For many fans watching at home, the low point in Sunday's Denver Broncos vs. New Orleans Saints game was seeing Drew Brees calmly flick a long ball that found a double-covered Brandin Cooks in the endzone, tying the score late in the fourth quarter.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1727743-5-ways-denver-showed-impr... It gave the Saints the opportunity to get the go-ahead extra point, while also putting the pressure on Trevor Siemian and the Broncos offense to respond with 1:22 left in the game, in front of a rejuvenated and raucous home crowd.
With the extra point being moved back last season also came the rule change that if the kick were blocked, the ball could be advanced to the endzone for a two-point conversion by the defense. That subtle rule change set the stage for one of the strangest plays that has occurred in an already strange season.
In a heads-up play, D-lineman Jared Crick pinned down the New Orleans long-snapper, creating a gap for rookie safety Justin Simmons to hurdle and put himself directly in the path of the kick. Using every bit of his lanky frame and record-setting NFL Combine vertical leap, Simmons managed to get a hand on the ball and block it, persevering a tie and a shot at winning it on the ensuing possession, or in overtime.
The ball would take a fortunate bounce to fellow rookie safety Will Parks, who would race the rest of the way down the field with a convoy of Broncos for a rare two-point conversion, and the win, in the process. While there was some contention regarding whether Parks stayed in bounds during the return, the play was upheld and Denver escaped the Bayou with a hard fought 25-23 win.
Simmons spoke with the media after the game and recounted his big play.
“I was inching into near where the center was as I was trying to get as close as I could to the center as possible before they snapped it," Simmons said. "I hope I had enough room; obviously I did as they didn’t call anything. My adrenaline was going so fast and all I was trying to do was to clear him (center) and block the kick.
“When the game is on the line, and I am the guy responsible for trying to block the kick, I’m just trying to rush in there and make a play regardless of the ball is low or high or whatever; it doesn’t really matter. We just picked up on a few things from them (Saints) by watching film during the week and executed the play."
Fellow rookie Will Parks was the beneficiary of the block and raced up field untouched for what turned out to be the unlikely game-winning score. Parks explained that it was something that the team had spent time on during preparation for the Saints.
“It’s something we work on in practice all of time," Parks said after the game. "Usually he [Justin Simmons] goes about 42 inches in the air but this time he jumped about 45 inches to get the block! And I was just sitting there and grabbed the ball and all of my teammates just told me to run and I did. I was just running so fast I couldn’t control my feet so I don’t know how close I was [to the sideline];
“I was just moving. I don’t know, I must be living right. This team must be living right. Words cannot describe how I am feeling right now. I mean when we are out there and we have to score and the number one thing is to do that knowing we are down? It was amazing how this game ended."
For both being rookies, Parks and Simmons have been solid contributors to the No Fly Zone and have made several significant plays during this season. Despite their young age, it is a welcome sign that both youngsters aren’t settling for just being in the league but rather doing what they can to help their team win.
The blocked kick from Simmons and the subsequent return by Parks will go down in the annals of wild Broncos finishes. With their clutch play yesterday, it will be remembered and counted with Brandon Stokley's deflected Hail Mary catch that won a game against Cincinnati in 2009, as well Louis Wright’s return of a blocked field goal that would seal a win for Denver against the San Diego Chargers in November of 1985.
Most importantly, Denver gets a hard-fought win and goes into their bye week at 7-3 and still control of their playoff destiny.
When the Broncos return to action against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, Denver will have six tough games down the stretch. With defensive help coming in the form of Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib and lynch-pin defensive end Derek Wolfe — along with the continued development of Parks and Simmons — look for the Broncos to make a strong push for their sixth consecutive playoff berth.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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