DENVER — When John Elway hired Vic Fangio in January to lead the Broncos, this sort of defensive performance is almost certainly what he imagined.
The Broncos’ defense forced three turnovers, dominated on third down and held the Titans scoreless. Denver’s offense scored just one touchdown, but the unit also pieced together three field-goal drives to give the Broncos the win.
Denver’s 16-0 win was the Broncos’ first shutout win since a 23-0 victory over the Jets on Dec. 10, 2017, and the team’s defense has now held opposing teams without a touchdown in nine consecutive quarters.
On a day during which the Broncos honored Champ Bailey as a Pro Football Hall of Famer and newly inducted Ring of Famer, it’s hard to imagine a better tribute.
The Broncos’ defense dominated the first three quarters of the game, but with 8:17 to play in the third quarter, Denver led by just six points. Justin Simmons helped change that.
The Broncos’ safety picked off Marcus Mariota — the Titans quarterback’s second interception of the game — and brought the ball back to the Tennessee 41-yard line. Mariota was pressured on the play and stepped up in the pocket. His throw, though, floated and Simmons beat Darius Jennings to the spot.
The Broncos’ offense took advantage of the turnover and scored their first touchdown of the game to push the lead to 13-0 with 4:59 to play in the quarter.
Mariota, who finished 7-of-18 with two interceptions and a 9.5 quarterback rating, was replaced by Ryan Tannehill on Tennessee’s next possession.
In the second quarter, Chris Harris Jr. stepped in front of Jennings and picked off his first pass of the season. The interception was the 20th of his career, and he is just the 12th player in franchise history to record at least that many interceptions.
Harris is currently tied with Ring of Famers Tom Jackson and Randy Gradishar for 10th on the franchise’s all-time list.
Harris, who also forced a fumble, made both plays in front of Hall of Famer Champ Bailey, who received his Hall of Fame ring and was inducted into the Ring of Fame at halftime of Sunday’s game. Harris and Bailey played three seasons together in Denver.
The Broncos entered Sunday’s game as the 13th-ranked third-down defense in the NFL. That ranking will likely improve after Denver allowed Tennessee to convert just two of its 14 third-down attempts. The Titans often faced third-and-long situations, and the Broncos recorded two of their seven sacks on third down. They added another, for good measure, on a fourth-quarter fourth down. The Titans were also 0-for-2 on fourth down.
The Broncos’ defense as a whole deserves recognition, as nearly every player made a contribution. Derek Wolfe, Alexander Johnson and DeMarcus Walker all recorded multi-sack games, Kareem Jackson, Simmons and Harris forced turnovers and the Titans were held scoreless.
Punt returner Diontae Spencer set up the Broncos’ first score with a 42-yard punt return, Courtland Sutton caught a 41-yard pass that led to another field goal and Phillip Lindsay scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.