Von Miller declared earlier this season that his job was to “sack quarterbacks and tell jokes.”
With a half-a-sack to show for chasing around Ben Roethlisberger all afternoon, Denver’s superstar chose not to talk about the Broncos grappling their way back to relevance but instead channeled Bill Belichick and his “We’re onto Cincinnati” credo following a stirring 27-17 win over the Steelers.
With the Bengals up next, Miller figured a stand-up routine was in order as he donned a hoodie and a poker face as he stepped up to the microphone, staring ahead, seemingly emotionless.
Miller could have used his postgame news conference to shower praise on a resilient team that has scratched and clawed its way back into the AFC playoff picture by beating the Chargers (8-3) and Steelers (7-3-1) in consecutive weeks.
Although he mentioned Shelby Harris and Will Parks had “incredible games,” every question generated short, clipped, monotone answers that ended with “We’re onto Cincinnati.”
While Belichick uttered the phrase over and over to show he wasn’t going to let his team harp on an embarrassing loss to the Chiefs in 2014, Miller either hoped to highlight the Broncos’ one-game-at-a-time approach or he wanted to be funny.
Seven times Miller answered, “We’re onto Cincinnati” — cutting off the last question mid-sentence to reiterate his point — before the Broncos’ public relations staff put a merciful end to it and Miller walked off the stage, sticking out his tongue in a mischievous manner as he left.
The Broncos’ captain missed a chance to heap praise on Parks for a never-say-die play in which the safety chased down a tight end about to score on a 24-yard catch-and-run and popped the ball loose an inch from the goal line and out of bounds by the pylon for a touchback.
He didn’t really highlight the game-sealing interception by Harris, the nose tackle who has found a home in Denver after getting cut seven times by the Raiders, Cowboys and Jets — and who coach Vance Joseph revealed Monday came within a week of getting waived by the Broncos in 2017, too.
Miller didn’t talk at all about the Broncos’ other star, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who had one of Denver’s four takeaways and helped quiet Antonio Brown, who had piled up 189 yards and two touchdowns on Harris the last time the All-Pros squared off.
Miller didn’t laud cornerback Bradley Roby for bouncing back from surrendering a long touchdown pass to force a key fumble in the fourth quarter that ignited the Broncos’ comeback.
He didn’t say anything about Case Keenum’s third straight game without an interception, Emmanuel Sanders’ big day against his former team, tight end Matt LaCosse’s first career touchdown or Phillip Lindsay’s 110-yard rushing performance.
He didn’t mention safety Justin Simmons’ second blocked field goal of the season, something nobody thought would be possible anymore when the NFL tightened the rule book in the offseason, eliminating the running starts, which are something Simmons proved he doesn’t need in order to leap linemen.
And he didn’t really say anything about Joseph following the second-year coach’s signature win.
Miller often pulls stunts like tripping on the podium to lighten the mood at his mid-week news conferences but on Sunday night, he never broke character to laugh off his corny jokes or schtick to answer honest questions with honest answers like he normally does.
“It’s on to Cincinnati,” he said one last time to crickets before exiting, at which point he might as well have added, “Is this mic on?”
Week 12 was chock full of other curious, even costly, calls, including Melvin Gordon running a reverse with the Chargers comfortably ahead only to get leg-whipped and injured in the third quarter of a 45-10 win over Arizona, and Hue Jackson getting emotionally stiff-armed by Baker Mayfield when he went in for the hug with his old QB.
NO REVERSE REMORSE
Gordon will miss the Chargers’ game at Pittsburgh this weekend and maybe many more. But Chargers coach Anthony Lynn didn’t second-guess his call like so many fans are doing because he figured he had to stay aggressive even with a 28-10 lead.
Gordon rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns before getting leg-whipped on the reverse.
“That’s a play we’ve had in for a long time, and we’ve been trying to get it called in a game,” Lynn said. “It’s a play that if we get around the perimeter, he would still be running. They made a heck of a play and hit us in the backfield.”
Gordon has already scored a career-high 13 times and is a major reason the Chargers are 8-3 for the first time since 2009.
HANDSHAKE BUT NO HUG
Mayfield and his former head coach didn’t hug it out but they did shake hands after the Browns quarterback led Cleveland to a 35-20 win over the Bengals, whom Jackson joined as a special defensive assistant following his firing by the Browns.
“I didn’t feel like talking,” Mayfield said, adding he was motivated by Jackson leaving for the Bengals. “Left Cleveland, goes down to Cincinnati, I don’t know. It’s just somebody that was in our locker room, asking for us to play for him, and then goes to a different team we play twice a year.”
Mayfield has nine touchdowns and one interception in the three games since Gregg Williams replaced Jackson, who started the season with Tyrod Taylor as his quarterback before an injury opened an opportunity for Mayfield, who had eight TDs and six interceptions before Williams took over.
“We have people that we believe in calling the plays now,” Mayfield said.
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