By Aric DiLalla – DenverBroncos.com
DENVER — A win is always sweet.
The Broncos’ 24-15 victory over the Cardinals won’t send Denver to the playoffs, but that didn’t dampen the excitement on the field as the Broncos jogged off the field with their first two-possession win of the season.
In a game that Brett Rypien started, the Broncos bounced back from a three-point first half to break the 20-point barrier for the second consecutive game and the fourth time this season. Relying on a strong running game, the Broncos scored three second-half touchdowns to post their second-best point total of the year — and the defense did the rest.
Safety Justin Simmons snagged a pair of interceptions and cornerback Pat Surtain II iced the game with one of his own. Denver faced both Colt McCoy and Trace McSorley in the game, and the Broncos’ defense held Arizona to 167 passing yards and 2-of-12 on third down.
With the win, the Broncos snapped a five-game losing streak and earned their first win on U.S. soil since Week 3.
“It feels great,” Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “This team has had a lot of adversity this year, both through the injuries, through the close games and it has been great to see them all stick together, fight for each other and continually battle. We have so many games against a bunch of very good football teams. We had another choice today. We were down 9-3. Those guys had another choice, and they stepped up even more. The defense, special teams and offense. That is what you love to see. That is what I appreciate from this team watching them out there.”
These are the players and plays that made the difference in a home win over Arizona.
Simmons posted a pair of interceptions on the afternoon, and the second came in the fourth quarter with the Broncos leading by one possession. He undercut a McSorley pass intended for A.J. Green and set the Broncos up with the ball inside the 10-yard line. The Broncos punched the ball into the end zone, as Rypien found tight end Eric Tomlinson for a 3-yard touchdown that pushed the Broncos’ lead to 15 points. The Cardinals would cut into the lead, but Simmons’ interception essentially sealed the game.
“Justin has been great,” Hackett said. “He is the leader of this football team. That is probably the number one most important thing with Justin. To be able to go out there and execute the way he has despite having some adversity. … He has come back, and I love how that whole back end is communicating. I love watching how they get organized with the motions, all those things. I think that just shows how they are as a group and how our defensive staff is putting them in the best positions. They are going out there and executing. It is great. I want to see Justin get some more picks.”
As the Broncos jogged off the field at halftime, Denver’s offense had posted just three points and allowed a season-high seven sacks. Arizona’s J.J. Watt recorded three first-half sacks, and the Broncos were struggling to move the football. In the second half, the Broncos committed to the running game and found far more success. On the shoulders of Latavius Murray and Marlon Mack, the Broncos added a pair of rushing touchdowns and posted a season-high in rushing yards with 168. With a reserve quarterback starting the game behind some reserve offensive linemen, Denver needed to take some pressure off Rypien. The Broncos did just that by dominating the game on the ground, particularly after halftime; Denver posted 113 rushing yards in the second half.
“Watching those guys run the ball was great,” Hackett said. “Latavius was on one today. He was over 100 yards. Marlon came in and had that great touchdown, I think, from the 3- or 4-yard-line. There was great blocking. The tight ends were involved. The wide receivers were blocking. They were pinning on some ends. It takes all 11 to run the football, and you really saw that.”
Rypien’s lone touchdown pass gets the nod here, as he faked the handoff and then shielded the ball behind his body. Rypien waited for a moment to sell the run fake, and then he delivered the touchdown pass to Tomlinson. Rypien wasn’t perfect, but he did enough to help the Broncos earn a win.
Running back Latavius Murray became the Broncos’ first 100-yard rusher of the season and also added a touchdown.
Safety Justin Simmons picked off a pair of passes, notching his third consecutive season with at least five interceptions.
Tight end Eric Tomlinson caught three passes for 30 yards. He had just five catches during the first 14 weeks of the season.
Defensive end DeShawn Williams recorded 2.5 sacks. He has set a career-high in quarterback takedowns and leads Denver with 4.5 sacks since the bye week.
Jerry Jeudy led all receivers with seven catches for 76 yards.