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Limited Snaps, Key Contributions

Posted Sep 10, 2013

Although they only played limited snaps, here's a look at a few players who made big impacts in the Broncos' 49-27 win over the Ravens.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- While Peyton Manning’s NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes and Julius Thomas’ breakout performance at tight end drew the brunt of the attention in the wake of the Broncos’ 49-27 win over the Ravens, there was certainly no shortage of key contributors across the board in Week 1.

A slew of Broncos made decisive impacts on the game – some of whom only saw limited snaps, but shined in the opportunities they had when they were on the field. 

From blocked punts to fingertip touchdown catches, here’s a look at some of the players who seized the moment in helping the Broncos start off the regular season with a win – a complete team effort.

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell spent much of the 2012 season trying to carve out his role in the Broncos’ aerial attack. 

He didn’t wait long to make a big contribution in 2013.

Caldwell’s fingertip catch of an arching, 28-yard Manning touchdown pass with 12:30 remaining in the third quarter gave the Broncos a lead they would never relinquish. And while Caldwell only played a handful of snaps, he made his presence undeniably felt on the touchdown – racing down the sideline past Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith and hauling in the pass – and provided a reminder that he, too, is another playmaker on the Broncos’ receiving corps.

“Most of the time, I’m the forgotten guy, the fourth guy, the backup,” Caldwell said. “When I come in I just try to make sure everything stays at a high level and there’s no fall off when I’m in the game.”

For Caldwell, hauling in his first touchdown since Week 11 of the 2011 season – when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals – was a gratifying feeling.

“The last time I caught a pass was last year against Oakland, so it’s been a long time,” he said. “That was my first touchdown as a Bronco so it felt great.”

Another crucial play in the game happened just moments after Caldwell’s touchdown. After the Broncos defense held the Ravens to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, safety David Bruton made his presence felt on special teams.

Bruton lived up to his role as the Broncos’ special teams captain, bursting through the line and blocking Sam Koch’s punt. The play set the Broncos up with the football at the Ravens’ 10-yard line and ignited a wave of momentum that Denver rode to taking an insurmountable lead.

Two plays after Bruton’s punt block, Manning found Wes Welker for the first of his two touchdown receptions in the third quarter, and the Broncos never looked back.

“The blocked punt was a big deal,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We were ahead there and to go three and out which was disappointing, then the block punt and they score. It was just too easy for them.”

Bruton only played two defensive snaps, but still found a way to make a big impact when he hit on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco later in the third quarter while he was releasing a third down pass. The play forced a Ravens punt.   

Not to be overlooked, kicker Matt Prater and punter Britton Colquitt left their own fingerprints on the win, as well. 

Prater did not attempt a field goal, but his eight touchbacks matched a career high and tied for second-most in NFL history, locking up the Ravens’ returners from having any opportunities to make plays.

Colquitt did his best to make things difficult on Flacco and the Ravens offense, pinning five of his seven punts inside the Ravens’ 20-yard line. The five punts downed inside the 20 marked the fourth such feat by a Bronco since 1976.