DENVER (AP) — Right when Denver’s defense thought the game was over and its job was finished, back on the field it went.
Two game-saving stops in the closing seconds.
Justin Simmons and Denver held after a fumble gave Washington the ball back, and the Broncos blocked two field goals on their way to a 17-10 win Sunday that stopped a four-game slide.
“You can’t flinch,” Simmons said of the defensive stops. “You expect the game to be over but stuff happens.”
Melvin Gordon III caught a touchdown pass and ran for the go-ahead score from 7 yards out with 4:27 remaining. He also fumbled with 21 seconds to go, giving Washington the ball at the Denver 24-yard line.
The defense forced Taylor Heinicke to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone on the last play of the game.
It looked as if the game was over when Simmons picked off a desperation Heinicke pass in the end zone — he ran it out — with around 37 seconds left. It was Simmons’ second interception of the game.
But Gordon’s fumble gave Washington one more chance.
“What are you going to do, go out there and say, ‘We’re not supposed to be out there,’” Simmons said. “I was really proud of the way we answered the bell. No long faces, no thinking we couldn’t do it.”
The last defensive stand prevented the first winless October for the Broncos (4-4) since 1967. There was talk about what happens if they lose — would coach Vic Fangio have to make changes to his staff? Would there be some deals at the trade deadline?
“Everyone was throwing the panic word out there,” Simmons said. “I don’t like the word panic. Urgency is a really good word. … Defensively, we came out with great energy.”
Dre’Mont Jones and Shelby Harris each blocked a field-goal attempt from Chris Blewitt. Jones got his hand on a 47-yard try in the fourth, and Harris batted down a 45-yarder from Blewitt in the second quarter.
“When it comes to blocked kicks it’s all about will and determination,” Harris said. “Those guys are playing their tails off, giving 100% effort.”
For large chunks of time, it was almost a game of who didn’t want to win — with plenty of missed opportunities, field goals, and mistakes. Washington (2-6) failed to convert on a fourth down early in the game, had Bobby McCain drop an interception in his hands, and allowed five sacks to a defense missing Von Miller.
“I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “I think we’ve missed some opportunities. I think there are some things we can be better at — I know we can be better at.”
Brandon McManus missed a 53-yard field goal for Denver with 10:57 remaining. He was 13 of 13 before pushing his attempt just right.
Gordon energized a sparse crowd on a 15-yard TD catch from Teddy Bridgewater just before halftime. There were an announced 11,755 no-shows on a cool day in the Mile High City. That despite tickets being available for as low as $25.A
Washington tied it at 10 late in the third on Heinicke’s 20-yard touchdown throw to DeAndre Carter. It was Washington’s fourth straight loss.
Those missed field goals ended up haunting Washington.
“Every point matters. So it’s a little deflating,” Heinicke said. “But at the same time, I think our offense did a great job of not letting it get to us.”
The biggest cheer of the afternoon was for Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning, who was inducted into Denver’s Ring of Fame at halftime. Manning even removed his orange jacket and put on his No. 18 jersey one last time. He lofted a perfect 30-yard-ish strike to a friend and receiver Brandon Stokley in the end zone.
Bridgewater was helped by the return of receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle) and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (hamstring). Jeudy had four catches for 39 yards, including a big grab on the go-ahead drive.
Miller was sidelined by an ankle injury. The team’s career sacks leader walked the sideline.
“I didn’t want to dress him and go out there and say, ‘Hey, I can’t go’ and be down a guy,” Fangio explained.
PEYTON THE OWNER?
Manning said he hasn’t had any serious conversations with anyone about becoming part of an ownership/management group to make a potential bid on the Broncos.
“I keep looking for that $3 billion in my pocket. I can’t find it,” Manning quipped. “I think it’s in a hidden account somewhere. That’s not really on my radar.”
Washington: Center Chase Roullier had his left ankle placed in an air cast and was carted off the field in the second quarter. Rivera said he will be evaluated.
Broncos: CB Bryce Callahan was helped off the field after hurting his left knee in the fourth quarter. His leg appeared to catch in the turf. … LT Garett Bolles walked off in the fourth favoring his left ankle.
Washington: A bye week before hosting Tom Brady and Tampa Bay on Nov. 14.
Broncos: At Dallas next Sunday.