Sometimes it just takes a little spark.
And yesterday that started with Josey Jewell, continued with Jerry Jeudy and then snowballed with big play after big play.
In fact, Jewell credited Justin Simmons with fanning that spark.
“There was definitely a little pause,” Jewell said about whether to celebrate his first NFL interception when the team was down four-plus scores. “I looked at Justin and he said ‘let’s go!’ I said, ‘All right, let’s do it!’ That shows great leadership by him to get those guys going. It made people want to make plays and try to get that momentum going. He is a great leader and is the one that starts a lot of that kind of stuff.”
And start it, it did.
Down 27-0 with just minutes to go in the first half - the kind of score that can bring an expectation of defeat from fans and players alike - the Broncos decided to get after it, scoring two touchdowns in just minutes thanks to two takeaways by the defense.
I had the most fun at this #KCvsDEN game - more than I've had at a #Broncos game in a long time.— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) December 12, 2022
Led by huge plays from @jerryjeudy, @josey_jewell, @Marlon_Mack25, @PatSurtainll, @DangeRussWilson, @baronbrwnng this team never gave up (even if fans had).https://t.co/CM4xLsbJvs
I’ve scoffed at Russell Wilson’s “unwavering belief” comments since about Week 4...as has most of Broncos Country.
But yesterday had me believing.
I was at the game, fully expecting a blowout - and prepared for one - so I counted it a victory to have held Patrick Mahomes & Co. to two field goals to start the game.
When Mahomes hit Jerrick McKinnon for a touchdown run as Broncos pass rushers were about to chase No. 15 out of bounds and prevent a third-down conversion, I was definitely thinking, “welp, here we go...”
But Jewell and Jeudy and the rest of the Broncos had other ideas.
“This team—we never finish how we want to but one thing I can say for sure is that we never quit,” Jeudy said. “We just keep fighting throughout the game even when we were down 27-0, 21-0—we still kept fighting. If there’s time on the clock, there’s time in the game; there’s still a chance.”
Even when backup quarterback Brett Rypien came in at the goal line to finish off a stunning drive that started with a 40-yard PI call in Jeudy’s favor, saw some adversity with a 2nd-and-34, then 3rd-and-11 that Wilson turned into an 18-yard run to the goal line...Jeudy and the offense kept fighting.
“As a receiver, I just keep doing my job.”
Jeudy finished with three touchdown catches on the day - his best game ever as a pro and a particularly fitting scenario for this particular game that the Broncos were honoring the anniversary of Demaryius Thomas’ death a year ago. DT was the last Bronco to score three touchdowns in a game.
“It means a lot, especially knowing that it’s the anniversary,” Jeudy said. “It just means ‘DT’ (WR Demaryius Thomas) was with us today. It means a lot.”
But Jeudy wasn’t the only offensive spark.
Those last 15 yards are my favorite ever— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) December 11, 2022
Down 27-14 at the beginning of the third quarter, Marlon Mack turned a short pass into a 66-yard sprint that featured some serious “will to win” in the final 15 yards as he stumbled but stayed upright just long enough to score.
“It’s always been there, we’ve just had some rough patches, but we’re sticking together, staying as a team, keep going each day, and continuing to battle and go out there because it’s clicking. We just have to keep believing, keep the faith and keep going.”
The best part of yesterday’s game was that “the fight” was coming from everywhere.
The offensive line - while abysmal - put together enough push to give Wilson a few milliseconds to connect with Jeudy and Kendall Hinton to move down the field and keep the offense on the field more often than not.
Jewell had 10 tackles, combining with Alex Singleton to continually get after Travis Kelce.
Baron Browning and Jonathan Cooper never gave up chasing Mahomes, getting to him occasionally but always making him work for every pass.
Brett Rypien made a gutsy throw on 4th-and-7 to get Jeudy in the back of the end zone and put the Broncos within striking distance in the fourth quarter.
And Wilson put his will to win over saving his $250 million body as he tried desperately to reach the end zone, suffering a crushing blow as a result (and if you don’t think he was still competing after being taken out for a concussion, you should see his congratulatory hug with Rypien after the TD).
“At a certain point when you’re down like that and how your season is going, it’s probably just the 53 of us and some coaches that believe we can come back,” Singleton said. “We did that. That’s the best part of this locker room, we haven’t been down, we haven’t been out. Just got to find a way.”
It was an inspiring performance, and as a fan I couldn’t have been happier to be in the stands screaming my lungs out, hoping that this team would finally get past the Chiefs and just get a satisfying win.
It didn’t work out and there are no moral victories, right?
Well, I think actually there can be a few.
Winning is always the goal and just getting close doesn’t count. But proving to yourself, your teammates, your fans that you can fight and you can make game-changing plays despite all odds has some serious merit.
It wasn’t a win but it was a victory.
“It was tough not getting the win, but I can say as a team overall, both sides of the ball, we played well. We kept forcing three-and-outs and the offense scored,” said Patrick Surtain, whose interception was one of those sparks. “Obviously, the mistakes early in the game hurt us a little bit, but we came in [at] halftime, made some adjustments and come the second half, we made plays. So that is a big thing.”