Lost in the shuffle of the Trevor Siemian hysteria was Shane Ray pulling his best Von Miller impression. The only thing missing from the ensemble was a “Key and Peele” dance from Ray.
After a three-sack performance by Ray on Sunday in the 29-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, we can look past the oversight … just this once. Miller needs to get in his ear.
You also can excuse Broncos Country for the excitement the offense created, thus taking the focus off that great defense. How often has that happened over the last season or so? Not much, if at all.
Led by Ray, the Broncos defense kept another good quarterback and offense in check. The unit held Andy Dalton to a little over 200 yards passing, made his day miserable and allowed only 17 points. For the game, Denver registered six quarterback hits and four sacks, three from Ray.
It’s the first time in Denver history there were back-to-back three-sack games. Miller got his against the Indianapolis Colts.
On a normal day for the Broncos, that’s the focus. But Sunday in the Queen City wasn’t your typical day. And that’s a welcome change. For the fans in particular.
I don’t know about anyone else, but it was nice to not put my ticker through the ringer with another close game where the defense has to save the day.
It’s not just the fans who will revel in this, but the Broncos defense. They’ll gladly play second fiddle to Siemian and the offense if it brings similar results every week.
Denver could be better than they were a year ago. In his first start for the injured @DeMarcusWare Shane Ray picks up 3 sacks. They're deep— trey wingo (@wingoz) September 25, 2016
But major kudos to Ray.
There were questions last week as to how Denver would try to replace DeMarcus Ware and his broken arm. Not to say there was doubt, but there were questions. You don’t just replace a certain Hall of Famer; especially with how well he started the season.
After Sunday, those questions were put to rest. It’s amazing what depth does for a team. And the Broncos have serious depth when it comes to outside pass rushers. It’s silly how much depth they have. While it was Ray on Sunday, it could just as easily be Shaquil Barrett next Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think you’re going to see that from Shane and Shaquil Barrett,” Gary Kubiak told the media after the win. “They’re stepping in for Demarcus Ware, but they’ve really been working as starters since April 27 when we went to minicamp. They’ve worked for their opportunities, and they’re taking advantage of it.”
The talent for Ray is evident any time he takes the field. He was one of the best in college football at the University of Missouri. Given that talent, Ray came to the best situation possible with Miller and Ware here. He’s able to watch and learn from two of the best. He can ask them for advice on what he needs to improve upon, but also how to make that happen.
What’s difficult for a young player like Ray is to not mirror what either of those great players do, but pave his own path.
Real nice win in the jungle fellas. Proud of you guys. #Broncos— D-Ware (@DeMarcusWare) September 25, 2016
“Now I’m getting third downs. It’s the biggest down in football,” Ray told The Denver Post. “Now I can plan my rush. It’s not just me trying this move and it doesn’t work out and that’s it. Now I can set my rushes up. I can do what works for me. It’s more opportunity for me to show my tool box.”
After his three-sack performance on Sunday, on top of his touchdown against the Colts, Ray’s headed in the right direction. The confidence is there. The belief in himself is there. The trust from his teammates and coaches is there.
Ray knows if he does his job, no one will block him. He also knows as great as he was on Sunday, it’s not enough.
“With Shane, that’s like a little brother to me,” Miller told The Post. “Even when it’s good, I just try to find a way to poke at him to get him going even more.”
Now Miller just needs to teach him a few dance moves.