DENVER — With the win already in hand, Justin Simmons laid out for an interception.
The pick, his fifth of the season, came midway through the fourth quarter with the Broncos holding onto a 21-point lead.
The Pro Bowl safety was nearly horizontal as he hauled in the interception off Jared Goff — but the aftermath of the highlight interception was far more impressive.
After the pick, Simmons got up and sprinted a few yards to where the number 88 was painted on the Broncos' sideline. He slammed the ball down on the logo as his teammates gathered around him.
On an emotional day in which the Broncos honored Demaryius Thomas, who tragically passed away at the age of 33 this week, Simmons' interception was the exclamation point.
On the heels of tragedy, the Broncos were able to earn a 38-10 win that kept them in the AFC playoff picture. It was a complete victory, as the Broncos ran the ball effectively and played solid defense against the now 1-11-1 Detroit Lions. The Broncos' 28-point win handed the Lions their second-largest loss of the year.
As Broncos fans chanted "D.T." late in the game, though, it was clear that Denver's win meant far more than just another step toward a playoff berth.
These were the players and plays that made a difference in the Broncos' win over the Detroit Lions.
The Broncos took a 14-0 lead early in the game, as they scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions. It was just the second time this year that Denver scored a touchdown on its opening possession and the first time that the Broncos went back-to-back to start the game. Denver, though, had to survive a challenge from the Lions. Detroit cut the lead to 14-10 in the second quarter, and the Lions had a chance to take the lead before halftime. The Broncos' defense came up big in response. Denver forced a punt, and the Broncos were able to drive down the field for a 52-yard field goal before the break. That gave the Broncos some breathing room, as they took a seven-point lead to halftime.
When the game resumed, the Broncos put things away. Running back Godwin Igwebuike fumbled on the Lions' first possession of the second half, and outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper recovered the ball inside Detroit territory. Six plays later, Javonte Williams caught a pass from Teddy Bridgewater and spun into the end zone to give the Broncos a 14-point lead and ice the game.
The Broncos dominated the opening frame of the game, as they recorded 11 first downs, 135 yards and 14 points on their two first-quarter possessions.
Detroit, meanwhile, was not nearly as successful. The Lions recorded -1 yards and no first downs in the first quarter, as Denver raced out to a 14-0 lead. Detroit would briefly climb back in the game, but the Broncos' first-quarter dominance set the tone in Sunday's matchup.
The Broncos had plenty of highlights in their runaway win over the Lions, but the day belonged to D.T. and his memory. Ahead of the game, the Broncos put together a memorial to Thomas outside of the stadium, and they then aired a tribute video before kickoff. The Broncos also held a moment of silence for Thomas. After the Broncos forced a third-quarter fumble, the team's defenders ran to a spot on the sideline where the Broncos had painted a white 88 in a navy circle. Simmons did the same later in the game. The tributes all afternoon to D.T. were poignant, and they stand above as the highlight of the afternoon.
Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III combined for more than 190 total yards and each scored a pair of touchdowns. They opened the scoring in the first half, and they each added a touchdown in the second half to ice the game for the Broncos. They continue to prove themselves as one of the best running back tandems in the NFL. Denver's rushing performance was its second-most productive game of the year.
Dre'Mont Jones certainly seems to enjoy playing the Lions. After earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in 2019 against Detroit, Jones posted a pair of sacks and a career-high three tackles for loss. On one second-half possession, Jones recorded a sack, a tackle for loss and batted down a pass on fourth down.
Jonathon Cooper recovered a fumble in Detroit territory that helped put the game away.
Brandon McManus hit a 52-yard field goal at the buzzer to give the Broncos a 17-10 lead at halftime. The Broncos remain undefeated this season while holding a halftime lead.
Justin Simmons recorded his fifth interception of the season, which ties a career high.
Noah Fant led all Broncos receivers with four catches for 51 yards, including a 32-yard reception. The deep catch was Fant's longest reception since Week 13 last year in Kansas City.