Demaryius Thomas re-wrote the record books multiple times during the team’s 23-0 win over the New York Jets.
But it was one of the most unassuming Broncos that, fittingly, had the most underrated game in Orange & Blue to give the team their first win in over two months.
At 6-foot-5, with luscious blonde locks down to his shoulders that both men and women can only dream of, No. 87 doesn’t fly under the radar in terms of the “eye test,” but with flashier players putting up big performances on Sunday, Jordan “Sunshine” Taylor’s impact on the game nearly went unnoticed, starting with his own head coach.
“Jordan did a fine job,” Vance Joseph said after the game, acknowledging Taylor’s impact returning punts. “That’s a hard job. It’s not only talent based, it’s decision based. He made great decisions with the football—when to fair catch the ball, when to return the ball and when to get vertical with the ball. He did a fine job for us. Very solid.”
On a day in which the Jets put up a dismal 100 yards of total offense, their punter, Lac Edwards, arguably was their most used offensive weapon, punting a total of eight times.
Conversely, that made Taylor’s day very busy, and important. While Edwards himself did a fine job—averaging 45.6 yards per punt—the tall blonde donning navy blue did his best to make Lac’s day look, well, lackluster.
While Taylor didn’t blow the game open with a game-changing return, he had a great game returning the ball—five returns for 62 yards, an average of 12.4 yards per return. To put that in perspective, based on this game alone, his 12.4-yard average would be the fourth-best in the entire league on the season.
“Good field position,” Joseph said when explaining the difference with this win compared with the eight-game losing streak that plagued the team before Sunday. “Our average start was 41, theirs was 20. So it’s really a flip game of what we’ve seen the last two months.”
But what was more important than Taylor’s 12.4 yards of field position was his ball security. For the majority of the season, Denver had the exact opposite person returning punts—5-foot-7, hair no longer than a centimeter off his head, Isiah McKenzie.
While the speedster theoretically possessed the big-play element that Taylor lacks, he constantly made significant mistakes. In his 21 punt returns on the season, McKenzie had six fumbles including three lost fumbles and an additional fumble that resulted in a safety.
On Sunday, Denver avoided all of those nightmares with the services of Taylor as their punt returner. Besides one punt sailing out of bounds, Taylor safely, and wisely, fair-caught two other punts. For a team that has preached winning the turnover battle as priority numero uno all season, Taylor’s ball security was crucial.
Although he didn’t have a single reception, or target for that matter, quarterback Trevor Siemian knew Taylor’s importance in the win. When asked what it was like to have good field position and not be backed up, Siemian said “Oh man.”
“I think obviously the defense shut them out and held them to 100 yards, but aside from [Demaryius Thomas] I think Jordan Taylor’s the MVP of the game,” Siemian said post game, turning heads in the press conference room. “He gave us good field position all game, made some plays. I think he averaged like 12 yards per return. You can’t say enough what that does for an offense when you get to start around the 50. You really can’t say how much that matters.”
In a game where every little aspect matters, “Sunshine’s” impact was one of the biggest rays of light to pull Denver out of their eight-game losing streak in dominant fashion on a sunny Sunday afternoon.