The defense had been waiting.
Sure they like "playing offense."
Of course they like having the game on the line.
No doubt they love being the game-changers.
But still...they had been waiting.
"We’ve been waiting," Chris Harris Jr. said, adding Trevor Siemian did a great job in a tough game on the road. "You’ve got to tribute that to the offense. They did a great job today, and that’s what we need."
It most certainly is.
Since the Broncos’ stellar play against the Green Bay Packers a year ago, the offense has not really been responsible for putting a game away.
While the defense carried the offense all the way to Super Bowl champions and into defending it this season, players knew the day would come that the offense would need to support the defense.
That day came Sunday in a 29-17 win that looked dire for three quarters before the defense recalibrated and the offense came alive.
But when it did, it did so with flair – a 55-yard bomb from Siemian to Demaryius Thomas that looks more amazing with every slo-mo replay.
The play to Thomas – Siemian’s 10th completion out of 11 attempts in the fourth quarter – culminated a fantastic final quarter by the entire offense: two touchdowns, seven first downs, nine completed passes in a row, two deep balls and a perfect quarterback rating.
"Trevor played outstanding," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was responsible for 117 yards and two touchdowns. "The guy came in and took command of the huddle. He was confident. Even on the deep ball to Demaryius he said, ‘We’re about to go for the guts.’ So we definitely believed it. What a day for him, four touchdowns and 300 yards. That’s amazing."
T.J. Ward was also impressed with his quarterback.
Coach Gary Kubiak called it a "great outing" by his young quarterback, adding it’s not time to "get too carried away."
"We gave Trevor an opportunity to make some throws. He’s growing. The guys around him did a good job," Kubiak said. "His numbers were terrific. …He got away with a few tipped passes today, and he hasn’t gotten away with that before, but that’s part of playing quarterback. He works hard."
Despite his keeping-it-real commentary, the coach was definitely about celebrating Siemian and celebrating the win.
"We know we have a good young quarterback who’s on a good team, and this was a great sign today," he said. "He came into a tough environment, handled himself very well and played big."
Siemian’s stats were among the best quarterback numbers in the NFL on Sunday – 23/35 for 312 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Take that, Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott.
But those numbers don’t tell the best part of the story – that Siemian and his offense struggled for consistently good play for three quarters before putting on a dazzling offensive performance through the air.
"I thought we were aggressive all game long, and that’s how you have to be against teams like this to keep them off balance," Siemian said after the game in which the Broncos passed for over 300 yards but added only 52 on the ground.
"In this league you have be balanced and able to do both (run and throw)," the quarterback acknowledged. "When you’re not running, you’ve got to be able to throw it. It’s good to know we can win games a couple different ways."
Analysts wondered aloud if the game plan was a reaction to comments this week from Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders expressing frustration at not getting the ball more. The wide receiver duo combined for a ridiculous 15 targets and 217 yards that included three touchdowns – one each with a bomb to the end zone.
But Kubiak’s response was that the game plan is "always" to get them the ball.
"We want to get them the ball every week," the coach said of his top receivers. "The Bengals are a tough team to throw the ball against, but they really took away the run. We needed to throw the ball to get some points, and those two kids played really well."
And it was the dominance by the offense that allowed the defense some breathing room to pour on the aggression.
And the defense also did it with flair.
Having gotten run over by the Bengals’ rushing attack in the first half – which included a 50-yard run from Jeremy Hill and two rushing touchdowns – the Broncos defense regrouped and reloaded, holding the Bengals to just three points, 40 yards rushing and less than 150 total yards on offense in the second.
"We want to continue to play smash-mouth defense," Harris Jr. said. "We just took a deep breath and went back to what we do. We didn’t fit the run right, and we went over with the coaches and fixed it."
Broncos defenders forced the Bengals to punt on their first possession, and then after a questionable fumble ruling gave them the ball back in Broncos’ territory, the defense really went to work.
Shane Ray posted two sacks in a row and the No Fly Zone forced short gains on third-and-long to prevent the Bengals from taking advantage of the short field.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis considered that a big blown opportunity for his team.
"It was a big opportunity, obviously," Lewis said, noting the chance to score and take the lead. "We took the big sack on the first down play, and then we get pressured on the second down play, and third down we’ve got nowhere to go with it."
The Broncos went three-and-out on their next possession, and the Bengals used up the rest of the quarter and the beginning of the fourth to go 60 yards in 15 plays. But despite the long drive that moved the chains to the Broncos’ 13-yard line, the Bengals had to settle for a field goal thanks to solid tackling and some shoring up from the No Fly Zone.
"[The Bengals] ran it really well, over five yards per carry," Kubiak noted, adding that the defense definitely struggled to counter it. "We need to start games better, but we were able to finish this one."
As the Broncos offense began shredding the Bengals defense, the Broncos D followed suit.
Siemian engineered a 13-play, 82-yard drive to open the fourth quarter that finished with a one-yard strike to tight end John Phillips in the end zone.
Pretty jacked up to get first road win of season.First reg season td as a bronco. Hope this is the first of many in this uniform!! #Broncos— John Phillips (@jphillips8983) September 25, 2016
Bengals went three-and-out on the next drive, giving the Broncos the ball back with just over six minutes on the clock and a five-point lead.
But the offense just needed 1:39 to score its fourth and most impressive touchdown of the day with a 55-yard pass deep down the left sideline to Thomas, who made a great play to keep the ball amidst his defender’s hands, and then jog a few yards for the score.
Up 29-17, it was the defense’s turn to show off.
Rookie safety Will Parks came up with his first NFL interception after a tipped pass by T.J. Ward. Just another day at work for the Broncos’ secondary, which practices takeaways as if two or three a game is normal.
Broncos had to punt on their next possession, but the fate had been sealed.
Although Dalton did his best to put the Bengals in scoring range, moving down to the Broncos’ 25, but the defense came through to keep the game out of reach. A third sack from Ray followed immediately by a first from Von Miller, set up third-and-long and fourth-and-short, which was too much for the Bengals to overcome.
"You’ve got to attribute that to our offense," said Harris Jr. "Once they get up, it’s sack and interception time. Once we feel like we get up two touchdowns, it’s over for that team."
As the Broncos waited on Siemian take a knee to finish out the final 28 seconds, for the first time in a while, no one was waiting on this offense.