J.J. Watt was everywhere.
Three sacks, five tackles (three for loss). A forced fumble. A pass batted down. And that was just in the first two quarters. It felt like Watt had a chance to equal that great five-sack game Chandler Jones had in Tennessee to open the 2021 season.
Then the Broncos decided just to run all the time, and it worked. They decided it wasn't worth trying to pick on the three inexperienced Cardinals cornerbacks available, because they couldn't protect the quarterback.
And the Cardinals … well, the Cardinals keep taking blows that make things worse. Not only did Colt McCoy get concussed but on that play he collapsed the knee of Kelvin Beachum, and frankly after watching the replay, I can't believe Beachum came back in the game.
Watt, who will be a free agent after the season, is having the bounceback year he wanted so badly. He's up to 9½ sacks to lead the team (and, as ESPN's Field Yates tweeted during the game, earning Watt an extra $700,000 for surpassing the 7- and 8-sack total.)
"That's what I am trying to do," Watt said. "I'm trying to play good football and help us win. I'm trying to do whatever I can. It was good. And then we went to the half and obviously they didn't want that to happen again and they changed it all up."
Without Zach Allen, Watt becomes even more important. Without Zach Allen, though, it's easier for offenses to scheme for him. The Buccaneers game on Christmas will be one to watch – Tom Brady can be pressured, and the Bucs have had offensive line issues. I'm sure Watt will make a push to make that sack total as high as he can.
Watt has had a very good year. He's one of the players who has met his expectations. Perhaps even exceeded them.
-- McCoy has been beat up in his limited playing time this season. I've said that before, and it comes with the job, but yeesh.
-- DeAndre Hopkins was not happy that he didn't draw a pass interference call on the two-point conversion that fell incomplete, and that seemed to be the general consensus (even the Broncos radio announcers were surprised.) It probably wouldn't have mattered, but the frustration doesn't go away.
"I thought it was a pretty clear angle that it should've been a flag, but it didn't work out for us," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
-- With Will Hernandez back, he returned to right guard and Max Garcia was switched to left guard. Garcia got hurt on McSorley's first interception, so we will see if there is yet another offensive line next week. The Cardinals have used 10 different combinations in 14 games.
-- The Cardinals had another illegal shift and tackle Josh Jones was called for an illegal formation for being too far off the line of scrimmage and those are exactly the things Kingsbury was harping on.
-- In his return to Colorado, rookie tight end Trey McBride – a local kid who attended Colorado State – had his best game of the season, with four catches for 55 yards.
"Being from Colorado, growing up a Broncos fan, it was cool to come back here," he said. "I would've love to beat the heck out of these guys."
-- It's not often when you generate a fumble recovery, an interception and seven sacks and lose.
-- Matt Prater booted three field goals, including from 50- and 55-yards in the place he once called home. When it was 9-3 with the Cardinals leading, I got the well-timed tweet about whether we would have an episode of "Prater Beats The Broncos."
-- That was the Cardinals' third straight loss when they held the lead at halftime.
-- Speaking of Jones, a handful of his ex-teammates were in the locker room after the game marveling at his final touchdown for the Raiders Sunday – and stunned the Patriots were trying to lateral in a tie game. I guess Byron Murphy doesn't have the most dramatic fumble return for a touchdown in Las Vegas this season anymore.
-- With Byron Murphy, Antonio Hamilton and Marco Wilson all out, Christian Matthew got the start at CB1. The Broncos didn't need to pass with the run game doing so well, but the young cornerback held his own.
"It was surreal," he said. "I was trying not to let the guys down."
That's it for tonight.