Bradley Chubb's road back from a torn ACL was never going to be easy.
Certain athletes have made it seem routine to return from the devastating knee injury, and Chubb made the process seem simple at times over the last year.
Despite tearing his ACL in Week 4 last season, Chubb was running by May and wasn't placed on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list to start training camp. He hit a pothole, as Head Coach Vic Fangio would call it, late in training camp, but he was still available for the team's Week 1 game against the Titans.
The sacks, though, didn't come immediately, and that led to outside speculation about Chubb's health. The former fifth-overall pick was close to recording his first sack Sunday against the Buccaneers, but Tom Brady fell forward for a 1-yard gain.
After Denver's 37-28 win over the Jets on "Thursday Night Football," Chubb is no longer just close.
On a third-and-5 in the second quarter, Sam Darnold re-entered the game after part of two series following a sack by Alexander Johnson. Facing left tackle Mekhi Becton, Chubb fought off a block to gain depth and then took Darnold down for a sack after Shelby Harris nearly tripped him up. Chubb and Harris officially split the sack, but it seems possible the sack could be changed to a solo sack for Chubb upon review.
The sack was Chubb's first quarterback takedown since Week 4 of the 2019 season, when he sacked Gardner Minshew before injuring his knee.
He wouldn't stop there, though, as he sacked Darnold again on third-and-4 early in the fourth quarter to hold New York to a field goal. He then closed out the win by sacking Darnold on fourth-and-3 with just over two minutes to play.
He finished the game with 2.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and five quarterback hits.
"I feel like I'm going to break out every week," Chubb said. "I feel like it's one of those things, like 'OK, I tore my ACL, but that's in the past.' And now I've got to build on these days and these practices and help this team get more wins. Each week I've got to come in with the same mindset and that's what I'm going to continue to do. It does feel like a bit of a breakout when it comes to the injury and everything, but now that I know that I can do it, it's time to do it."
The final sack, in particular, meant a great deal to the former fifth-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. By dragging down Darnold — the third-overall pick in the same draft — he essentially sealed a win for Denver.
"It's huge, because all week we talked about how we can't be the same team that's up two points and the offense drives down with two minutes left, kicks a field goal, and we lose by one," Chubb said. "As a defense, we wanted to put the game in our hands and shut everything down. And to be the leader of that and get the sack on fourth down just feels amazing. Having those guys rally around me and rally around each other is just really cool."
In many ways, it was likely the type of play the Broncos imagined Chubb making when they took him in 2018. And Fangio wasn't surprised he made it.
"He's been back," Fangio said. "I don't think he's back to where he was prior to the injury but we can't forget that this guy is 11 months removed from his ACL surgery. If you talk to anybody who's had that, it takes a little longer before you feel 100 percent. Bradley is fighting through that, some of it is mental.
"This guy is a warrior and he's going to continue to get better and better."