Sean Payton got his first win at Mile High, but the head coach wasn’t nearly as impressed by that stat as the media.
“I’ll be honest with you. Hopefully there are a lot better milestones than that,” Payton said.
Although the head coach obviously liked the win, it seemed to pale in comparison to what he wants to clean up.
“There’s a really fine line in winning and losing. You saw today,” Payton added. “We have to start stringing together these opportunities.”
But the accomplishment does mean another W on the Denver Broncos’ season record and those have definitely been hard to come by so definitely worth celebrating.
“That was huge for us, man. I thought it was a great team effort across the board,” said quarterback Russell Wilson who threw for 194 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. “Just to win in front of our fans, Broncos Country, to be able to get it done was really special. The fans were great. We feed off of their energy and it really does make a difference when the game is on the line.”
And the game was absolutely on the line.
With under two minutes to play and down by just two, the Packers were closing in on good field goal position to kick for the lead. But an offensive holding call on 2nd-and-10, followed by an incomplete pass on 2nd and 20, created the perfect storm for Jordan Love to sail the ball deep downfield, just in time for P.J. Locke to snatch it out of the air on the 12-yard line and run it back to the 26.
Saving a potential - if not likely at that point - loss.
“That is huge for us man,” said Patrick Surtain II, who should have been credited for his own interception just in the game. “We always preach about finishing games and closing it out. Play like that, with the ball in the air, it’s ours. P.J. made a great play on the ball. We preach that week in and week out, finishing ball games, especially when the ball is in our court. We expect as a defense, as a unit, to close games and that is what we did.”
Locke, who was only in the game because Kareem Jackson was ejected for an illegal hit to the head earlier in the third quarter, said he joked with defensive quality control coach Addison Lynch about making them catch balls down the sideline last week when they were beat up and tired.
“We were not feeling too good, legs were kind of sore, and we were doing midfield drills and he was putting the ball on the sideline. And I was like, ‘Bro, come on. Take care of us today,’” Locke recalled. “He made me go get it, and I literally toe-tapped on the sidelines and caught it with my fingertips. I joked with him after [the interception] that it was because you were throwing balls like that. It was exciting.”
Although much of the game was not so exciting - as the Denver offense stalled in the red zone until midway through the third quarter when Wilson hit Courtland Sutton for an 18-yard pass into the end zone.
Sutton had a big day, beginning with a 33-yard first down catch on the third play of the game and finishing the day 6-for-6, 76 yards and a touchdown.
“It was huge. To get a touch early in the game, get some juice, not only for myself but for the team—I know the guys look for me to go make plays.” he said. “It’s nice to get the juice going on the offensive side of the ball. We are all looking for that spark and being able to make plays, stay on the field, especially on third down, it was huge.”
But as successful as Sutton was in his catches, it was the Broncos’ running game that really stole the offensive show.
The Broncos had a respectable-but-not-spectacular total rushing yards at 145, but all three running backs contributed when it counted.
Javonte Williams led the crew with 15 runs for 82 yards and a 5.5 yards per carry average. Samaje Perine had a 5.0 yards per carry average while Jaleel McLaughlin averaged 9 yards per carry.
And a lot of that production had to do with a solid day from the offensive line.
“Offensive lines in general love running the ball,” said guard Quinn Meinerz. “It was good that we had a bunch called this game and to also have success and maybe force a few more run calls.”
Wilson was certainly complimentary of the run game.
“I thought the offensive line played an amazing, amazing game today—giving me enough time to make all the throws. They were so solid up front. They were great in the run game, I thought our [running] backs did great,” Wilson said, before moving on to complimenting the other side of the ball. “I thought our defense was unbelievable. They came up with some huge, huge stops. They’ve been getting better and better every week and that’s what you want. You want to keep rising—keep believing.”
Justin Simmons said believing they could make a play is exactly why that interception happened.
“In the second half, we are doing a terrible job of getting off the field. We had opportunities and third downs and things like that and we kept saying, ‘We’re going to make a play; we’re going to make a play,’” Simmons said. “Believe in it and P.J. came up with a big play.”
Several players noted that despite a lot of lack of faith in the team from fans around the league, they believe they have the goods to turn this season around still.
“A lot of guys stepped up. P.J. came in the game in a critical situation, doing the right thing, being in the right spot, and making a play like that is huge,” said linebacker Alex Singleton. “That’s what we need to have, just guys stepping up making plays in critical situations like that.”
Although the defense had zero sacks on Jordan Love, it held the Green Bay Packers to just 17 points, continuing the better defensive play it started last week against the Chiefs.
“It wasn’t perfect, but 17 points is a good total,” said defensive end Zach Allen. “We just need to fix the sloppy things and play a little better in the run game and we’ll be good.”
Despite the mistakes and areas to improve, Wilson emphasized celebrating a win no matter what.
“Every, every, every win in the National Football League [is difficult]. ...Every win matters and counts. It’s hard; it’s tough. They’re not always easy,” Wilson said. “For me personally, I love when the game is tight, and the game is on the line.”
Several players - Wilson, Sutton, Surtain and SImmons - all noted believing in themselves as a key to getting more wins.
“We have game after game after game. There’s a lot of football left, a lot of football left,” Wilson said. “A lot of football left, and we believe. We’re going to keep working our butts off, and we’re going to stay determined.”
And, of course, many times it requires coming in clutch.
“How clutch is Wil Lutz?” Wilson said. “He did a great job today. He’s done a great job all year for us. We’ve got great confidence in him. He helped us win the game there.”
Sutton noted that the Packers win should serve as motivation for many more.
“We want it to be. We want it to be the momentum to roll this over to next week,” Sutton said. “We get to go see the Chiefs again, one week removed from playing them boys in a tough game on Thursday night. So trying to use this momentum to roll into this weekend. Go take care of business and get the ball rolling in the division games.”
Now maybe the head coach can get a few more wins at Mile High too.
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