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Win Column: The key plays that helped the Broncos edge past the Green Bay Packers

So far this season, games at Empower Field at Mile High have had a flair for the dramatic — three of the Broncos' four home games have been decided by two points or fewer — and Sunday's clash between the Broncos and Green Bay Packers continued the trend. After Denver built a commanding 16-3 lead through a productive running game and stout defense, the Packers battled back to take a late 17-16 lead. In the final minutes, the Broncos reclaimed the advantage on a 52-yard Wil Lutz field goal and sealed the win on safety P.J. Locke's first career interception. The contest's slight margin made every play and decision matter even more. Here's a look at seven of the most impactful snaps that secured Denver's captivating 19-17 victory.

Denver's pass rush, CB Pat Surtain II's coverage combine for third-down incompletion

Situation: Defending third-and-7 from the Denver 46, 2:46 remaining in the first quarter, Denver leading 3-0

Breakdown: The story of the first half was the Broncos' defensive shutout of the visitors. Denver forced Packers quarterback Jordan Love to play conservatively, limiting him to 47 passing yards on his 13 first-half passing attempts, and kept Green Bay's run game in check. The Packers didn't manage to compile a drive of more than 20 yards until their fourth drive, which came midway through the second quarter. The Broncos' third-down stop on the Packers' second offensive drive was emblematic of the synergy between the consistent pressure on Love and their shutdown pass coverage. Outside linebacker Baron Browning, defensive end Zach Allen and outside linebacker Nik Bonitto collapsed the pocket on Love, forcing him to make a quick decision to throw deep toward wide receiver Jayden Reed along the left sideline. Cornerback Pat Surtain II evaded a pick from Green Bay receiver Christian Watson just off the line of scrimmage and was all over Reed by the time the ball arrived. Surtain swiftly batted the pass down to deny the catch and bring up fourth down, sending the Packers' punt unit out once again.

They Said It: "We stay confident. We stay poised, no matter what is happening throughout the game. That's what winning teams do. Just stay calm, cool and collected in the heat of the battle and of course that is what we did, and we came through huge." – Surtain

QB Russell Wilson breaks free for a 21-yard keeper to move Denver into the red zone

Situation: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 38, 0:22 remaining in the second quarter, Denver leading 6-0

Breakdown: The Broncos took over possession after Packers kicker Anders Carlson missed his 43-yard field-goal attempt, and instead of playing conservatively with just over 40 seconds remaining, Denver's offense looked to extend its lead. While wide receiver Jerry Jeudy's catch advanced the Broncos to midfield, quarterback Russell Wilson's 21-yard scamper a few plays later made Lutz' attempt at a last-second field goal much easier. Wilson escaped pressure from the pocket, pump-faked to lead Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon in the wrong direction, then leapt over a diving tackle attempt by Nixon to keep his balance and pick up the first down. Wilson wasn't done, tacking on extra yardage before going down at the Green Bay 17-yard line. Lutz nailed the 35-yard field goal to give the Broncos a 9-0 lead at halftime, and the 50-yard field-goal drive — which only took 36 seconds of game time — proved critical at the end of the game. 

They Said It: "I thought [Wilson] did well. We got the win. He handled the plan well. [He] made plays outside the pocket. Overall, I thought he did a good job." – Head Coach Sean Payton

RB Javonte Williams breaks a 21-yard rush to spark Broncos' touchdown drive

Situation: First-and-10 from the Denver 43, 9:52 remaining in the third quarter, Denver leading 9-3

Breakdown: Establishing the run game in the second half has been a priority for the Broncos in 2023, and the Broncos' rushing attack accomplished that objective in the second half. Running back Javonte Williams recorded 50 of his season-high 82 rushing yards in the second half and jump-started the Broncos' lone touchdown drive with a 21-yard burst. Williams stiff-armed a tackle attempt by Nixon in the backfield and found the open field, then lowered his head to finish off a 21-yard run. According to NFL Next Gen Stats' model, Williams was expected to not gain any yardage on the play, and the 21 Rush Yards Over Expected on the play that Williams registered was the fifth-best gain by any player in Week 7 through Sunday night. 

They Said It: "We felt like we were going to be able to [run the ball]. We thought that was going to be important. It's a really good front, rushing the passer — we just did not want to get in that game. … I thought the runners did a good job with it." – Payton

Broncos find the end zone on WR Courtland Sutton's 18-yard touchdown reception

Situation: Third-and-4 from the Green Bay 18, 6:22 remaining in the third quarter, Denver leading 9-3

Breakdown: Wide receiver Courtland Sutton was electric against the Packers' secondary, corralling six passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. He was especially effective on third down, and Payton schemed up an isolation play to make the most of Sutton's strength and 6-foot-4 frame. Through Sutton's presnap motion, Wilson identified Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas' man coverage on Sutton and stayed with the call rather than pivoting to a zone-attacking play. Wilson let the play develop, then lofted an 18-yard pass to a wide-open Sutton for a pivotal touchdown. The score was Sutton's fifth touchdown reception of the season, most through seven games by a Denver wide receiver since Demaryius Thomas in 2014. 

They Said It: "That was a great call by Coach. We wanted to get him isolated. Courtland did a good job of getting open, I think the receivers did a great job, too, of helping him. I think the big thing is, is that the guys up front gave me enough time to drop back and read it all out and go through my reads and then hit Courtland for a huge touchdown, which was another big moment." – Wilson

RB Javonte Williams rumbles to the right sideline for a clutch third-down conversion

Situation: Third-and-1 from the Denver 34, 7:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, Green Bay leading 17-16

Breakdown: Green Bay scored touchdowns on consecutive drives in the third and fourth quarters to take a 17-16 lead, but the Broncos' offense didn't flinch. Needing a third-and-1 conversion to keep their drive alive and respond to the Packers' touchdowns, the Broncos looked to their offensive line to fend off the Packers' front seven and open up space for Williams. The line more than did its job; Williams cleanly fielded a pitch from Wilson and ran untouched off the right end before being pushed out of bounds for a six-yard gain. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey and tight end Chris Manhertz were essential to the play's success, dominating their assignments to spring up the right side for Williams to make his move.  

They Said It: "I told the guys we just have to have a great belief. Let's just play clean, get up and down the field and do right. Jerry had some big catches. [RB Samaje] Perine did some great things. I thought we got down the field [with] Javonte. Courtland had a great day. It really started with the guys up front. They are the guys that made the difference in a close game like that." – Wilson

K Wil Lutz connects on a go-ahead 52-yard field goal

Situation: Fourth-and-5 from the Green Bay 34, 3:54 remaining in the fourth quarter, Green Bay leading 17-16

Breakdown: Kicker Wil Lutz had the sort of performance that made the preseason trade that brought him to Denver look like one of the Broncos' shrewdest offseason moves. Lutz made all four of his field goal attempts and his extra point attempt, and in a case of déjà vu, he replicated his Soldier Field heroics to give the Broncos a late lead. After sinking the Bears with a 51-yard field goal in Week 4, Lutz hit from 52 yards away to turn a Packer lead into a Denver advantage. Lutz has not missed an attempt since Week 1, and he proved to a be a difference-maker on Sunday.

They Said It: "I like his makeup — it's why we brought him here. I've seen him do it. Obviously, that's a big kick. He's had a handful of them. Chicago was very similar. [I'm] proud of him and good to see how he's hitting it. He's flushing it well." – Payton

S P.J. Locke's first-career interception seals the game

Situation: Defending third-and-20 from the Green Bay 46, 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, Denver leading 19-17

Breakdown: Filling in for starting safety Kareem Jackson, fourth-year safety and special-teams standout P.J. Locke emerged as the Denver defense's unlikely hero in the final minutes. Locke was tasked with playing half the field, and Love's deep pass attempt required him to sprint across the field to prevent a game-changing completion. Locke did more than that, securing his first career interception before sliding to preserve possession and give the ball to the Broncos' offense. All-Pro safety Justin Simmons said after the game that the Packers ran a perfect offensive play for Denver's coverage, but that Locke's spectacular interception foiled that and was "a play that not a lot of guys can make." 

They Said It: "Honestly, I wanted to tear up. Just felt like all of my emotions bottled up. I just wanted to celebrate with my guys. I finally got my first pick, many more to come. Just all of the stuff I've been through, at that moment I felt it." – Locke

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