Broncos vs. Steelers: 5 key plays from Denvers Week 12 win over Pittsburgh

Broncos vs. Steelers: 5 key plays from Denver\s Week 12 win over Pittsburgh
Denver Broncos: Shelby Harris, Phillip Lindsay headline game balls
Situation: The Broncos defended a 48-yard Steelers field-goal attempt with 9:46 left in the first quarter. Scoreless.

The attention to detail on special teams under first-year coordinator Tom McMahon continues to impress. Safety Justin Simmons lined up over Pittsburgh guard David DeCastro and long snapper Kameron Canaday. Simmons identified the same gap he jumped through in Week 3 at Baltimore, timed it just right, dove ahead with his right arm extended and batted the football down off the foot of kicker Chris Boswell. It kept Pittsburgh off the scoreboard and the Broncos’ ensuing drive ended with a field goal.

Uneven relationships win in the NFL. Take. Take. Take some more. The Broncos allowed yards without consequence. Big Ben Roethlisberger fired 56 passes and connected on 41. Yet, he threw one touchdown. Chris Harris Jr. proved there is profit in being a prophet. He predicted that if Roethlisberger threw 40 times, the Broncos needed and could produce two picks. He was right. The Broncos intercepted a pair of passes and netted four takeaways. Big deal? They have 18 takeaways this season, compared to 17 all of last year.

Situation: The Broncos defended third-and-1 from their own 24-yard line to start the second quarter. Denver led 3-0.

Phillip Lindsay represents the Broncos' best offensive player. He boasts 780 yards rushing on 135 attempts and 967 yards from scrimmage. His seven touchdowns leave him on pace for 10. He produced 110 yards on 14 carries against Pittsburgh. I believe Lindsay has earned the right to get 20 touches a game. He is not wearing down. He might. But I would not take that bet. The Broncos are 5-1 when he rushes for at least 70 yards. 

A microcosm of the Broncos’ complete team effort Sunday. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger handled the snap under center and faked a fullback-led sweep right to running back James Conner that fooled Denver’s defense. Leaking out the backside was tight end Xavier Grimble, who caught Roethlisberger’s pass with a clear path the end zone. But safety Will Parks traveled from his single high safety position to meet Grimble at the pylon, with Parks throwing his left shoulder into the football and jarring it loose through the back of the end zone for a touchback. And, the Broncos’ turnover success didn’t stop there.

Situation: The Broncos faced first-and-5 from their own 30-yard line with 6:29 remaining in the second quarter. Tie game, 3-3.

Denver needed an offensive jolt. Running back Phillip Lindsay, once again, provided the voltage. The Broncos’ first play from scrimmage after a Pittsburgh field goal utilized Lindsay as a single back behind Keenum under center. Denver loaded the right side with fullback Andy Janovich and tight ends Matt LaCosse and Jeff Heuerman bunched off tackle. Lindsay took the handoff that direction, cut up-field with a seal block provided by right guard Elijah Wilkinson and bolted for a 32-yard gain before finally getting pushed out of bounds. Denver’s longest rushing play of the game led to its first touchdown.

Case Keenum is playing better, a result of play-calling that suits his skillset and his own improvement. Over the past four games, Keenum has one pick and five touchdowns. He has no interceptions over the past three. It's not a coincidence the Broncos have won two of those games. 

Situation: The Broncos faced first-and-goal from the Steelers’ 5-yard line with 5:36 to go in the third quarter. The Steelers led 17-10.

Among the biggest surprises outside of Lindsay? The newfangled offensive line. Flanking Connor McGovern with four tackles has made the Broncos more athletic and physical. It's a small sample size. However, the grunts have allowed two sacks in the past two games on 50 passing attempts.

Quarterback Case Keenum showcased a knack for backyard football when leading Denver to a game-tying touchdown drive late. He received the snap, rolled right, and when nothing immediately opened up, Keenum continued to drift toward the sideline with Pittsburgh pressure now bearing down. Those few extra seconds allowed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to  improvise, streak across the back of the end zone and haul in a Keenum dart between defenders. Keenum’s ability to extend plays was critical to his success in Minnesota. It’s developed more in recent weeks for Denver.

The Broncos take punches, absorb body shots and remain standing. The Steelers penetrated inside the 30-yard line six times and posted 10 points. The elasticity required can be alarming. But when it mattered most, the Broncos defense played its best.

Situation: The Broncos defended third-and-goal from their own 2-yard line with 1:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. Denver led 24-17.

The Broncos’ defensive resiliency endured through the final play. Roethlisberger received the shotgun snap beside Conner, utilized sudden play-action, and immediately tossed the football toward wide receiver Antonio Brown on a quick slant. But nose tackle Shelby Harris was knocked back off the line of scrimmage, kept his eyes on Roethlisberger and snagged the football as it sailed short of Brown. A rare red-zone mistake from Pittsburgh’s veteran quarterback the Broncos gladly capitalized on to seal the win.

The Broncos have been outgained by 373 yards over the past two games. That they have won is related to one statistic: zero turnovers. Protect the ball, and good things can and do happen.

Share Share Broncos 24, Steelers 17: Game balls for playmakers in Denvers win tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports In a game where the Denver Broncos defense struggled to stop Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers at any point in the game, they came up with the big plays where it mattered most. In fact, most of our game balls head to the very players on defense that made those plays that resulted in a 24-17 home win over a tough playoff contender.

And dont look now, but after throwing at least one interception in the first eight games of the season, Case Keenum now has three consecutive pick-free games. Sunday also marked Keenums first game with multiple touchdown passes and no interceptions. He and this offense are starting to figure it out — just in time for the home stretch, when it matters most.

Video: Steelers vs. Broncos Week 12 Highlights | NFL 2018

Despite some sloppy play at times, the team rallied when it needed to in order to regain the advantage in the second half and hold onto victory in the games waning moments. It was a complete team win as those plays were made on offense, defense, and even special teams.

Then, with the Steelers driving, looking as if tying the game would be simple, for the second week in a row, an all-time quarterback makes a rookie mistake. Shelby Harris makes the Broncos plus four on the day, and Vance Joseph guarantees himself employment for another year.

Shelby Harris didnt get all the flash in this game, but let me tell you the No Bull truth: he was disruptive in the middle when he was on the field consistently. So much so that when he actually dropped back in pass coverage late in the game, Roethlisburger didnt even comprehend that that was a possibility. His pick sealed the win and he was a big part of this Broncos team shutting down one of the AFCs best. – Sadaraine

Obviously his child is the highlight of the week, but this pick to win the game for the #Broncos has to be second. What a clutch play by @ShelbyHarris93 #PITvsDEN

In addition, the Broncos have had the toughest schedule in the NFL. The Los Angeles Chargers? Thirty-first. The Pittsburgh Steelers? Twenty-sixth. So, it’s not like the Broncos have been outclassed this year, aside from the New York Jets game.

Phillip Lindsay is the spark for this team in every way he needs to be – consistently. While every game different players have stepped up with a big play – and in the last two weeks, momentum-changing plays – Lindsay has been doing this every single game. And while he was not necessarily the star of the win over the Steelers (thank you Will Parks, Bradley Roby, Chris Harris Jr. and Shelby Harris!), he was absolutely the rock that the entire team could count on to get big yardage and spark the offense again and again. His career-high 110 yards on 14 carries were just a culmination of weeks of great running in which his average per carry is kicking the a** out of the league. Every game, [Lindsay] shows up. Hes consistent, hes smart, hes tough and he makes big plays for us, Vance Joseph said. Hes absolutely right. – Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

This might be the most graceful move ever performed on a football field. @I_CU_boy

Streaks are hard things to maintain. The Denver Broncos found themselves facing a team for the third straight week on a five-plus-game winning streak. It was the first time that happened in 42 years.

Emmanuel Sanders had a great day against his former team. After Chris Harris intercepted Ben Roethlisberger, it took just two plays for the Broncos to punch it into the end zone. Both of those plays went to Sanders. First, a 38-yard pass down the right side to the 5 yard line, followed by a Case Keenum roll to the right, where he found Sanders flashing open. It was one of the biggest moments of the game. Sanders played a pivotal roll during the touchdown drive that started the 4th quarter, as well. He finished the game with 7 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Big day for E. – Adam Malnati

Last time Denver played the Steelers in the regular season, Antonio Brown went off for 16 catches, 189 yards, and 2 TDs. Chris Harris vowed before yesterdays game that it wasnt going to be like that this time around, and he made good on his promise.

Knocking off the 7-2-1 Steelers the week after upsetting a 7-2 Chargers team marks the best two week stretch for the Broncos since the Super Bowl 50 season.

Harris played an exceptional game in coverage, whether on Brown or any of the other Steelers receivers, and was once again sound in tackling as the Steelers strategy was to throw it short and make Denver tackle on the edge.

To top it all off, Harris came up with a huge interception that, much like Von Millers last week, changed the tide of the game.

.@OFranklin74 and @JDavisD12 give their postgame thoughts after the #Broncos took down the #Steelers 24-17.

Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments, and Chris Harris did just that. – Jeff Essary

Last week it was Von, this week Chris Harris does all he can to give the #Broncos new life. Now the offense has to do something with the opportunity. #PITvsDEN

The big play was something that frustrated the Steelers over and over on Sunday. The first of which came early when Justin Simmons blocked a field goal on their opening drive. It was the first act of many that resulted in a Broncos win. – Tim Lynch

Broncos big defensive plays:Blocked FGTwo forced fumbles (one was Will Parks great play)One fumble recoveryTwo interceptionsTwo sacks

The Broncos safety made the play of the game. On a play that 99 out of 100 times goes for a touchdown, Parks not only prevents Xavier Grimble from scoring, he forced a turnover. If the Steelers score on that play, it completely changes the game and puts Denver in a 10-0 hole. Its the latest example of why you never give up on a play. Parks also finished with six tackles. – Ian St. Clair

The Broncos Frankenline made up of misplaced big men blocking for a diminutive back and a not-so-pocket-aware quarterback deserve the game ball from me. One sack and one holding penalty is nothing to sneeze at and the fact that these guys have somehow been better than the group that won the jobs out of camp gets me excited to watch the big boys tear up the grass for the rest of the season. – Kevin Gillikin

We started this season off by tracking Keenums interception streak. Thats a less than ideal place for a teams big FA acquisition QB to be in. Now that were tracking his interception-less streak, Broncos Country is a happier place. Vs the Steelers, Keenum had one of his better games as a Bronco. He made a couple of throws that bailed the team out of tough spots, and did so last week as well. That wasnt happening earlier in the season, and certainly not consistently. Keenums not lighting the league on fire by any means, but this game manager version of him was good enough to beat two teams with 14-4-1 combined records. With easier competition on the horizon, Keenums needle is pointing up. – Taylor Kothe

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