With rookie tight end Greg Dulcich placed on injured reserve ahead of Sunday's game, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam had a chance to prove that he can once again be a major part of the Broncos' offense — and in Denver's Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs, he did exactly that.
Okwuegbunam was a productive receiver in 2021, ranking fifth among all Broncos in receiving yards. It has been a different story this season; prior to Sunday's game, Okwuegbunam was inactive for seven games, did not see the field in two others and took just 18 snaps since Week 3. But with an opportunity to play against Kansas City, he caught three passes for 45 yards and his first touchdown since Week 14 of the 2021 season.
"We practiced all week," Okwuegbunam said. "I knew I was going to get some opportunities. Thankful I could capitalize on some. Could have been better, for sure, but overall, I'm just proud of our guys and how we fought today."
The third-year tight end has faced adversity throughout the season, but he remained resilient in the hope that his opportunity would come.
"'A.O.' [Albert Okwuegbunam], I'm proud [of] him," Russell Wilson said after the game. "To be able to step in — he hasn't played, really, much all year. I know he played in the Seattle game, played a couple other games, and then Dulcich came back. That's challenging, as a man, as a player, to be out that long, and I thought that Albert O. did a great job of working through every week, even though he knew he wasn't going to play, and it showed up today. He had a lot of great moments. ... Getting that touchdown was really big for us, so I'm really excited for him."
Despite it coming in the Broncos' penultimate game of the season, Okwuegbunam noted that this performance means a lot to him as he looks to reestablish himself in Denver's offense.
"Grateful that I got an opportunity, even if it was towards the end of the season," Okwuegbunam said. "There are a lot of things that happened this season that are out of my control, but I'm just glad to come out here and contribute today."
Below the Fold
With an interception in the end zone in the second quarter, safety Justin Simmons recorded his sixth pick of the season — the most interceptions in a single season in his career. Simmons noted after the game that while he may receive the credit for the play, it was the result of a full team effort by the Broncos' defense.
"Pretty poor coverage on my end, but our rush did such a good job," Simmons said. "Maybe [Patrick] Mahomes felt some pressure, rolled out, and all you need is a split second most times to catch up. In the red zone, things happen so fast. Like I said, our rush did such a good job. It felt like they got to him a little bit, from what I remember, and [when] I saw the open receiver for a second, I was able to close and make a play. It was a defensive effort; it wasn't an individual play, necessarily, by me. I was the beneficiary of it, but it was a great defensive effort down there."