Broncos’ surging defense gets three more takeaways in 29-12 win over Browns
DENVER (AP) — No, Sean Payton said, he had no idea what a “Scorigami” was.
It’s a final score that’s never been seen before in NFL history, and that’s just what the Denver Broncos had Sunday in their resounding 29-12 win over the Cleveland Browns that stretched their winning streak to five.
This was their grittiest win yet and the Browns (7-4), who were already without quarterback Deshaun Watson and cornerback Denzel Ward, limped out of Denver with several more worrisome injuries.
Defensive star Myles Garrett left Empower Field with a sling on his left shoulder and has an MRI scheduled for Monday. Rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was knocked from his first road start with a head injury. Amari Cooper (rib) and Jordan Elliott (ankle) also were unable to finish the game.
“I’ve played through things that should have sidelined me before,” Garrett said. “I’m gonna continue to fight and gonna do what’s best for the team and for myself. We have high hopes for this season and what we’re gonna do. And nothing like this is gonna hold us back or me back.”
With the Broncos emerging mostly unscathed, Payton was left entertaining questions about the unique nature of the final score, and he couldn’t believe that this was the first game to finish that way in the history of the league that was founded in 1920.
“You’re saying there’s never been a score 29-12?” he asked incredulously. Never.
Just like that 70-20 loss at Miami in Week 3, he was quickly reminded.
Laughter filled the postgame interview room and Payton cracked a slight smile himself.
“I like the second Scorigami,” he said.
The Broncos (6-5) have recovered from their 1-5 start headlined by that Miami meltdown to jump back into the AFC playoff race with their first five-game winning streak since they started out 7-0 in 2015, when they last reached the playoffs.
“I’ve never doubted in our football team and where we can go,” Russell Wilson said after accounting for two touchdowns in another unalluring but satisfying performance — 13 for 22 for 134 yards, a TD and no interceptions.
“We’re starting to learn,” Wilson said, “what it takes to win.”
With an offense that’s more gritty than pretty.
Behind a defense that’s forcing turnovers at an historic rate.
The Broncos’ three fumble recoveries Sunday gave them 15 takeaways in their last four games, their best such stretch since 1989.
“I think we’ve capitalized on a lot of those,” Wilson said after the Broncos turned two of those turnovers into 10 points to make it a rout.
The Broncos rushed for 169 yards and converted three times in the red zone against the league’s best defense.
“Felt like we didn’t dominate up front like we usually have,” said Garrett, who had just two tackles. “I felt like there was a little bit of leakiness in our run game.”
The Browns missed out on a chance to match their best start since 1999, and now they might have to turn their offense over to recently signed veteran QB Joe Flacco.
Thompson-Robinson was knocked from the game in the second half when he was hit hard by edge rusher Baron Browning just as he released a pass, drawing a late flag although the hit appeared legal. The Broncos sacked his backup, P.J. Walker, four times, including once in the end zone for a safety.
It all started to unravel for the Browns after Thompson-Robinson threw his first career TD pass, a 2-yard toss to tight end Harrison Bryant, in the third quarter. Cooper dropped the 2-point pass that would have tied it, leaving the Browns trailing 14-12.
After a Wil Lutz field goal made it 17-12, defensive tackle D.J. Jones recovered a fumbled reverse at the Cleveland 20-yard line early in the fourth quarter and Wilson threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Adam Trautman to make it 24-12.
Mike Purcell and Alex Singleton also recovered fumbles for Denver, which closed the scoring when Zach Allen tackled Walker in the end zone with 2:17 remaining.
Singleton smothered a loose ball after P.J. Locke, filling in for suspended safety Kareem Jackson, strip-sacked Walker at midfield earlier in the fourth quarter. That led to a field goal that made it 27-12.
Thompson-Robinson was hit just as he released a pass that fell incomplete on third-and-12 from his own 23. Scrambling to avoid several pass rushers, Thompson-Robinson was near his own goal line when he threw the ball and got smacked by Browning.
As Thompson-Robinson lay on the ground, back judge Greg Steed ran over to him and threw a late flag for roughing the passer, sending Cleveland’s punt unit back to the sideline.
The Broncos entered the game with just one rushing touchdown all season and had two more by halftime: Samaje Perine’s 3-yard run and Wilson’s 2-yard keeper that staked Denver to a 14-0 lead before a pair of field goals by Dustin Hopkins made it 14-6 at the break.
Browns: At the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. They will spend the week in Los Angeles, practicing at UCLA, where Thompson-Robinson played in college.
Broncos: At Houston on Sunday in a matchup of AFC playoff contenders.