Yeah, that Broncos’ 25-23 win over the Saints just happened.
And it happened in the most fluke way possible – on a blocked PAT that was picked up and run back for two points.
Which was also the most Broncos way possible – winning on a wing and a pra, er, white cleat.
"I’ve never had an ending like that; especially on special teams. It was just big, a big victory," said DeMarcus Ware, who had just one QB hit on his stat sheet. "I mean usually a game ends from the defense because of a forced fumble or interception or something like that. But seeing it happen from special teams, you never see that."
"Good block J-Man, I knew you was going to block it bro.. HAAAAAA!" ✝️ pic.twitter.com/qsYzfvNVAx— Parks Place (@PhillyWill11) November 14, 2016
It was unbelievable.
It was exasperating.
It was downright amazing.
In any normal universe, that game ends 24-23 with a gimme extra point and "W" for the Saints.
But the Broncos don’t play in that universe.
They play in an alternate universe where the defense gets four turnovers on one of the hottest offenses in the NFL right now; where their own offense has more one-handed grabs than average yards per carry; and where a special teams play that requires a defender to jump over the long snapper, clear him untouched then get to the ball and block it just right so his teammate can scoop it up to run back to win by two points instead of lose by one…
Yeah, that’s an alternate universe - the one the Broncos have created by fighting to the end.
Despite all the gloom and doom from this fan base, the Broncos marched into the Superdome and reminded all of us that they are defending Super Bowl champions for a reason – they don’t like losing.
"I don’t know, I must be living right. This team must be living right. Words cannot describe how I am feeling right now," said Will Parks, the second half of the rookie safety duo that made that unlikely win happen as he picked up the blocked ball from Justin Simmons and ran down the sidelines – the side-iest of those sidelines – to score.
But we probably should have known it would go that way when the Broncos opened up the first drive with a run on the first play and a bootleg a few plays later. It was already a different offense out there.
Who is this team? Running plays. Throws to tight ends. I don't know even know who you are anymore #Broncos offense...and I love it.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 13, 2016
The Broncos drove 85 yards in 13 plays, taking more than nine minutes off the clock, before Trevor Siemian hit Jordan Taylor for a 14-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-4.
"For us to score on the very first drive was huge," said Taylor, aka "Sunshine." "Just to know we went down and executed and took the lead early; that was big because we knew with the lead we can rely on our defense to hold them."
That was a tall order because even as steadfast as the defense has been, chinks in the armor have been repeatedly exposed this season. With Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib sidelined with injuries, there was a lot of concern about the toughness of the defense against a Saints offense that has been lighting the field on fire of late.
But not to worry. This is our alternate universe, after all.
Shame on all those who didn't believe in miracles with me because we just #BeatTheSaints! pic.twitter.com/woy8Gc8RLH— L.Lattimore-Volkmann (@docllv) November 13, 2016
"This game had a lot of ups and downs," said Siemian. "Our defense really bailed us out a couple of times and played real well by turning the ball over."
Four times, in fact.
The first two came back-to-back on the Saints’ second and third drives of the game. Darian Stewart read the deep play to Travaris Cadet before jumping in front of him near the 5-yard line to literally steal the pass and break up a likely touchdown.
Although the Broncos offense couldn’t overcome the Saints’ suspect defense and had to punt away Stewart’s gift, No. 26 did it again, this time with an assist from Bradley Roby, whose tight coverage on Michael Thomas popped the ball out for the safety to retrieve.
It wasn’t until the final seconds of the first half that the Saints got on the scoreboard, thanks to an easy read by Sterling Moore on Siemian’s intended pass to Emmanuel Sanders.
The offense would stall in the third quarter while the defense would let two Saints touchdowns sail through the end zone, moving the score to the Saints’ favor, 17-10.
But both sides of the ball for the Broncos would bounce back in the fourth.
Stewart would get his third takeaway thanks to another assist from Roby, who pushed the ball out of Michael Thomas’ hands again for No. 26 to catch. And Siemian would engineer a 27-yard drive that took seven plays and a monster touchdown catch from Demaryius Thomas to complete.
"It was huge for us to come back the way we did," Siemian said after the win. "We have a great knack for overcoming negative plays. It wasn’t perfect – I mean we screwed up a few times no doubt; I’ve had my fair share of those – but the group really responded well and turned the negatives into points."
The offense got conservative after tying the game at 17 and was only able to muster two field goals on the ensuing drives despite excellent field position – the first from a 17-yard punt return by Jordan Norwood to start midfield, and the second after Jared Crick forced a fumble that T.J. Ward recovered on New Orleans’ 20-yard line.
With nearly three minutes to go and just a six-point lead, Brees and his offense were in great position, having gained offensive momentum in the second half, to finish the game with a win.
"I think we just got into a rhythm. I think we just started clicking a little bit. Made some big plays," Brees said of his offense’s improved play in the second half. "Kind of had a read on them a little bit. The balance was good. We got some big plays in the passing game, which was good. Guys just making plays and then you just grab hold of that momentum and you don’t want to let it go."
And more than that, it will allow two to the visiting team.
"We just made one more play than they did it seems," Siemian said in the most clichéd but perfect response ever.
And one more play – no matter how improbable – is all you really need.
Well, that and white cleats.
"That play right there, at the end, what you saw were two rookies stepping up and making a big play for our team to win this game," said Stewart, arguably the hero of the game if not for Simmons and Parks combining for the craziest three-point swing ever. "It was huge. I’m just glad he had the right cleats on."
The @Broncos game-winning score vs Saints was 3rd defensive conversion since the rule was instituted prior to the 2015 season pic.twitter.com/YUGbWkdevb— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 13, 2016
Making the right call, refs confirmed that Parks’ white cleats on a white sideline marker could not provide conclusive evidence of going over that boundary and relegating the play dead, game tied.
"It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Let’s not even get to that point," Brees said of the question over Parks’ foot in bounds. "If we win this game, then we sit there and go, we’re lucky. The four turnovers, they cost us the game. It made it a lot closer than it probably should have been."
Probably. But alternate universes don’t play by the same rules.
"We got off to a good start as a team," Gary Kubiak said, acknowledging the momentum killer with the interception before the half but praising the third-down conversion improvement. "We were 11 of 19, so that gives you plays. We ran the ball. We didn’t run it good, but we ran the ball. And we’ve got to protect our quarterback better."
Perhaps in the next alternate universe, the offensive line, running game and quarterback play will be perfect.
"Our guy got hit way too much," Gary Kubiak said of his QB. "Trevor made his mistakes, but he hung in there like a champ and made some plays too. There are improvements we’ve got to make up front, but the kid hung in there and battled."
Kubiak was mostly proud of his team’s tenacity, but he knows this offense isn’t fooling anybody. With just over 100 yards total rushing, a collapsing pocket, and some bad reads/throws from the QB, the coach is looking forward to the week off to "work on some things " and get the team fresh for "basically six playoff games."
A three-phase win sends us to the bye — then it's "six playoff games."— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 14, 2016
" https://t.co/YOm08edvRG pic.twitter.com/kYTmJ1ST8k
Until then, this game that ended in a crazy win will do.
"This was a huge victory for us, especially coming off a bad loss last week to the Raiders," Ware said, noting in particular the better run defense from the Broncos. "There is always room for improvement. But the thing is this was one of those games where we needed the win."
And the universe allowed it.