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Next Day Notebook: vs. Titans

Posted Dec 9, 2013

Terrance Knighton was the first defensive lineman to have an interception since 2010, Von Miller forced a pair of turnovers and Julius Thomas set a franchise record for touchdowns.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – In high school, the Broncos' 335-pound defensive tackle Terrance Knighton played on both sides of the ball.

His positions? A rare combination of defensive lineman and wide receiver.

Sunday night in the Broncos’ 51-28 win against Tennessee, he flashed some of those old receiver skills as he pulled in the first interception by a Broncos defensive lineman since 2010.

“I was an all-state wide receiver in high school and hands are something that you don’t lose,” Knighton said after the game. “The route-running and the speed and all that stuff – I lost that. But the hands, I still have those.”

The interception came just three plays after the Broncos took the lead from the Titans early in the second half and set up a drive that ended in a Knowshon Moreno touchdown run.

On the play, he was lined up with Malik Jackson in the middle while Shaun Phillips and Von Miller – who initially tipped the pass – applied pressure from the ends. Jackson was supposed to be the one dropping into coverage, but Knighton liked his chances better.

“Actually on that play, Malik is supposed to (drop),” Knighton said. “When me and Malik are in there I always tell him, ‘I’ll drop.’ I feel like I can catch the ball better than him because on Fridays we do a little catching drill and he drops a lot of them. I told him I’ll drop and I was just happy the ball was there. It just took forever to land in my hands, but I knew I was going to catch it.”

After the interception, Knighton threw the ball into the stands.

“At the moment, I don’t know was I thinking, but it’s cool,” Knighton said. “Our fans, they’re out here in this cold weather and they’re having a good time. They come waiting for the defense to make a play. They are ready to have fun and I appreciate them being here and having fun and that’s just something I did to let them know that we appreciate them and we feed off of them.”

MILLER TIME

Not only did Miller tip the Ryan Fitzgerald pass that was ultimately intercepted by Knighton, Miller filled out the stat sheet in several other categories as well.

He posted three tackles, one for a loss. He registered a sack for a loss of seven yards and he was responsible for the other Tennessee turnover as he knocked the ball out of running back Chris Johnson’s hands in the fourth quarter to force a fumble.

“He’s capable of everything – dropping in coverage, rushing the passer, stopping the run. One of the best players I’ve ever played with and those are plays we expect him to make,” Knighton said of Miller. “We hope to keep this going and see him make more plays.”

Miller also got to the quarterback one other time in the game after Fitzgerald got the ball away. But the pressure that Miller was applying did not come without the help of his teammates, which he acknowledged after the game.

"A good team effort," Miller said. "We had guys swarming to the ball. We had guys all around them. Just a great team effort. Great defensive effort. I wish we could've started off a little bit faster, but that's all part of the journey of becoming the defense that we want to be. I know if we can get back in the lab and keep working, we'll continue to improve."

In the seven games that Miller has played this season, he’s picked up 27 total tackles, five sacks and three forced fumbles, which is tied for the most on the team.

ORANGE JULIUS

After missing the last two games with a knee injury, tight end Julius Thomas returned to action Sunday against the Titans and found himself in the same place he has been in nine of the first 10 games this season – the end zone.

“To sit out two weeks against two opponents I would have liked to play against is tough,” Thomas said. “But it’s just part of the job. To be able to come back this week and do well – it’s a good feeling.”

In the second quarter on Sunday, Thomas caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning. That marked the 11th time that those two have hooked up for a score this season, and with Thomas missing two games that means he’s averaging a touchdown per appearance this season.

But most notably, that touchdown gave Thomas the most touchdowns by a tight end in a single season in Broncos history. Shannon Sharpe held the record with 10, a mark he reached in both 1996 and 1998.

“When I was going through those first couple of years, (my teammates) were always encouraging, always letting me know that they believed in what I could do in the football field – and were excited to see me out there, healthy,” Thomas said. “I’ve really got to thank them for being behind me this whole time. To be able to set a franchise record is amazing. I want to thank our coaches and everybody else.”

Manning connected with Wes Welker earlier in the game, making Welker the fourth Bronco this season with 10 or more touchdowns. Moreno has 12, both Thomases -- Julius and wide receiver Demaryius -- have 11 and Welker now has 10.

Those numbers make the Broncos the first team in NFL history to have four players with at least 10 touchdowns and the second team to have three receivers with at least 10 touchdowns.

“All year, we’ve been talking about how dynamic our entire offense is,” Julius Thomas said. “There are guys that maybe hadn’t been getting as many touches in the beginning of the season. Now, they’re going out there and they’re showing everybody what they can do.

“We’ve been saying all along, we have so many guys who can come in and make plays. It showed tonight.”