JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A week after a game that Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis called "the worst game that I've ever been a part of special teams-wise," the Broncos needed to rebound and reset in Jacksonville. The special-teams unit knew it needed to bounce back, but it could not foresee just how often it would be relied upon Sunday in a must-win game against the Jaguars.
"We had 11 punts, so having a tough day on a day like today would not be beneficial to the team," punter Riley Dixon said.
The Broncos' 11 punts were the most punts in a single game by the franchise since 1992 when punter Ruben Rodriguez also had 11 in a game. Dixon made the most of his work. He pinned the Jaguars inside their own 20-yard line on three separate occasions and notched a 46-yard average.
"It's all the other 10 guys on the field," Dixon said after the game of the unit's strong performance. "Those are the guys that make it happen — keep you protected behind the line or are making plays for you downfield. Kayvon [Webster] made a bunch of big plays … It's those guys that make the plays."
As the coverage unit got back in its groove, the return squad did so while adding a new player into the fold. Until Friday, Kalif Raymond had been working on the practice squad. Then the Broncos made the decision to call him up to the active roster, hoping he could provide a spark in the return game.
"It felt good. I haven't been hit in 10 weeks," Raymond said. "To get roughed up a little bit, it felt pretty good. It feels like football all over again."
In his first professional game, Raymond finished with four punt returns for 40 yards, giving the Broncos offense beneficial field position once he got comfortable — a key necessity for rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch in just his second career start.
The elusive wide receiver, who said the moment "didn't feel too big," did seem a little uneasy on his first career punt return when he ran up to field the short punt near the 30-yard line before retreating and chasing the ball all the way to the 11-yard line.
"It was a short punt, but it had very low hang time. So I knew when I ran up to it, I would have to catch it very, very low or risk it bouncing somewhere else," Raymond described. "I said, 'You know what, let me pull up and see where it lands.' It just happened to roll so far. I would make the same decision again."
However, the rookie recovered after his nerves settled down a little.
"After the first punt, I was pretty anxious," he said. "I was like 'All right, this is just football. It's time to work, time to play.' Once you get the first one down, once you finally get hit the first time, everything else goes away. You just play football at that point."
Though Head Coach Gary Kubiak noted Raymond's initial miscue, he came away impressed with the rookie's play and thought the addition added speed and freshness to the Broncos' special teams.
"I'm encouraged," Kubiak said. "The thing I like, I like his confidence back there. The kid's trying to make plays. That one that he didn't catch, it hurt us field-position-wise. It was very, very difficult to get to. I think he gave us a little juice. He's a lot fresher than some of them other guys out there; you could see it with his speed. So hopefully we can grow from that."