When the Broncos' rivalry against Tom Brady was at its strongest, Peyton Manning and Brady battled on an annual basis, Von Miller came screaming around the edge and Empower Field at Mile High was blanketed in orange.
The scene will be just a little different when Brady jogs out onto the Empower Field at Mile High grass this weekend for a Week 3 matchup between the Broncos and Buccaneers.
There will be just 5,700 fans in the stands, Jeff Driskel will be at quarterback for the Broncos, Brady will be wearing a new jersey and Miller will be far from the line of scrimmage.
Miller suffered a potentially season-ending ankle injury in early September, and that ailment will keep him from chasing Brady on Sunday afternoon. Since Miller was drafted in 2011, the Broncos faced Brady 10 times, and Miller was active in all but one of those games.
In nine appearances against one of the most accomplished players in NFL history, Miller has tallied 7.5 sacks, an interception, a touchdown and two forced fumbles.
And while Brady's jersey may be cleaner Thursday because Miller isn't playing, the six-time Super Bowl champion said he will miss playing against the Super Bowl 50 MVP.
"I've played a lot of meaningful games against him," Brady said during his media availability on Thursday. "There's nobody that's more of an incredible player than him. It's tough to see guys miss football seasons and guys [that are] in the prime of their career. He's as good of a player as there is on the defensive side of the ball in NFL history. He's just exceptional in every way. So, it's tough to miss him. I've got a chance to get to know him a little bit over the years, and [I've] enjoyed my time with him. I hope he gets back out there healthy, and I'm sure he'll be back [to] being the great player that he is next year."
With the way the NFL schedule rotates, this could be the last time Brady travels to Denver if he stays with the Buccaneers. The Bucs wouldn't be slated to return until 2028, if the NFL scheduling formula remains the same.
"I've played there a lot being in the AFC all those years," Brady said. "Traveling to Denver — [having] playoff games in Denver — it's an electric atmosphere. I don't think we're going to get quite that this coming Sunday, but it's one of the great places in the NFL to play. The stadium's amazing, the setting's amazing.
"'Gronk' [Rob Gronkowski] and I were talking about the 2015 game that we played against them and how crazy that game was. They've just always been well-coached. They are this year. They've got a lot of tough, hard-nosed players. They play in a tough division. We're going to have to play good football to beat them this week."
LIVE TO PLAY ANOTHER DOWN
Drew Lock suffered his shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game against the Steelers as he tried to extend the play and Bud Dupree crashed into him as he stumbled.
On Thursday, Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said quarterbacks "eventually learn" when they can extend a play and when they have to get rid of the ball.
"I think that comes with playing," Shurmur said. "I think the important piece is to develop and stick to the fundamentals. For quarterbacks, you obviously have to be tough, but you also have to make good decisions and have a sense of timing and throw the ball accurately. Those are three things that are a must. So that sense of timing is not only when to throw the ball, but it's also knowing when to end a play and throw it away or run and get outside of the pocket. The timing is such that you just know it and feel it, and he [Lock] has that innate ability. Young players tend to think they're a little bit more heroic than guys who have been through it, so it's just something that comes with experience."
KEEPING IT GOING
Justin Simmons picked off a Ben Roethlisberger pass on Sunday, and Shelby Harris knocked a fumble loose from Benny Snell Jr. that Kareem Jackson recovered.
The Broncos aren't satisfied with those totals, though, and they'll look to increase their output against a Buccaneers team that has turned the ball over five times in two weeks. That total ranks 31st in the NFL.
"We need four this week," Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said. "It was a great thing because we were in the locker room at halftime, and we weren't feeling too good about ourselves. The defense responded and got us two quick ones in the second half and got the ball rolling and got us back into the ball game, so we want to build on that and make it snowball."