GLENDALE, Ariz. — That. Will. Work.
The Broncos needed a win to snap a four-game losing streak and get their season back on track, and they did that in emphatic fashion as they grabbed a 45-10 win over the Cardinals on “Thursday Night Football.”
Linebacker Todd Davis took a Josh Rosen interception to the house on the second play from scrimmage, and the Broncos never looked back.
Denver would score four more touchdowns in the first half to take a 35-3 lead at the break, and the Broncos then padded the lead in the second half to coast to a drama-free victory.
These were the moments, players and numbers that mattered in a victory that pushed Denver back within a game of .500.
It’s not often that the game-altering play comes on the second play from scrimmage, but that’s what happened on Thursday as the Broncos set the tone early. As Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen came to the line of scrimmage on second-and-10, the Broncos’ pass rush was in his face almost immediately. And as he let go of a throw, Derek Wolfe was able to knock the pass up into the air. The ball fell right into the hands of linebacker Todd Davis, who snagged it for his first career interception. He then did one better, as he took it 20 yards into the end zone.
The Broncos haven’t been unfamiliar to jumping out to early leads this year, as they grabbed an early advantage against both Baltimore and the Jets. But this particular score felt different — especially after Von Miller promised this week that the Broncos were going to “kick their ass.” The pick-six sent a predominantly orange crowd at State Farm Stadium into hysterics, and the Broncos used the score as a launching pad. They forced three-and-out on the next possession, and then increased the lead to 14-0 on an Emmanuel Sanders pass to Courtland Sutton. After allowing a field goal, the Broncos’ defense responded with another pick-six. Another three-and-out led to another long touchdown, and the rout was on.
For perhaps the first time this season, the Broncos put together a complete performance — and it started with Davis’ interception.
How do we even choose?
On a night like Thursday, there were plenty of deserving options. Davis’ pick-six got things started, Chris Harris Jr.’s house call was equally impressive and Emmanuel Sanders’ front flip was almost as good as his 64-yard touchdown reception. Miller jumped in on the action in the second half as he tallied two strip sacks of Rosen to force the Cardinals’ third and fifth turnovers of the game.
But nothing was as electrifying as Emmanuel Sanders’ first-quarter touchdown throw to Courtland Sutton. That’s right, throw. The Broncos dusted off the same Sanders reverse they’ve used several times — including twice for touchdowns — and added a wrinkle to ensure even more success. As Sanders came around the right end, he slowed and launched a deep pass to Sutton, who was alone in the end zone. Sutton had to leap to make the catch, but he was able to haul it in to push the Broncos’ lead to 14. With the pass, Sanders became the fifth wide receiver since the merger to record a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown in the same season. When he added his receiving touchdown later in the game, he became the first Bronco since John Elway in 1986 to record a passing touchdown and receiving touchdown in the same contest.
On a night of memorable plays, none stood out as much as the Sanders-to-Sutton connection.
For the first time since a 2010 game against the Chiefs, the Broncos scored 35 points in a first half — and with the way they played defense, that total put the game out of reach. The Broncos hadn’t scored 30 points in an entire game since Week 2 of the 2017 season, and they bettered that total in just 30 minutes on Thursday. Most of the points — 21, to be exact — came in the first quarter. The Broncos had scored that many points in the opening quarter on the road just one other time — way back in 1973 against the Jets.
Perhaps even more impressive? The team’s 28-point advantage at the break was its third-largest halftime lead in franchise history.
Von Miller told everyone what was going to happen. And he backed it up on the field on Thursday night.
The All-Pro pass rusher tallied two strip sacks in the second half of the game, and he came within inches of adding several others as he breathed down Rosen’s neck all night, tallying four quarterback hits. He was just one member of a defense, though, that recorded five sacks and five takeaways. Plenty of other members of this unit deserve to be on this list, including Davis (pick-six, 10 tackles), Harris (pick-six, PBU), Bradley Chubb (two sacks, second consecutive multi-sack game) and Bradley Roby (INT, four PBUs).
On offense, it’s hard to ignore Sanders, who caught six passes for 102 yards and a touchdown — and also threw a touchdown. Phillip Lindsay also stood out by rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.