For those wondering whether Von Miller’s still got it, the Broncos outside linebacker didn’t wait long to provide an answer Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. Four snaps to be exact.
Racing through the line of scrimmage on a 1st-and-10 at the Denver 30, Miller sniffed out a misdirection play to receiver Kadarius Toney on a jet sweep and dragged him to the ground for a 6-yard loss. Two plays later, the Giants’ threat was extinguished — forced to punt on their first foray into Broncos territory.
An early statement for Miller, back for the first time since an ankle injury cost him the 2020 season. And a tone-setter for the defense, retooled during the offseason to dominate teams such as the Giants.
“It’s just another day at the office, man, especially in the National Football League,” an unimpressed Miller said postgame. “It’s a lot of ups, it’s a lot of downs.”
Go ahead and put Sunday in the “ups” side of the ledger for Miller and the Broncos’ defense.
With a bend-but-don’t break performance that has been a signature of coach Vic Fangio’s units, the Broncos held the Giants to seven points before quarterback Daniel Jones ran in a meaningless touchdown on the final play of a 27-13 victory.
And Miller was a big part of the defense’s dominance, compiling two sacks, a tackle for loss and two QB hits in his first regular-season game since Dec. 29, 2019 — and first game since becoming a father to his son, Valor, this summer.
“It was probably important for him just to get something like that going,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said of Miller’s quick start. “Sometimes players like that feed off that.”
That’s exactly what happened for Miller.
His first sack came on the Giants’ second series, not long after his opening tackle for loss. Facing third-and-2 on their own side of the field, the Giants dialed up a pass. Lined up opposite right tackle Nate Solder, Miller gave him a shimmy/juke to put him off balance, then powered past him and directly onto a turtling Jones.
The second sack came with the Broncos leading 27-7 in the fourth, with Miller displaying his trademark burst off the edge to get to Jones untouched in 2.06 seconds and notch his 108th career sack.
A knee shuffling celebration followed, with whatever worry remained about Miller’s surgically repaired ankle long since vanished.
“In pregame I was thinking about it,” Miller said. “I did a couple of cuts on it, just to feel it out, and it felt great. After that I warmed up on it and it was out of sight, out of mind.”
Underscoring Miller’s performance was the fact that it came with outside linebacker Bradley Chubb inactive. The Broncos’ 2018 first-round pick was held out of Sunday’s game with an ankle injury of his own. But that didn’t stop Miller from harassing Jones or the Broncos defense from stuffing the Giants.
Running back Saquon Barkley managed just 26 yards on 10 carries, with Jones the team’s leading rusher (6-27).
New York drove into Denver territory six times but came away with only 13 points, including the game-ending garbage TD.
Miller’s tackle for loss ended the first of those threats. Inside linebacker Josey Jewell forced a Jones fumble to end another threat in the third quarter after the ball was recovered by Reed at the Broncos’ 13. And cornerback Kyle Fuller responded to a pass interference flag that put the Giants at the Broncos’ 7 with 7:18 left in a 20-7 game by breaking up two passes — the last in one-on-one coverage against Kenny Golladay in the end zone.
Outside of a missed tackle from rookie cornerback Pat Surtain II on Sterling Shepard’s 37-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter, it was a strong opening statement for a defense that figures to be the strength of this year’s team. And no performance spoke louder than Von’s.
“This team is just totally different,” Miller said. “We got some of the same coaches, some of the same players, it’s just totally different. We have a totally different mindset, we have a mindset of it takes what it takes, and we want to do whatever to get it.”
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