For the Broncos to hold the Kansas City Chiefs to a single-digit point total and out of the end zone, Denver's defense needed its unheralded players to step up and play at a star level.
Second-year cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian accomplished exactly that on Sunday. McMillian became the first Bronco since Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey in 2004 to record an interception and two tackles for a loss in a single game, and McMillian's big plays made a tremendous impact in a 24-9 Denver win.
All-Pro safety Justin Simmons was one of McMillian's teammates who was impressed by his breakout performance.
"By no means was it perfect — and to be completely honest against a team like that, it's not going to be — but [I'm] proud of the guys with how they fought, especially our front," Simmons said after the game. "I thought [Ja'Quan] stepped up [and] had a great game."
Simmons highlighted McMillian's confidence as a reason his game has made massive strides in recent weeks.
"He's starting to play confidently," Simmons said. "Any time you can go out there and play confidently, you play faster and things slow down for you. He's getting into a rhythm and a flow, and his preparation in terms of his film study throughout the week and asking questions. I think he does such a good job of feeling what the offense is trying to give him and how they're trying to set it up. It's not easy against that team."
McMillian corralled his first career interception early in the second quarter, undercutting a Patrick Mahomes pass that was intended for tight end Travis Kelce to give the Broncos' offense — which had scored touchdowns on two of its first three drives — possession again.
NFL analyst Brian Baldinger broke down what made McMillian's performance so special.
After matching up against some of the game's top players and more than holding his own, McMillian said the Broncos' defense came into the game knowing that they could play at a high level and challenge for a win.
"It's a big achievement," McMillian said. "We knew we could do it. It's not a surprise. We just kept fighting, kept getting stops, kept getting after their quarterback … and we just made plays on the ball at the right time."
McMillian also underscored the importance of attention to detail and relentless drive and effort in pulling off the Broncos' first win against Kansas City since 2015.
"We just played a game we knew we could play all along," McMillian said. "[It] took some time. We had to focus on the small things and kept working and kept getting better stopping the run. We pay our respects to them, the champs, and we just played our hearts out."