Denver’s safeties had a big game against Saints
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos head into their bye week at 7-3 and feeling good about themselves and their chances to make another Super Bowl run.
They can thank their safeties.
Darian Stewart had three takeaways and T.J. Ward got one in the Broncos’ 25-23 win at New Orleans on Sunday that was secured by rookies Justin Simmons and Will Parks tag-teaming the first defensive game-winning 2-point play in league history.
Simmons blocked the extra point after Drew Brees’ 32-yard TD toss to Brandin Cooks with 1:22 remaining and Parks returned it 84 yards, somehow staying inbounds as he darted down the Saints sideline.
“I knew I’d blocked it because my right arm was throbbing for a little bit,” Simmons said Monday. “Everyone was running to the left. So, I look at Will was already like 20 yards in front of everybody, running off to the sideline. I was just praying he got into the end zone.”
It was the kind of play that can kick-start careers and salvage a season.
“This was a huge victory for us, especially coming off a bad loss last week to the Raiders,” DeMarcus Ware said.
“And now we go into the bye and get some of our banged-up guys back and we should be ready to go the rest of the season.”
Ware has been playing about 28 snaps a game since returning from a broken forearm and the plan is to double that down the stretch.
Coach Gary Kubiak said Monday he is optimistic Aqib Talib (back) and Derek Wolfe (elbow) will be back in the lineup when the Broncos face Kansas City (7-2) on Nov. 27 in prime time.
Also, quarterback Trevor Siemian, who has been dealing with a painful left shoulder ever since spraining the A.C. joint in Week 4, got another cortisone injection after getting hit 20 times by the Saints.
“The rest will do him some good,” Kubiak said.
The Broncos avoided their first stretch of four losses in six games since Kyle Orton was their quarterback to start the 2011 season.
“I probably shouldn’t get too ahead of myself, but I feel good about (Talib) and Derek being ready to go,” Kubiak said. “Aqib actually worked out today. I watched him from upstairs when he worked out with the trainers on the field. Everything looks good. We’ll probably hold Derek until we get to about next Wednesday and then cut him loose. It sure looks like we’re going to get closer to full strength. That’s an encouraging thing.”
Kubiak also feels good about the progression of Simmons, a third-rounder from Boston College, and Parks, a sixth-rounder from Arizona, and the way they’re augmenting Denver’s special teams and the Broncos’ “No Fly Zone” defense.
“They’re both playing well. We have confidence in them,” Kubiak said. “T.J. and Stew have played big time. They’ve played about 98 to 100 percent of the snaps for this team. Those guys will have to take a little bit off of them. But they’re both doing a good job.”
Parks said he didn’t realize he was close to going out of bounds — his white cleats blended in with the sideline and there was no clear angle showing he stepped out, so the call stood.
“I think that made it real interesting,” Parks said.
Simmons had never in his life blocked a kick, but special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis liked his 40-inch vertical at the NFL Combine and taught him how to leap long snappers.
The play is called “Leaper,” and when DeCamillis called it, Simmons said he did a double-take even though he had been using all the previous kicks to get a feel for the Saints’ cadence so he could time his jump just right.
Simmons was still in awe of the play, saying, “I woke up this morning and I was like ‘Damn, that was wild.’ I’m getting texts still and everything like that, but I’m just happy about the win.”
Both Parks and Simmons knew joining the Super Bowl champs and their stellar secondary meant they’d have to make their mark mostly on special teams at first and pitch in where they could on the league’s top-ranked pass defense.
“Obviously, everyone in our secondary is at the elite stage and they’ve all made Pro Bowls, they’ve almost done everything you can do in this league,” Simmons said. “So, coming in you’ve got to show them that you’re all ball.”
Pitching in means the world to both, Parks said.
“Me and Justin, we got the vets smiling on the plane back and that’s what it’s all about,” Parks said. “They’ve made me happy plenty of times. So, why not reward them back and take some pressure off their hands?
“I want to do that every week now. I want to do it in practice, in the film room, in the game.”
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