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Demaryius Thomas plays 'inspired football' as he moves past Shannon Sharpe

DENVER — The first mark fell on a play that wasn't initially called.

On second-and-10 from the New York 20-yard line, Demaryius Thomas' was set to run a comeback route. Ahead of the play, though, Trevor Siemian audibled Thomas to a go route, and Thomas took off down the right sideline at the snap.

Siemian, who was decked as he threw, unleashed the pass and likely lost his sight line of the play. The rest of the stadium, though, could see Thomas shed Morris Claiborne and rip the ball out of the air.

"I wish we would have thrown a couple more of those, to be honest with you," Siemian said. "But we wanted to throw some go balls to our guys this week. Especially knowing these guys were going to challenge us. I wish we could have got to it more, to be honest with you. Heck of a catch."

In the game, the catch meant a 9-0 lead for the Broncos.

In Thomas' career, it meant far more.

Touchdown No. 56 pushed Thomas past Shannon Sharpe and into second place on the Broncos' all-time touchdown receptions list.

"I'm so happy for him," Emmanuel Sanders said. "I'm so proud of him. That's my best friend on the team. I don't think even he knew he was that close, and then when I looked on the board I said, 'Man, that's one hell of an accomplishment.' I walked up to him and I said, 'Now you've got to go get Rod.' So Rod, you better watch out, even though you're my guy."

Thomas moved past Sharpe again later on, when Siemian found him for a 25-yard pickup to the New York 34-yard line. He would finish the game with eight receptions and 93 yards — and 8,475 yards in his career.

"He played inspired football," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "I challenged those guys last night — all of our team leaders — to play better football. He came out and he played inspired football. He's second all-time in Broncos history with yards and touchdowns. It speaks to his career, but today he played inspired for us."

Thomas, who has now recorded four touchdowns in his previous six games, didn't draw too much attention to his accomplishments after the game. He said he wouldn't call Sharpe, especially during a stretch like the one the Broncos currently face.

That juxtaposition between Thomas' career accomplishments and the Broncos' 4-9 record seemed difficult for Siemian to reconcile Sunday afternoon, as the quarterback made it clear he feels for the older players in the locker room.

"I think the world of him," Siemian said. "He's such a good player. Even Emmanuel, but D.T. too. People don't see the injuries he plays through and how tough he is. As good of a player as he is, and as much respect I have for him, he's a better teammate. He's a better guy, if you've gotten to know him. I couldn't be [happier] for him.

"This season, I kind of think, those guys don't deserve this season. They deserve more. I'm happy for him, and hopefully all those guys, those vet guys, hopefully we can play well for them going forward."

Thomas echoed that sentiment, and he remains committed to chasing wins — and the Broncos' all-time leading receiver, Rod Smith.

"Man, it means the world," Thomas said. "It just shows the hard work I've put in paying off. I'm going to [continue to] do what I do best, [which is] to try and go out and catch footballs and score touchdowns and try to catch Rod Smith. It means the world, but the only thing that bothers me right now is still that we didn't make the playoffs. You've just got to build from it and keep going."

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