17 all.

With just a little over nine minutes left to play in regulation, the Saints offense took the field and were quickly forced to a three and out after Shaquil Barrett was able to notch a shoestring sack on Brees.  Denver had good field position after Jordan Norwood returned the following punt close to midfield and the Broncos were back in business with just under eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Denver was given a big gift when Vacarro hit Siemian out of bounds on their first play of the possession, which shot the offense up the field into Saints' territory to the 39 yard line. They were able to extend their drive when Siemian connected with Norwood for a key third down conversion that took the offense to the 28 yard line.

With every play, the Broncos' inched closer to pay dirt, but weren't able to punch the ball into the end zone and relied on McManus to deliver on a 28 yard field goal attempt that put them up 20-17 with just three and a half minutes left to go.

Could Brees lead the Saints on a long drive to stun the Broncos in New Orleans?  No!

Jared Crick demolished Michael Thomas after reception, forcing a fumble that was picked up by strong safety T.J. Ward.  It was the Broncos' fourth forced turnover of the game and Denver was able to put another three points on the board after McManus dialed in a 37 yard field goal, giving the Broncos a 23-17 lead.

There was no quit in the Saints, who did the unthinkable and marched the ball down the field and aired out an improbable deep ball that split two Broncos defenders and resulted in a Brandin Cooks touchdown, which tied the game at 23-23.

To put the Broncos away, all the Saints had to do was have Lutz connect on the extra point — but that was blocked by rookie safety Justin Simmons and was returned all the way by fellow rookie Will Parks run it back the distance to give the Broncos two points and a 25-23 victory in perhaps the wildest ending of a Broncos game I have seen in years.


With their win against the Saints, the Broncos now move to 7-3 on the year entering their BYE week and will take on the Kansas City Chiefs in rivalry showdown at home on November 27th.

Hart's Quick Hits

  • After struggling on third and short situations for a majority of the season, Gary Kubiak decided to do something differently, opting for multiple quarterback sneaks by Trevor Siemian to register successful conversions. 
  • The Broncos showed their dedication to the running game today.  After only rushing the ball twelve times against the Oakland Raiders last weekend, the Broncos made sure they would establish the run early and often against the Saints.  They ran the ball 37 times for 103 total yards.  It wasn't an impressive outing in regard to yards per carry, but was efficient enough to help them control the clock and dictate the game on their own terms.
  • If there is one major criticism to give in today's win over New Orleans it would be the atrocious performance and effort given by the Broncos' offensive line, specifically in regard to pass protection.  Way too many sacks, pressures and hits were given up.  Donald Stephenson was replaced with Ty Sambrailo in the third quarter.
  • Denver's rushing defense did a much better job this week, limiting the Saints to only 81 yards on the ground on 21 attempts.
  • Siemian was 25/40 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.  It wasn't a great performance against a terrible Saints defense, but he showed a lot of grit and toughness through the course of the game and played decently considering how poor his lineman were at protecting him
  • Demaryius Thomas reeled in 8 receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown.  He had a trio of one-handed grabs that resulted in big plays for the offense and had one of his better games of the year so far.  This is the type of form Thomas will need to be in for the Broncos to make a strong push for the AFC West and playoffs after their BYE week.