Courtland Sutton is having a career year for the Denver Broncos. Although the veteran wideout's yardage totals are a little low, he's now notched eight touchdown receptions this season — two more than his previous career high, which was set during his Pro Bowl campaign in 2019.
Sutton's latest touchdown was the game-winner in Sunday night's thrilling victory over the Minnesota Vikings. With 1:09 left in the fourth quarter and trailing by five, the Broncos had driven the field and were within striking distance at the Vikings' 15-yard line.
On 1st-&-10, Wilson dropped back and threw one up to Sutton in the end zone, who climbed over his coverage opponent to haul it in with possession for the go-ahead score. Empower Field at Mile High went wild. And Denver's defense held stout on Minnesota's desperate final drive.
It was a good throw by Wilson and an even better catch by Sutton. But after the game, Sutton detailed how the game-winning highlight came to be, starting with Wilson calling an audible at the line of scrimmage pre-snap.
“We had a play initially called and ‘Russ’ saw the defense they were going to give us, and we alerted it—we had a really good alert—a lot of good options," Sutton said post-game. "He just gave me a chance to go make a play.”
For his part, Wilson first credited Jesus Christ for his and his team's success in the clutch. As a Christian, faith is a key component.
Another way of saying that is belief. And Wilson said he and his teammates never stopped believing they could score when the chips were down, despite being kept out of the end zone all night by a stingy and smothering Vikings' defense that held Denver to under 300 total yards, a 17% third-down conversion rate, and a 1-for-5 red-zone efficiency.
“First of all, God gets the glory. Jesus has been good through the hard times and the good times—just believing," Wilson said post-game. "We got to some great checks and different plays and we just kind of stayed on the ball. I think the play to Courtland, we ended up checking to a different play in the middle of that. [Head] Coach [Sean] Payton made a great call, and we ended up checking it to the other part of the play and just read it out. I tried to step up and the [offensive] line did a good job of making a big enough pocket where I could step up and slide up in the pocket and give Courtland a chance."
Sean Payton was proud that Wilson and company, with a lot of help from Sutton, found a way to prevail after a mostly ugly offensive showing, but the head coach also made it clear to his team in the locker room and at the podium post-game that the Broncos have lots of room for improvement and not a lot of time left to accomplish it.
The Wilson/Sutton bromance continues to blossom and that chemistry is paying dividends to the Broncos. Wilson, who's no stranger to hard work and long hours, credited Sutton for his commitment to excellence and his team.
"This guy has been lights out every day," Wilson said of Sutton. "His work ethic. His leadership. His dedication to the game. His dedication to getting better every day. He’s one of the best in the game. I just tried to put it in only a place that he could get it and sure enough—I think my head was kind of turned to the side, and I heard the crowd go crazy and I knew he caught it. We just believe in each other... We knew that we were going to win this game. That’s how we felt. That was our mindset.”
As Wilson launched that game-winning pass, it seemed like time slowed down somewhat for Sutton as he jockeyed for position in the end zone. But the stalwart receiver's mindset, cultivated within the same wellspring of belief that Wilson spoke to, ensured that he'd come down with it.
“Once I saw it coming, I knew I was like, ‘I can’t wait for this to come down.’ I knew there were defenders around us, so I had to go and make a play," Sutton said. "It was up in the air and you never know, you can run your route and you never know where the ball will go because we have great weapons on offense and you never know where the ball is going to go, who it is going to find. I looked up and saw the ball finding me. It was nice.”
After a brutal 1-5 start, the Broncos now sit at 5-5, winners of four in a row. Along the way, Denver's victories over Kansas City, Buffalo, and now the heretofore red-hot Vikings are forging a resilient and battle-tested team just in time for the most crucial stretch of the 2023 schedule.
Next up, the 7-3 Cleveland Browns.
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