Von Miller apparently has a future as a motivational speaker. The Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker challenged his teammates and himself before Thursday’s game in Arizona and then delivered an iconic performance.
Tuesday Miller said the Broncos “will kick their ass” when talking about the Cardinals. He backed up those words with four tackles, two strip sacks and a fumble recovery in a much-needed 45-10 win for the struggling Broncos on Thursday night.
The rest of the team followed his lead against one of the worst teams in the NFL. After being gashed for 593 yards on the ground the previous two games – and allowing the only 200-yard rushing games by a running back – the Broncos found their rhythm in the desert. Denver held Arizona to 69 rushing yards and 223 total yards.
Being embarrassed two straight weeks motivated Miller to guarantee a win and have a meeting with his teammates.
“I got with my brothers, we had a meeting (Wednesday) night and we just told everybody it’s a fight,” Miller told Fox on the field after Thursday’s game. “That’s got to be our mentality. It wasn’t really about the Cardinals. I love my brothers, I love my teammates. It was a good win.”
It was a big performance for a team that was reeling after four straight losses. Now Denver (3-4) gets 10 days off before playing at Kansas City and has a little momentum. The defense forced five turnovers, sacked Josh Rosen six times and set the tone on the first series of the game.
Just two plays in linebacker Todd Davis returned a Rosen interception 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead, and Chris Harris Jr. had another pick-six at the end of the first quarter that made it 21-3.
This was the kind of defense everyone envisioned. Swarming to the ball, harassing the quarterback and controlling the line of scrimmage were signatures of Denver’s defense in recent years.
Naturally, the charge was led by Miller. He backed up his words with a night similar to his MVP performance in Super Bowl 50. His first sack jarred the ball loose from Rosen and teammate Demarcus Walker jumped on it.
On Miller’s second strip sack, which set up a Brandon McManus field goal, showed off his array of moves. Instead of running around right tackle Corey Willis he ducked underneath the lineman’s right arm and knocked the ball out of Rosen’s hand. He picked up the ball and stumbled before he could run it in.
Miller’s play opened opportunities for others, too. Rookie linebacker Bradley Chubb had two sacks for the second straight game
“Sometimes you get sacks, sometimes you don’t; you’ve just got to be relentless,” Miller told Fox after the game. “They come in bunches. Me and Chubb had been talking all week that this had to be our game. It feels good to go out and do your job.”
PASSING FANCY: Denver’s offense broke out with four touchdowns, but it was the second score of the game that had a twist. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders took the ball on a jet sweep, but instead of turning upfield he stopped and lofted a pass to fellow receiver Courtland Sutton.
Sutton made a diving catch in the end zone to give Denver a 14-0 lead and helped put Sanders into the history books with his 28-yard strike. Sanders is just the fifth receiver since the 1970 NFL merger to throw a touchdown pass.
Moreover, his 64-yard touchdown catch made him the second Bronco player in franchise history to have a receiving and passing touchdown. John Elway also did it against Oakland on Sept. 7, 1986.
QUICK HITS: Denver’s 16 defensive touchdowns since the start of the 2015 season are the most in the NFL. … The Broncos’ 35 points in the first half for the first time since Nov. 14, 2010, at Kansas City. … Miller now has 91 career sacks, which is tied with Trevor Pryce for 42nd on the all-time list.