Denver Broncos | News

Day-after takeaways from Broncos-Bills

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The accolades continue to accumulate for Chris Harris Jr., because the accomplishments merit them.

In Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills, he helped preserve the 24-17 win with a third-quarter interception of Kyle Orton at the Denver 2-yard-line, stifling Buffalo momentum one play after Orton hit Sammy Watkins for a 37-yard connection that was Buffalo's longest of the game.

According to pro-football-reference.com, Harris is the 18th Bronco to record a sack and an interception in the same game since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

Last week, DeMarcus Ware became the 17th. (There are 21 such games; Dennis Smith, Louis Wright and Bill Romanowski had a sack and interception in the same game twice apiece.) Ware and Harris became the first combination of Broncos to have one-sack, one-interception games in consecutive weeks.

Pass-rush opportunities are rare for Harris, but he maximized them, and he had a sack and a hurry of Orton in the five times the Broncos used him to attack. It's a great way to bring the game to Harris if an opponent doesn't throw in his direction, and he said he'd like more blitz opportunities.

"Oh, yeah," Harris said. "A lot of times, man, I have to be real patient out there and let the game come to me. And eventually, it does. But I've got to stay awake. I can't fall asleep, and when they fall asleep, that's when they're going to try to get me."

But unlike other foes, the Bills did throw at him -- nine times. As usual, he minimized the damage; according to ProFootballFocus.com, he allowed an average of just 5.9 yards for each time he was targeted.

"Hey, if they keep throwing at me, I've got to go get it," Harris said. "They keep trying me whenever, but I've got to make them pay when they do."

CLEANING UP THE FOURTH QUARTER

What frustration existed in the locker room came on the defensive side, which lamented allowing the Bills two fourth-quarter touchdowns that allowed them to narrow the lead to seven points with 55 seconds remaining. That left the Bills a successful on-side kickoff away from a potential game-tying drive.

The Bills converted four of their seven third-down attempts and both of their fourth-down tries in the fourth quarter. The only time that Buffalo hit third down and did not eventually extend its possession was when Doug Marrone elected to punt on a fourth-and-2 from the Bills 16-yard-line with 5:33 remaining.

Buffalo racked up massive advantages in first downs (11-1) and total yardage (188-22) in the fourth quarter. The 14 unanswered points also pushed the Broncos' season-long fourth-quarter point differential to minus-6 (92-86); the Broncos were plus-70 in 2012 and plus-83 in 2013.

"At times, you've got to learn how to put a team away," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "There was a chance there they could get the onside kick, and they had 45 seconds to go down the field and score and anything can happen in this league so that's something we've been trying to buckle down on and something we emphasize on the sideline as players and in meetings, also."

Harris attributed the issues to some of the coverages the Broncos ran as they played to protect a lead that was 21 points when the quarter began.

"That's something that we always get frustrated with, but we sat back in little zones and we kind of gave them some yardage," Harris said. "But the key that I looked at was the turnovers. We gave up a lot of yards, but we made a lot of turnovers and as long as we have those turnovers, I'm fine with that."

And in their search for the perfect game -- or close to it -- Knighton knows the fourth quarter, and finishing, will be a focal point.

"We'll just keep working at it," he said. "I'm pretty sure that's something that will be emphasized this week with a quarterback (Philip Rivers) who can drive down and score pretty quick."

COUNTING TO SIX UP FRONT

From Chris Harris' first sack of the season to C.J. Anderson's three touchdowns, check out the shots of the game from Sunday's win over the Bills.

Offensive tackle Paul Cornick, who suffered a sprained toe later in the game, made his third consecutive start as the Broncos once again opened in a personnel grouping with six offensive linemen.

Denver opened the game with that alignment before going to a three-wide receiver set on the second play after a holding penalty forced the Broncos into second-and-20. The Broncos ran their next 15 plays with three wide receivers before Cornick re-entered the game on a second-and-goal with 3:56 left in the second quarter.

More than half of Cornick's snaps came in the fourth quarter, as the Broncos went back to the two-tight end alignment in order to generate some power in the run game and grind down the clock. Over the entire game, the Broncos averaged 2.67 yards per carry out of the six-offensive linemen/one-tight end/two-wide receiver package. They kept the Bills honest by passing three times out of the alignment, completing all of them for 19 yards.

QUICK HITS:

  • In the absence of Julius Thomas, fellow tight end Virgil Green played 148 snaps in the last three games -- seven more than he played in his previous nine regular-season games combined, dating back to last December.
  • Brandon McManus returned to kickoff duty and slammed all five of his kickoffs into or out of the end zone, with four going for touchbacks, taking his season total to 52 of 69. His touchback percentage of 75.4 is second in the NFL behind Carolina's Graham Gano.
  • Orlando Franklin returned to right tackle for one play in the third quarter Sunday. Franklin moved back to his old spot after Louis Vasquez was shaken up and left for a play. Ben Garland left guard for that snap, then left when Vasquez returned, shuffling Franklin back to left guard.
  • Sunday's game marked the first regular-season contest since the Week 15 loss to San Diego last December in which the Broncos did not have either a 100-yard rusher or receiver. The streak began when wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker each hit triple digits at Houston on Dec. 22, 2013, starting a stretch on the receiving side that lasted 13 games until it was snapped at Kansas City in Week 13. Anderson's 168-yard night against the Chiefs kept the overall 100-yard streak alive another week.
  • Three defensive players saw action on every defensive snap: safeties T.J. Ward and Rahim Moore and linebacker Brandon Marshall. Quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive Will Montgomery, Manny Ramirez and Orlando Franklin played every snap on offense. Linebacker Lamin Barrow had the most snaps on special teams, seeing action on 18 plays in the third phase.

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