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The Denver Broncos’ defense is used to winning games no matter who their quarterback was. For the past 18 months, they have been responsible for the majority of Denver’s victories, including the Super Bowl 50 victory in February.
However, on Sunday the opposing offense wasn’t the most difficult hurdle for Denver’s defense, it was overcoming their rookie quarterback led offense.
With Paxton Lynch making his first career road start due to Trevor Siemian battling a foot sprain, the offense struggled mightily. Denver didn’t manage to eclipse 200 yards of total offense until 2:00 minutes left in the game. Yes, in the entire game Denver had a total of 206 yards of offense.
The last time the Broncos won a game in which they had fewer offensive yards was against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, when they only managed 194 offensive yards. On Sunday, just like in the Super Bowl, Denver’s defense stepped up and did what needed to be done to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-10 and move back into the sixth and final playoff spot.
The game in Jacksonville drew many other comparisons to the Super Bowl as well, including winning the turnover battle. Not only did the defense pick off Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles twice, they made big plays of them.
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. came up with the first interception of the game in the second quarter when the Jags were driving in Denver territory only down 3-7. Then, in the third quarter, Bradley Roby returned his interception to the house to give Denver a commanding 17-3 lead. Roby’s pick-six was his second of the season and third for Denver’s defense, tying them for the most in the NFL this year.
Along with the big plays during the game, Denver’s defense once again came to play in the fourth quarter. After blowing fourth-quarter leads in the past two games, the defense had plenty of chances to let the lead slip away in this game. But against the Jaguars, they didn’t let that happen.
Denver stepped up early in the fourth, stopping Jacksonville in Denver territory on fourth and three with 8:00 minutes left. Then with 1:30 left and only up seven, Von Miller forced Bortles to fumble the ball and Shane Ray recovered to all but end the game.
In the end, Denver won the turnover battle 3-0, had seven defensive points, three points off of turnovers—to give Denver a league-leading 93 on the season—and held the Jaguars to just about half of their season average of 19 points per game.
While the collective defensive statistics were impressive, and ultimately enough to win the game, Jacksonville’s offense didn’t have their best players on the field. Wide receiver Allen Hurns and role player running back Chris Ivory were ruled out for the game on Friday, but on Sunday tight end Julius Thomas was ruled out and starting running back T.J. Yeldon barely saw the field until the second half.
That forced the Jags to play Denard Robinson, a former quarterback at the University of Michigan, as their main tailback for the game. Coming into Sunday’s game, Robinson had 20 carries and two catches on the season. On Sunday Robinson nearly equaled those numbers—17 attempts for 53 yards and one reception for 11 yards.
Even with that as the case, Denver still allowed 154 rushing, yet held Bortles to 179 yards passing and an abysmal 37.9 quarterback rating. However, the NFL isn’t a league where teams apologize for injuries, and the Denver defense certainly took advantage of a depleted Jaguars offense.
Just like last season’s Super Bowl 50 run, the Denver Broncos defense did what needed to be done to get the victory. The only difference this time is that they put a rookie quarterback led offense on their back.