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Broncos fight through bad play for huge comeback win, big confidence boost

Offense dug deep and defense held strong to pull out a victory in spite of slow start.

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Von Miller has a new nickname for his quarterback.

Case Key-Man.

Well, he’s trying to make it a nickname.

“That’s our guy, ‘The Case Keeman.’ I love that guy,” Miller said. “I know his name is Keenum. It was just a joke. Nobody laughed, but it’s all good.”

What wasn’t a joke was how key Keenum actually was to the comeback in the second half yesterday.

It took clutch plays from both sides of the ball - including a huge third-down stop by the defense to give the Broncos a chance for a winning score - but the linchpin in the entire comeback, was Case Key-Man (helping you here, Von!), who was 14/24 with one rushing touchdown in the second half after an abysmal 5/11 with one INT in the first.

“[Raiders] played good football in the first half, and we didn’t,” head coach Vance Joseph noted, adding the offense got more aggressive in the second half. “We had to be more aggressive — take more shots down the field — and that made them a little softer in the second half. Our guys kept fighting, kept playing and played through adversity and won a football game.”

The Broncos’ drive chart in the first half was embarrassing - four punts in a row, an interception, a fifth punt, and then, in an amazing waste of game clock, the Broncos ended their final drive of the first half unable to even attempt a field goal because time just ran out.

But the second half was a completely different story. A gloriously different story.

Every drive ended in a score, including a ballsy QB sneak on 4th-and-1 at the goal line, and of course, the game-winning field goal with just seconds on the clock.

From player performance to coaching decisions, the second half was a fan’s dream comeback scenario.

Joseph said after the game that the decision to go for the TD rather than easy points in that third drive to close the deficit 19-17 wasn’t a tough call to make at all.

“No, I told Billy, once we got inside of the 10-yard line, it was four-down territory,” Joseph said. “Taking the points there wouldn’t have worked. It would have been a loss for us today. Obviously, Case is a tough guy, and he wants to win and that was the best play to call.”

Miller and his defense went to work to keep the Raiders from getting another score, but it took the defense 11 plays and a challenged spot to do it.

“We were just trying to get off the field,” Miller said. “They had been doing a great job of running the ball and following it with play-action passes and quick passes. So we just wanted to get off the field, and we were able to do it.”

With 1:58 left in the game, the Broncos offense had its chance. And Key-Man & Co. were up to the task. Jake Butt noted that the crew was just “business as usual” even.

Thanks to a holding call on the first play from the Broncos’ own 20, the offense started back at its 10. On 2nd-and-20, Emmanuel Sanders showed what superstars do, making a 21-yard play for the first down. A couple of incompletes sprinkled with a 14-yard catch by Courtland Sutton and a 7-yard scramble by Keenum had the Broncos at 3rd-and-3 with 26 seconds to go. A four-yard pass to Jeff Heuerman gave the Broncos a first down, and two plays later Tim Patrick gave the Broncos another one - plus 26 yards and a heads-up play out-of-bounds.

“It’s something that we’ve been practicing all the way back to Spring - the two-minute, these kind of situations,” Butt said. “V.J. has done a hell of a job at putting us in bunches of different situations: down six, down three, down two. We’ve been in situations like this before, so everybody was calm. Let’s just find a way to win. That’s what we did.”

The rest is history as Brandon McManus nailed his 36-yarder for the one-point win, 20-19 with 10 seconds on the clock.

“It wasn’t just Case. It was Jeff Heuerman getting out of bounds. It was Emmanuel Sanders bringing the ball into the ref, into the hash. The clock’s running. ‘81,’ Tim Patrick, running out of bounds. That was a huge play for us,” Joseph said of the team effort on the final drive. “We meet every Friday about two-minute offense, being smart with the ball and our guys came through. It was fun to watch.”

Although Keenum led the comeback, he would probably decline the “key-man” nickname.

“There are some incredible guys that never quit. Never quit,” Keenum said after the game. “I love that about them. We have great, great chemistry going right now with those guys. No matter what, I don’t think anyone points a finger at any one person. We just keep plugging along. We’re capable, we know we can do it, and it was just a testament to everyone’s grit and the hard work we put in.”

And that means the defense too. Without Shaq Barrett’s blocked point after, without the relentless effort to hold Marshawn Lynch to a 3.6 yard per carry average, without Justin Simmons’ eight tackles (many on Jared Cook), without Miller’s one sack...the offense would likely never have had time to catch up.

“We had confidence,” Chris Harris Jr. said of the offense’s chances to win. “Once we get that stop we just had to give them around two minutes to go score. I realized once we got that stop, it was over for them. They couldn’t guard us.”

Harris Jr. pointed out that both offense and defense need a better start, but he liked the resolve that the Broncos showed.

“We put so much work in as a team. We just decided together that we were going to play as one. Regardless of what adversity happens, we’re going to stick together and always have full confidence,” the cornerback said. “Offense only had one first down in the first half, but we knew they were going to come back in the second half and put on a show.”

Domata Peko, whose energy could be felt all over Mile High, was ecstatic over that show.

“That was awesome. Big play by Tim. ...It’s really good to see our team doing that. Playmakers making plays from the youngest guys to the older guys. It’s amazing,” he said. “It was a big win for us; division game, being down, fighting our way back up, and climbing back up for the W. Those are the type of wins you really love. When you are down and everyone thinks you’re out, but you climb out of it and you push and everyone believes in each other. It was a great win for us. Big shout to my defensive line, every one of them. We all played our tails off today.”

Steve Atwater noted on Twitter that fighting through a bad day can be a great lesson early in the season.

“Close games help show teams if they can overcome adversity or not,” he tweeted. “I think we got better by experiencing a rough day and coming out victorious.”

Miller would certainly agree with that.

“I agree with you 100 percent,” Miller said about having clutch play on both sides of the ball when it mattered. “We’re feeling pretty good just about the overall win today. Whenever you win, especially a team win like this, it’s just a great win. It’s great for the organization.”