WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Manning-to-Thomas Connection
Quarterback Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas connected for 99 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. The first score came with a defensive back seemingly draped all over Thomas.
“I threw that ball as early as you can throw a pass,” Manning said afterward. “I threw that ball super early and Demaryius came around, kind of came right around the DB and made a heck of a catch. That was really a special play.”
The second touchdown was equally as impressive, as Thomas beat double coverage for the 10-yard catch in the end zone.
“I knew if he was going to check me, he wasn’t going to be able to stop be from cutting across his face and getting to where I needed to be,” Thomas said of the linebacker covering him before a safety came to help. “Peyton put the ball in a great spot and I made a play.”
The Von Miller Show
The AFC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Month kept up his hot play of late against the Buccaneers. He tied for the team lead with seven tackles, sacked Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, forcing a fumble on the same play, and intercepted him. He returned the pick 26 yards for a defensive touchdown.
“Defensive player of the year,” defensive end Elvis Dumervil said of his teammate. “For sure. What he has been doing, not only sacks, pressures, the impact he has had on the game, he should definitely be a strong candidate.”
The Third Quarter
Through 11 games this season, the fourth quarter has been Denver’s sweet spot. The Broncos have outscored opponents 124-37 in the frame.
On Sunday, it was the third quarter when Denver did its damage.
Both of Thomas’ touchdowns and Miller’s defensive score came during the third quarter. The 21-point outburst turned a 10-7 deficit into a 28-10 lead, which proved too much for the Buccaneers to overcome.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Four Straight Punts
After scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, the Broncos offense stalled on its next four possessions, all four of which resulted in punts back to Tampa Bay.
During that span, the Buccaneers took a 10-7 lead and looked in control of the game.
“We just basically had to stop getting penalties,” Thomas said. “We were beating ourselves. We were in first-and-long, second-and-long, and it’s tough when you’ve got a good defense that’s stopping the run. You want to run the ball and mix it up, and it’s tough to try to convert first-and-15, first-and-25, whatever it was.
“That was what stopped us in the first half.”
Denver’s 21-point outburst in the third quarter seemingly put the game out of reach. Tampa Bay didn’t feel that way.
Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth hit field goals of 50 and 55 yards in the fourth quarter to help keep his team in the game, and a missed 47-yard field goal by Broncos kicker Matt Prater helped keep Tampa Bay’s hopes alive.
A 5-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Josh Freeman to wide receiver Mike Williams trimmed Denver’s lead to one possession, 31-23, but wide receiver Eric Decker recovered the ensuing onside kick to essentially snuff out the Bucs’ comeback attempt.
“Right there at the end, we can’t give up plays like that,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “We gave them an opportunity to tie the ballgame late. That’s not something that you pride yourself on. We’ve got to be better at the end.”
Late in the third quarter, after Denver’s 21 consecutive points, the defense forced a Tampa Bay three-and-out.
With the ball and a chance to further put the game out of reach, quarterback Peyton Manning dropped back and looked for tight end Jacob Tamme. But the pass was intercepted by Bucs linebacker Lavonte David and returned to the Denver 48-yard line.
Tampa Bay used the field position to march down the field for Barth’s 50-yard field goal, which began the Bucs’ comeback attempt.
It was Denver’s only turnover of the game.