There was no bigger play in the Denver Broncos’ 34-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens than right before halftime.
With the Broncos up 10-0, the Ravens were so close to scoring their first touchdown of the game right before halftime that they could smell the thick painted goal line under nose.
A 43-yard bomb by Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones followed by an 11-yard run by Ray Rice, and a 14-yard reception by Torrey Smith had the Ravens set up perfectly at Denver’s 4-yard line.
As Flacco dropped back, he saw a seemingly open Anquan Boldin on the left side of the field. Cornerback Chris Harris had other plans, however.
Harris jumped infront of Boldin for the interception and sprinted 98 yards down the sideline with only Flacco on his tail.
“I didn’t really expect him to throw that out-route, but he threw it to me, and I just wanted to make sure I scored,” Harris said. “That was a long run, but once I got to the 40, I was like, ‘I just have to stride it on in,’ but I was just making sure I definitely got into the end zone for the team.”
Just like that the Broncos owned a 17-0 lead at halftime rather than a 10-7 lead with the Ravens getting the ball to start the second half.
“It was a huge play,” head coach John Fox said. “I mean they’re down knocking on the door, and they threw a little diagonal route outside to (No.) 81 Anquan Boldin. Chris did a good job kind of hanging back there and stepped in front. It was right in front of our bench so he had a lot of direction on the way down that sideline.”
“The turnover is good,” Peyton Manning said. “The fact that he took it all the way to the house for a touchdown was even bigger…I thought it kind of jump started everything for us in the second half.”
The Broncos went on to put up 17 more points in the second half.
Harris’s play is the longest touchdown interception return for a touchdown in Broncos’ regular season history. It’s also Harris’s second interception returned for a touchdown this season which makes him the first player since Champ Bailey to record multiple pick-6’s in a season.
As a second year undrafted rookie, perhaps Manning (and the Broncos’ talented wide receivers) was Harris’s greatest gift next to being signed by the team last season. Harris has to see Manning and Co. in practice everyday, and accordingn to Manning, Harris is making good use of his practice time which translates to the success that he’s seeing in games.
“He’s a tough cover guy in practice,” Manning said. “We have good challenges and battles with him in practice whether he’s guarding (Brandon) Stokley, or (Eric) Decker, or DT (Demaryius Thomas), it’s been that way all season going against him and our secondary.”
Harris has been doing it all season with 51 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 interceptions (2 being pick-6’s), and 11 passes defended.
Harris wasn’t the only one to create a turnover Sunday. On the Ravens’ first offensive series, Flacco ran a quarterback sneak up the middle on 3rd-and-1. Former Raven and current Broncos’ nose tackle Justin Bannan got his hand in there, punched the ball out, and safety Rahim Moore recovered the ball. That turnover turned into Broncos points when Matt Prater nailed a 27-yard field goal.
“This game’s about momentum and making plays,” Fox said of the turnovers that the Broncos created. “Those are the kind of plays that change games.”
Those kind plays change games, change seasons, and change playoff forecasts. The Broncos’ playoff forecast: Bright with a strong chance of success.