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Next-Day Notebook: Defense has one for the books


Ray tallies first NFL sack**
In the first quarter of the Broncos win over the Vikings, outside linebacker Shane Ray tallied his first sack of his rookie NFL career.

"Just one of our play calls, I was able to beat the tackle inside on a move, came free and got to [Vikings QB] Teddy [Bridgewater]," Ray said. "I wasn't going to miss my first sack, I just wrapped up for sure."

Ray has sharpened his skills under Pro Bowlers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware since arriving in Denver, and was more than happy to reap the initial rewards of his hard work.

The Broncos held off the Vikings as the defense once again forced a turnover to end the game.

"It's just me taking steps," Ray said. "Every week, I want to be better than I was the week before and to just take advantage of every opportunity that I get. I was able take advantage on one today and get a sack. It felt good and now I just feel like there are more to come. I need to take more steps."

Just four games into the 2015 season, there will be more opportunities for the Broncos' 2015 first-round pick to his showcase his burgeoning talents.

But for now, when asked if any sack has ever felt better, Ray said, "I don't think so. My first NFL sack felt pretty good, I can say that."

The more open the receiver, the harder the pass
What's the most nerve-wracking pass for veteran quarterback Peyton Manning? A toss to a wide open receiver, which was exactly what he got to start the third quarter.

To extend Denver's lead to 10 points, Manning hit tight end Owen Daniels on fourth down from the Vikings' 1-yard line as Daniels slipped unnoticed on a play-action pass toward the left corner of the end zone, but turns out it was harder than it looked.

"I'm telling you, I'd rather throw it in between two guys probably than have that wide open one," Manning said. "You see it too many times -- just don't miss a layup, as they say. I think it's all on the receiver, as well, because it's an easy one to lose your concentration on."

Daniels felt it, too, with the pressure on him to haul in the pass. But with a catch in 107 consecutive games—the longest streak for any tight end in the NFL—Daniels is nothing if not consistent.

"Yeah, those are probably the hardest throws to make and the hardest catches to make," Daniels said. "You just have to think to yourself,' Just catch it.' It seemed like it was in the air forever, but Peyton did a great job of getting it there."

Ward enjoys Phillips' aggressive defense
Safety T.J. Ward relishes the aggressive play calling from Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips.

On multiple occasions, the Broncos' safeties stepped up into a 3-5 alignment, giving Ward (and David Bruton Jr.) opportunities to get after Bridgewater twice in the Broncos' win.

"I'd definitely love to attack more like we do on a regular basis," Ward said. "We don't sit back too well as a defense. As you could see on that drive, we sat back in cover two and they kept finding holes, but definitely we like to attack more in that type of situation and make them do things they don't want to do."

Ward tallied his first sack in the first quarter, but his second sealed the Broncos' win. His sack on Bridgewater forced a fumble that was recovered by Miller with 35 seconds remaining.

"You know it's more 'Just get the guy,'" said Ward of that final defensive play. "I came around the corner and I saw I had him, and I didn't know I could strip him until I got right there at the last minute. That's the milliseconds this game creates for you to make a play or not."

Ward is just the second defensive back in Broncos history to notch two sacks and a forced fumble after safety John Lynch in 2005. Ward is now the only NFL safety to post at least one sack in each of the last five seasons.

"[The defense] allows me to make a lot of plays at a lot of different positions and it allows everybody else to make plays," Ward said. "I think there was about six guys that made huge plays today and that's kudos to coach Wade's defense."

With the Broncos' win, the following promotions are available:

  • Papa John's is offering the "If the Broncos win, you win!" promotion, giving fans in Colorado 50 percent off all orders on Monday.
  • McDonald's is offering $1 Big Macs or $1 sausage egg McMuffins the day on Monday, and 30 percent off any jersey in the Broncos team store.

The Broncos have gained an early lead against the Vikings in the first half.

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