The Vonster — Super Bowl 50 MVP, defensive juggernaut, perennial Pro Bowler and heart of the Broncos defense — made his triumphant return to the field on Sunday. Von Miller, who missed the duration of the 2020 season with an ankle injury, saw his first regular-season action since December of 2019, and the star outside linebacker did not disappoint.
At 32, Miller returned from injury to chatter about his production at this stage of his career. Against the Giants, Miller silenced it all. At MetLife Stadium, Miller rumbled into the backfield in typical havoc-wreaking fashion to record two sacks on QB Daniel Jones and three tackles for loss.
"The Broncos could not have reasonably expected more from Von Miller," The Athletic's Nick Kosmider said.
Miller was not simply a sack machine in Sunday's win; he also made a handful of big plays that were key to containing the Giants' offense.
"Racing through the line of scrimmage on a 1st-and-10 at the Denver 30, Miller sniffed out a misdirection play to receiver Kadarius Toney on a jet sweep and dragged him to the ground for a 6-yard loss," The Denver Post's Matt Schubert said.
That tackle for loss was more than just a good play; it turned the tide of the game in Denver's favor almost immediately. Three plays later, the Giants punted. And Miller reclaimed his place atop the Broncos defense.
"That play clearly illustrated an explosiveness the 32-year-old linebacker still possesses," Kosmider said.
The Broncos put a premium on bulking up their defense this offseason, re-signing key contributors and adding playmakers in the secondary. With so much invested on the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos have sky-high expectations for their defense. And much of that weight sits on Miller's shoulders; his success will be crucial to the Broncos' postseason hopes this year.
"For the Broncos defense to live up to its high expectations this year, Denver needs Sunday's performance to only be the start of a monster season for Von," The Denver Post's Kyle Newman said.
And so far, so good for Miller, according to Newman.
"Right now, he's on pace for… 34 sacks," Newman said.
While Miller won't maintain that sack rate over the course of the season, he certainly looked like the disruptive playmaker Broncos Country has loved for over a decade.
Miller also brought back the antics and game-day spirit he's become famous for, with an unusual celebration dance after his second sack in the fourth quarter.
"A knee shuffling celebration followed [his sack on Jones], with whatever worry remained about Miller's surgically repaired ankle long since vanished," Schubert said.
But for Miller, the celebrations and the individual accomplishments are not the focus this season. It's all about coming together as a team and making it back to the postseason.
"Sacks are good," Miller said in the locker room after the game, "but wins are better."
Below the Fold
The Broncos committed to the run early on in their matchup vs. the Giants in Week 1, and it paid off in a big way when RB Melvin Gordon III broke free for a 70-yard score late in the fourth quarter.
With the help of a key block from TE Eric Saubert, Gordon found a hole and kicked on the afterburners, blowing past Giants defenders into the end zone.
That touchdown cemented a victory for the Broncos, who went on to win the game 27-13.
Gordon finished the game with 11 rushes for 101 yards and a score, which was the longest run play of the week. He also topped out at the highest speed among all ball carriers, finishing as the fastest RB or WR in Week 1 at 21.52 mph, according to Next Gen Stats.
Gordon even took to Instagram after the win to highlight his speed, tagging EA Sports' Madden NFL 22 account and reminding its ratings adjusters that his speed rating in the game deserves a boost. For reference, Gordon already has a 91 speed rating (out of a possible 99) in Madden 22.
Gordon flashed his explosive potential in open space on Sunday and helped to seal a win for the Broncos in Week 1. It was a commanding start to the season for the veteran back, who also earned a nomination for FedEx Ground Player of the Week honors thanks to his performance.