DENVER — The play that resulted in wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton's first touchdown of the season could describe Hamilton's entire season.
It was first-and-goal on Detroit's three-yard line in the fourth quarter and quarterback Drew Lock faked a handoff to running back Phillip Lindsay before shoveling the football to Hamilton.
Hamilton lowered his shoulder and pushed through two Detroit defenders into the end zone for the touchdown that gave the Broncos a 20-17 advantage.
The play wasn't glamorous, but it was gritty — the result of a season's worth of hard work and persistence from Hamilton.
"It's like a monkey off your back but, at the same time, I know I've always been able to do stuff like this," Hamilton said. "It took longer than I would have liked to, but God has his own plan and I can't really question His timing."
The touchdown capped Hamilton's best game of the season, as he finished with a career-high 65 yards and as the Broncos' most-productive receiver of the day.
"[I wasn't] necessarily waiting, but hoping that it was going to happen," Hamilton said of his performance. "Staying true to the process, really, and just being ready. Obviously, the pace has been up and down this year … it's just been a game that I've been hoping that had happened a long time ago."
The touchdown celebration was just as fitting, as Tim Patrick knocked helmets with Hamilton and Courtland Sutton hugged Hamilton from behind, tapping him several times on the helmet — Hamilton's fellow wide receivers recognize how hard he's worked to have the game he had.
"The same thing that y'all always talk to me about, [Hamilton and Patrick] do the same thing," Sutton said. "They push me to continue to elevate my game and to be able to see them come out here and have the same success, that's well overdue."
Lindsay joined the celebratory huddle and said postgame he knew he'd be congratulating Hamilton this Sunday.
"I told him before the game that he was going to score a touchdown. It was about his time," Lindsay said. "… Everybody has their time, and I've said that before … It was DaeSean's time, and he stepped up."
Sutton, Patrick and Hamilton often practice catching balls on the jug machine after scheduled practices, and Hamilton frequents the UCHealth Training Center on the players' weekly day off to put in the extra work with the machine.
"[Hamilton and Patrick] work their butts off, week in and week out," Sutton said. "And to see them go out there and have the success they have, man, I was having so much fun just watching them make plays."
Hamilton says the energy from the wide receiver group has mixed with Lock's "swagger" and allowed the group to have their success. And Hamilton has become a favorite target of Lock.
"The guy is super-duper intelligent," Lock said. "Just being able to have the spatial awareness that he does, it helps us out, especially in our type of offense. Him being able to sit up in zones, feel the guys running with him and break off and separate, it makes my life a lot easier as a quarterback, and he had a fantastic game today."
After a year in which Hamilton appeared nearly certain to fall short of his rookie totals, his Week 16 performance put him within 11 yards of last season's receiving yardage. Hamilton could also match his reception and touchdown totals with another strong performance in Week 17.
Perhaps more importantly, he proved he can be a reliable target. Hamilton dropped key passes against both the Raiders and the Chargers, but he hauled in each of his six targets on Sunday.
"He's done well — done better," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "I think we've helped him schematically. Drew's got the confidence in him. He's done a good job catching the ball of late. Getting that shovel pass in the red zone, he had to show some toughness there and he did it. He went and got it."
Hamilton says he's tried not to put too much pressure on himself to step up in lieu of Sutton drawing more attention from opposing defenses.
And Sunday, en route to the Broncos' 27-17 win over the Lions, Hamilton performed the way he knows he can and delivered his best game of the season.
"I feel good," Hamilton said. "Obviously, being able to win and everybody having a great performance — offense and defense — I feel amazing."