Broncos put themselves back in the Super Bowl conversation

C.J. Anderson, Jabaal Sheard earn game balls for Broncos, Patriots

Broncos NFL Nation reporter Jeff Legwold and Patriots reporter Mike Reiss gave game balls to Broncos running back C.J. Anderson and Patriots defensive end Jabaal Sheard after Denver's 30-24 overtime win.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- At 28 years old, Denver Broncos safety David Bruton Jr. doesn’t look like your average elder statesmen.

But in the jubilation that surrounded him in the locker room Sunday night, Bruton was the Broncos’ longest-tenured player. He was a 2009 draft pick, and that means he has worn the team colors longer than any other player on the roster.

And after Sunday night’s 30-24 overtime win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots, Bruton was quick to say where what transpired on a snowy night in the Mile High City ranked highly among the regular-season games he has been a part of.

"This one? Regular season? Definitely up there, way up there. I mean, they come in undefeated, they’re up 14-nothing," Bruton said. "It shows you how resilient, how capable we are. Losing guys, adversity, whatever, not to worry about the perception of New England this week, just worry about the guys we’re actually playing. So put all of that together and it was definitely up there, if not number one. Probably number one. I can’t think of one better."

The Broncos showed they could overcome the loss of six starters to injury, three of whom left before halftime. They also showed their 25-year-old quarterback, Brock Osweiler, continues to be the poster passer for the old way of development -- the wait-to-play method -- as he has now won his first two starts, 43 months after he was a second-round pick in 2012.

And the Broncos showed that when their run game is dialed in, when their defense is at its take-charge best, they are, without question, a Super Bowl contender.

Asked what Sunday’s win meant, linebacker Brandon Marshall said, "It means we can beat anybody, because it’s true."

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, through all of the runs for no gain or lost yardage, through all of the interceptions, kept saying he could see what his team could be if everything else caught up to the defense, which has been title-worthy since the opener. Over and over again Kubiak said the Broncos had "the right stuff."

And Sunday night the Broncos needed every bit of the right stuff to put themselves back in the championship picture. Britton Colquitt shanked his first punt -- it went 25 yards -- and the Patriots turned that gift-wrapped field position into a four-play touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead before the game was four minutes old.

On the Broncos’ fourth possession, Patriots defensive end Jabaal Sheard powered his way past right tackle Michael Schofield and hit Osweiler’s arm. The resulting pop-up was intercepted by Chandler Jones at the Denver 15-yard line. The Patriots turned that into a three-play scoring drive for a 14-0 lead.

Those were the kind of plays that, in winning five of the previous six meetings between these teams, the Patriots have turned into an avalanche of football despair for the Broncos.

"Not this time, not this night," Bruton said. "They were missing guys, we were missing guys. They made plays, we made plays. We got the stop on defense we needed in overtime -- that three-and-out --– and our offense went to work."

"We’ve got a long way to go," Kubiak said. "I love the way they compete. … I just think they’re growing in their strength as a group because of some of the adversity that we’re having -- missing this guy, missing that guy, things happening, but yet they keep going. That’s a positive thing in this league because this league is about overcoming adversity many, many times over, not just once."

The Broncos are 9-2, back at the AFC's grown-up table with five games left. They'll have to keep winning to keep the position they earned Sunday night.

"This is what football is all about," Von Miller said. "Snowing, every break you’ve got guys coming out there clearing the lines, clearing the hashmarks, this is what the NFL is about … winning games like these, seeing what you can do. When we needed plays, we made plays. When things were rough, we kept fighting. And when we had a chance to close it out, we closed it out."