NEW ORLEANS --One way or another, the "No Fly Zone" was going to win the game.
After causing or scooping up the football four times Sunday, backup safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks teamed up for the final, decisive blow on the Saints. Simmons blocked Will Lutz's extra-point attempt with 1:22 remaining, and Will Parks scooped it up and returned it 84 yards for two points, giving the Broncos a stunning 25-23 win over the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.
Together, Simmons and Parks picked up a defense that allowed a rare late-game lapse -- a 32-yard Drew Brees-to-Brandin Cooks touchdown that saw Cooks beat double coverage from Bradley Roby and T.J. Ward.
But secondary heroics carried the day. Roby forced one fumble which Darian Stewart recovered. Stewart intercepted two passes, and Ward recovered a fumble forced by Jared Crick.
The takeaways led to 13 of the Broncos' 25 points -- with Simmons and Parks providing two more, of course.
- SUSTAIN DRIVES**
The Broncos got off to a good start in this area, marching 85 yards in 13 plays to a game-opening touchdown -- their longest and most productive game-opening drive of the season.
Denver largely avoided the three-and-outs that plagued the team in the last four weeks; just two of the Broncos' first 11 possessions ended without a first down, and the Broncos averaged 32.6 net yards and 2.2 first downs per possession on their first 10 drives. However, those numbers were roughly in line with the averages posted by the Saints' struggling defense heading into Sunday (38.8 net yards and 2.2 first downs allowed per possession, 30th and 28th in the NFL, respectively).
The Broncos had 11 non-kneeldown possessions; the Saints 12. The combined 23 possessions was in line with what the Broncos wanted; New Orleans is 3-0 in games with 25 or more possessions, but 1-5 in all other games.
2. MINIMIZE THE DAMAGE
In the first half, two Saints drives led to just three points, thanks to a Darian Stewart interception when he jumped in front of a deep pass for Travaris Cadet and the defense forcing Drew Brees to settle for a scramble in the red zone just before halftime, forcing the Saints to settle for a Will Lutz field goal.New Orleans finished the game with 23 of a possible 35 points from five possession that crossed the Broncos 35-yard line.
- NO MARGIN FOR ERROR**
It's not a coincidence that the Broncos' first turnover was a key turning point of the game.
The Broncos were driving into field-goal range late in the first half when Trevor Siemian locked onto Emmanuel Sanders, allowing New Orleans cornerback Sterling Moore to jump the route and intercept the second-year quarterback. That jump-started the Saints; it was a six-point swing in the moment, and led to a 17-point Saints run that allowed them to take the lead before the end of the third quarter.
But the Broncos cushioned themselves with four takeaways -- effectively canceling out the giveaways, and then some.