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Mile High Morning: Revisiting the Broncos' top defensive plays from the first half of the season


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The Broncos' defense has made great strides in recent weeks, from holding the Chiefs' offense to a single touchdown in eight quarters to clutch fourth-quarter plays in wins over the Bears and Packers. Here are some of the best defensive plays from the first half of the season, as selected by the staff.

5. OLB Baron Browning's strip sack foils a Kansas City scoring chance, Week 8 vs. Chiefs

The return of outside linebacker Baron Browning in Week 7 paid immediate dividends for the Broncos, but Browning really took off in his second game of the season. The third-year pro strip-sacked Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and Cooper pounced on the football, one of four turnovers the Broncos' defense forced during the contest. Browning finished the game with three quarterback hits, two sacks and the forced fumble.

4. Front-seven gets key fourth-and-1 stop in the red zone, Week 4 at Bears

The Broncos' defensive front stiffened up when it mattered the most against the Bears. When Chicago opted to attempt fourth-and-1 instead of a go-ahead field goal near the end of regulation, Denver's defense was unfazed. Inside linebacker Alex Singleton was credited with the tackle on a shotgun run play by Chicago running back Khalil Herbert, but the entire Broncos' front-seven ensured the play had no chance of success. Five plays later, Denver took the lead for good.

3. CB Pat Surtain II's interception keeps the Broncos in the game, Week 6 vs. Jets

The 2022 first-team All-Pro selection made one of the best plays of his young career in the fourth quarter of the Broncos' Week 6 matchup against the Jets. After Jets quarterback Zach Wilson fired a pass toward wide receiver Garrett Wilson, Surtain stole the ball from Wilson's grasp, then secured the ball between his legs for the takeaway. The interception foiled a New York drive that had advanced deep into Broncos territory and gave Denver's offense possession in a three-point game.

2. S P.J. Locke seals the game with an interception, Week 7 vs. Packers

Reserve safety P.J. Locke made the play of his young career to end Green Bay's hopes for a late comeback in Week 7. Filling in for starting safety Kareem Jackson, Locke raced across the field to pick off a Jordan Love deep pass that would have given Green Bay an easy field-goal attempt for the win. Locke started to return the interception, but he wisely slid to the ground to give the ball back to Denver's offense to finish off the game.

1. OLB Jonathon Cooper records a scoop-and-score touchdown, Week 4 at Bears

By the numbers, Jonathon Cooper's 35-yard fumble return touchdown was one of the most impactful plays of the Broncos' season. Cooper's score, which helped Denver tie the Bears in the fourth quarter, increased the Broncos' probability of a win by 37.2 percent, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Outside linebacker Nik Bonitto's strip-sack of Bears quarterback Justin Fields jarred the ball loose, and Cooper took it to the house for a game-changing touchdown.

Honorable mention: S Kareem Jackson's game-sealing pick, Week 4 at Bears; CB Ja'Quan McMillian's interception, Week 8 vs. Chiefs, ILB Josey Jewell's forced fumble, Week 8 vs. Chiefs

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