GLENDALE, Ariz. — In the moments after he backed up his guarantee, Von Miller gripped the podium in the visiting media room at State Farm Stadium and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
“It’s over with,” Miller said with a smile. “Honestly, it puts a whole lot of pressure on me.”
He and his Broncos teammates handled that pressure just fine on Thursday, as they made an early defensive statement and kept the big plays coming in a 45-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Two pick-sixes. Three total interceptions. Six sacks. Three forced fumbles.
It’s the kind of performance Miller imagined when he walked out to the Broncos’ podium on Tuesday and told the Denver media that the Broncos were “going to kick [the Cardinals’] ass.”
“Honestly, it wasn’t even for the Cardinals,” said Miller after Thursday’s win. “It was for my teammates. It was just to put us in that mentality [of] ain’t no backing down now. I think we have a great football team. We have great leadership: great GM, great owner, great coaches. We’ve got great players. And I just thought what we were missing is the confidence part of it. I thought about it. That’s not even like me. That’s not like me.
“But I thought it was the best thing to do to get my teammates going, and it’s great. It worked.”
His teammates, once they heard Miller was thinking about making a proclamation, had no plans to let him down.
“Before he said it, … he said, ‘If I say this, are y’all going to have my back? Are we really going to go out there and do it?’” Bradley Roby said. “And we said, ‘Yeah, we got you, we got you.’ So when he said it, stuck his neck out there, we backed him up. That’s what you’ve got to do as a team.”
Emmanuel Sanders also spoke to the team, saying after one practice this week that they had to have Miller’s back.
The defense made sure that was never an issue.
Todd Davis hauled in a deflected pass on the second snap from scrimmage and bolted 20 yards into the end zone to give the Broncos a first-minute lead.
They followed with a three-and-out.
After allowing just one of the Cardinals’ two scoring drives of the evening, they essentially put the finishing touches on a win when Chris Harris Jr. picked off another Josh Rosen pass and took it 53 yards to the end zone.
For good measure, the defense closed out the first quarter by forcing another three-and-out.
“I was really impressed,” Head Coach Vance Joseph said. “The guys challenged. We got back to what we do best; that’s rushing five and playing man-free on first and second down. It’s been built that way for a long time.”
At halftime, the Cardinals were 0-for-7 on third down and had just 82 net yards. Rosen had 43 passing yards to his own team … and 73 to the Broncos.
Miller’s plan was fully in motion.
“Obviously Von had some comments earlier in the week about guaranteeing a win, but easy to say, hard to do,” Joseph said. “I was proud of how he played tonight. You can speak those words, but you’ve got to back them up. He did that today. His teammates also backed him up.”
In the second half, the Cardinals put more points on the board, but Rosen and the offense still couldn’t escape Miller and the Denver defense.
On Arizona’s second drive of the second half, Miller raced around the edge and appeared to knock the ball away from Rosen. Brandon Marshall recovered, and the Denver defense rushed off the field.
But a review overturned the call on the field. Rosen’s arm was going forward, which gave the Cardinals another opportunity.
It was Miller — not Arizona — that made the most of it.
Two plays later, on third-and-four, Rosen tried to step up in the pocket and rush for the first down. Miller was there to meet him, and this time clearly knocked the ball away. DeMarcus Walker recovered, and this time it counted.
For good measure, Miller strip-sacked Rosen again later, and this time he nearly picked it up and returned it for a touchdown.
The rest of the defense was just as good. After Zach Kerr and Shaquil Barrett recorded sacks in the first half, rookie Bradley Chubb added two sacks of his own, including one where he knocked the ball away from Rosen.
Roby tacked on an interception.
“It was great,” Miller said. “It really helped us get out of a slump, especially after these last four weeks. It’s great to go out there and do your job. We talk week in and week out, I come up here and stand in front of the podium, point the finger at myself, say ‘I’ve got to do a better job. I’ve got to do a better job.’ It’s great to go out there and do your job. I was able to get some sacks today. We had a great inside rush from Wolfe, Zach Kerr, Shaq — and we just started the game on fire. Todd Davis with a pick-six, and a couple plays later, Chris Harris with a pick-six.
“My teammates played unbelievable today. I’m so proud of those guys.”
Sure seems like the guarantee worked out quite well, even if there are no current plans for another one. Miller said he’d rather stay 1-for-1 in the prediction department.
That is, unless the media is looking for a weekly guarantee. In that case, No. 58 just might oblige.
With 10 days until a date with Kansas City, though, Miller isn’t saying just yet.
“You gotta catch me on Wednesday,” Miller said with a laugh. “You gotta catch me on Wednesday.”