CHICAGO — The Broncos have earned their first win of the Sean Payton era.
And it did not come easily.
Denver faced a 28-7 second-half deficit against the Chicago Bears on Sunday before roaring back to earn a 31-28 victory and improve to 1-3 on the season.
Spurred by consecutive touchdown drives and a 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown, the Broncos tied the game with 6:55 to play in the fourth quarter. A big fourth-down stop gave Denver a chance to take the lead, and they converted on the opportunity via a 51-yard Wil Lutz field goal.
In the waning moments of the game, safety Kareem Jackson picked off Bears quarterback Justin Fields to seal the win.
While the Broncos were far from perfect, they earned a victory that tied their second largest road comeback in franchise history.
These are the players and plays that made the difference in the Broncos' first win of the season.
The Broncos' comeback started a few minutes earlier — courtesy of back-to-back touchdown drives — but it began to feel a lot more real when outside linebacker Nik Bonitto strip-sacked Justin Fields. Jonathon Cooper scooped the ball up and returned it for a touchdown, and the Broncos were suddenly even in the game. There was plenty more drama to come, as the Bears passed up a field-goal attempt for the chance to pick up a fourth-and-1 conversion and bleed more clock. Without Bonitto's big play, though, the Broncos may not have been in position to close out the comeback late in the game.
After the Bears scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the first half, the Broncos' defense allowed just seven points after the break. On Chicago's final four possessions of the game, Denver forced a three-and-out, returned a fumble for a touchdown, held strong on a fourth-down attempt and picked off a pass. For a unit that struggled in the first half, it was a major improvement in play — and it was critical to Denver's comeback effort.
Following a defensive stand, wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. helped the Broncos put the finishing touches on a win. On first-and-10 from Denver's 19-yard line, quarterback Russell Wilson looked deep and found Mims down the right side of the field. Mims then made a defender miss to pick up extra yards and put the Broncos in field-goal range.
Quarterback Russell Wilson completed 21-of-28 passes for 223 yards, three touchdowns and a 133.5 quarterback rating. The rating was his highest in a game since joining the Broncos and the best rating he's posted overall since Week 1 of 2021. Wilson also moved into the top 10 all-time in fourth-quarter comebacks.
Outside linebackers Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper combined for 3.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. They also contributed to the play of the game, as Bonitto got to Fields and Cooper returned the fumble for a touchdown.
Running back Jaleel McLaughlin posted more than 100 scrimmage yards and scored a first-quarter touchdown.
Inside linebacker Alex Singleton made a key fourth-down stop, while safety Kareem Jackson ended the game with his second interception of the season.
Kicker Wil Lutz drilled a 51-yard field goal to give Denver the win.