The NFL is such a complex game. Even in victory the critics slither out from their caves of knowledge to break down exactly why a team should have lost or could have won by a larger margin. Even the players fall into that “we should have won, the ball didn’t bounce our way….” or my favorite from Chargers WR Keenan Allen last week…”they suck.” But you didn’t win. The ball didn’t bounce your way and you know what? They don’t suck…at least not against you. But I digress. After Denver beat Pittsburgh on Sunday, reporters, fans and even Big Ben had their scientific reasons as to how the Steelers handed the Broncos a victory. Big Ben called his game ending INT the “flukiest” interception of his career. He said Shelby Harris was blocked into the pic. Perhaps. But that ball was either going to be intercepted by Roby or at the very least, knocked down. One reporter tweeted, “Steelers handed this one to Denver with all those mistakes; blocked FG, two INT’s, two fumbles (one resulting in a touchback)…..and yada yada. Bottom line: This Denver Defense was handed NOTHING. They forced those turnovers. Is it so far fetched to think that Von Miller, one of the best defensive players in the NFL and a SB MVP could actually create a turnover or two? Is it so far outside the realm of possibility that a top cornerback in the league, Chris Harris Jr., would get a pick or perhaps one to turn the tide in a football game? Denver has still has a few big time players leftover from their SB 50 victory and those guys are stepping up in the absolute biggest moments.
Two weeks ago, during the Broncos’ bye week, they stared down a 3-6 record with a trip to LA (Chargers) and a home game against Pittsburgh. If, somehow, they could survive that then maybe, just maybe they could salvage a season full of close losses and heartbreak. Surely not, right? After Denver lost to the Rams by 3 Von Miller, no doubt frustrated, predicted a Broncos win over Arizona. And not just any win, he called for Denver to “kick their ass.” Lose that game and Vance Joseph is gone. Win…and maybe he’s still gone. Blow them out and he could live to fight another day. 45-10 and Von Miller had 2 sacks and a forced fumble. Chris Harris grabbed an INT as well. Big Players make Big plays in Big moments. VJ safe for a little while longer.
Fast forward past 2 more losses; one to KC and one to Houston. Denver, again, with their backs against the wall; a position they’ve grown all to familiar with since Peyton Manning left town. Could they go into LA and beat a division rival? LA was up 19-7 and driving for what you might call the put away drive but Von Miller had other plans. Instead of blitzing, he read the play, backed up and picked off Rivers’ pass and nearly took it to the house. The Broncos later scored and, ultimately won the game. Miller also had a sack and Harris had another interception. Big players make Big plays in big moments.
Ok, they saved the season from becoming an embarrassment by beating the Chargers but next up would be another top team in the Steelers. Pittsburgh was up 17-10 in the 3rd quarter and driving. Inside Denver territory, Big Ben tried to fit one in for Antonio Brown but Harris Jr. came up with a big interception that resulted in a Broncos TD (Keenum to Sanders). Two punts later and the Steelers were on the move again. Young RB James Conner was just about to complete a nice run that would have set the Steelers up for at least a fg but instead, Bradley Roby forced a fumble and later Denver scored the winning TD. Of course, before all that, the Steelers might have run away with this one had Will Parks decided to give up on a play and let a receiver walk into the end zone. Not happening. Parks forced a fumble into the endzone (touchback). Big players make Big plays in Big moments.
An NFL game is a series of moments, and only a handful of those are remembered as what caused a win or loss. The Steelers had a few, the Broncos had more. Big Ben didn’t hand over a fluky INT and Xavier Grimble didn’t just lose the ball and push it out of the endzone. Big time play makers stepped up for Denver. Most of those guys did it when it mattered most: the SB 50 season. This is what they do; make big plays in big moments. I think we all forgot just how good Miller, Harris, Stewart and Sanders could be. Do the Broncos have weaknesses? Absolutely they do. But when you have #58 and #25 hovering around the QB, WR or somewhere in between, good things might just happen. Big Ben didn’t suddenly forget how to play football against Denver. Just like Philip Rivers didn’t forget how to throw a simple pass to a running back. Just like Tom Brady didn’t suddenly forget how to complete a routine pass in the playoffs (2015) or Cam Newton didn’t somehow just lose a ball from his hand before he could pass it (SB 50).
Sure, luck can play a huge part in a football game. It can play a part in any game and it does regularly. But when something that seems like “luck” keeps happening, for the most part, it’s because you have players that “create their own luck.” Remember what Billy Zane said in Titanic? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO0GhTe9X6I
Call it luck or call it a team “giving it away.” That’s fine. I’ll keep calling it “Big players making big plays in big moments.
Creator:Dustin Bradford Credit:Getty Images Copyright:2016 Getty Images