ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Bradley Chubb recorded the highlight strip-sack of Cam Newton that was reminiscent of Von Miller's Super Bowl 50 takeaway.
But it was Malik Reed who may have solidified the Broncos' win over New England.
On Sunday in New England, the Patriots were driving.
After regaining possession with just over three minutes to play and trailing by six points, Newton and New England picked up three first downs and 48yards in relatively quick succession.
As Newton took a shotgun snap on second-and-10 from the Denver 24-yard line with 1:14 to play, the Broncos' hold on the game appeared tenuous. Head Coach Vic Fangio sent six rushers on the second-down play, though, and Reed was left one-on-one with the Patriots' left tackle.
Reed, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound player, bull-rushed Isaiah Wynn, a former first-round pick who stands 6-foot-2, 310 pounds. The undrafted Reed forced Wynn backwards and sacked Newton from behind to set up a third-and-16. The Patriots would regain 6 yards for a final fourth-and-10 attempt, but Newton's pass was incomplete.
"I was one-on-one with the tackle again," Reed told DenverBroncos.com on Tuesday of the sack. "I was able to drive him back a little bit, and I'd seen Cam stepping up from the corner of my eye. So I was able to shed that block, get off him and he ended up stepping up right into me. It was [a] great [play], and I was fortunate enough, blessed enough for it to happen at that point in the game. It was such a critical time, and I'm just thankful, grateful and I'll continue to give all glory to God."
The fourth-down blitz that Fangio sent got most of the attention in the immediate aftermath of the win, but the second-down decision and Reed's well-timed rush were equally as important in securing the Broncos' second win of the season.
"After that fourth-down stop, [my] teammates was congratulating me, telling me how big it was for it to come at that point of the game, to put them behind the sticks and make it hard for them to convert and get that first down," Reed said. "It was a big play in the game, and I'm just glad my teammates [and] coaches can come congratulate me and let me know how big of an impact that sack had on the game and at the end of the game. And I'm just thankful to be a part of such a great win, be a part of a great team. I'm thankful for what's going on here, and I think we've got something special going."
Reed potentially saved a touchdown on the Patriots' previous drive, as well. After a Drew Lock interception, the Patriots took over on the Denver 25-yard line trailing by nine points. Reed immediately forced the Patriots behind the chains with a 5-yard sack, and New England ended up settling for a field goal.
"He's a big dude, so you've got to make sure you definitely come with it when you're coming to tackle him anyway, whether he's in the pocket or outside the pocket," Reed said of Newton.
In the Broncos' win, Reed tallied the first multi-sack game of his young career.
"He put together two good rushes there," Fangio said Monday. "They were rushes where we had an extra guy or two in the rush which helped eliminate the quarterback's ability to step up and wiggle through a space. He took full advantage and they were two great plays by Malik."
Reed has also taken advantage of his opportunities, which have presented themselves in each of his two seasons in Denver because of injuries. A season ago, Reed earned a spot on the Broncos' roster as an undrafted player and carved out playing time after Chubb suffered a torn ACL in Week 4 of the 2019 season. Reed started eight games and appeared in 15 as he posted two sacks, 27 tackles, four tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, one fumble recovery and a pass defense during his rookie season.
This season, Reed and Jeremiah Attaochu split snaps initially after Miller suffered an ankle injury ahead of Week 1, but Reed has seen increased playing time as Attaochu has been held out of the Broncos' last two games with a quad injury. Through five games, Reed is already encroaching on his 2019 totals. He has recorded two sacks, 17 tackles, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a pass defense.
He's done so despite entering the league via different circumstances than many of his teammates in the outside linebackers room. While Chubb and Attaochu attended ACC programs and Von Miller played at a then-Big 12 school, Reed attended the University of Nevada. According to his Rivals profile, the Lobos were the only school to extend an offer to the Dothan, Alabama native.
By late in his collegiate career, though, Reed realized his football career could continue beyond the end of his senior season.
"I feel like it doesn't matter where you come from," Reed said. "There's players from all over. … [There's] a bunch of stories out there from players that didn't get recognition, didn't get all the hype coming out of college, but guys that can play and can affect the game in a major way. And noticing that, noticing that making plays out there on the field and how offenses, how you could attack offenses by certain things that you did, I just felt like I know God had a purpose and a plan for me beyond college. And realizing how when the opportunity presented itself, it's like, 'Yeah, man, really take the bull by the horns and really embrace it,' [and] not think about, 'Oh, I came from Nevada [or] I-AA, not like all these guys from Power 5 schools and stuff like that.' But really you just have to believe in yourself. I feel like in Nevada, that grit-and-grind type of environment, it really helped me develop a mindset and that mentality of coming in here ready to work for everything that you want. I feel like that's the way success comes, not only in the NFL and football, but in life. So I feel like I'm thankful to have gone to Nevada for the journey. Up to this point, it's really made me who I am, so I'm just grateful."
In 2020, Reed is chasing a higher caliber of quarterback than he did during his time with the Lobos. Instead of chasing players like Davis Alexander, Cole McDonald and Ryan Agnew, Reed is now bearing down on quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Sam Darnold.
On Sunday, he'll aim to add Patrick Mahomes to the list of quarterbacks he's sacked.
"This is the next game that we have," Reed said. "They're a great team, but they're the only people we're focused on right now. It's a one-game season, so we're doing everything we can to prepare and get ready for those guys. It's going to take a full-team effort. When you're playing a team like that, a great team that's good in every facet of the game, you really have to bring the whole team. It's going to take the offense, defense and special teams to be able to come out and be successful against those guys.
"It's definitely going to take us all and if we can continue to build upon what we're doing well and get things corrected that we haven't been doing so well, I feel like the sky is the limit."