There were a few plays in the Broncos win over the Bears on Sunday that stood a Mile High above the rest. Perhaps the biggest game changer came in overtime when Marion Barber made his second airhead move of the day and fumbled the ball when the Bears were within field goal range.
The play all happened because of backup linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Although Woodyard came to the Broncos as an undrafted free agent, and he’s a second-string guy, he is a key leader on this Broncos team and he was even elected as a special teams captain before the season began.
Woodyard stripped Barber and Elvis Dumervil fell on the ball at the 34-yard line. Denver’s offense took it from there and set up Matt Prater’s 51-yard winning field goal.
“On that play he did a tremendous job of folding back, and saw the ball exposed and pulled it out,” John Fox said.
Barber had a lot of room to run on that play and had Woodyard not forced the fumble, Barber could have taken it in for six.
“We made a play when we had to,” Champ Bailey said. “We hadn’t had a turnover all day. Those timely turnovers definitely help.”
Right after the game both Bailey and Dumervil weren’t sure who exactly knocked the ball from Barber’s hands. They didn’t know that it came from the 4-year veteran – Woodyard.
At 6’0″, 229 lbs., Woodyard is more suited to play safety. Brian Dawkins is listed at 6’0″, 210 lbs. Starting right side linebacker D.J. Williams has 13 lbs. on Woodyard. The heaviest linebacker on the roster, Mario Haggan, is 6’3″, 274 lbs.
“In the 4-3 you can get away with a little bit of lesser size than you can in the 3-4,” Fox said.
In the off season the Broncos coaching staff thought that keeping Woodyard was an absolute must.
“He’s got excellent speed,” Fox said. “In the 4-3 defense, you’re looking for speed. It was something we noticed on last year’s tape even as we were trying to piece this defense together. When D.J. (Williams) got hurt to start the season, Wesley stepped in and did a very good job at the linebacker position.”
Sometimes it’s the lesser known players that create the biggest play of the game. That was true on Sunday and it’s happened in some of the team’s other wins.
Chris Harris? Jonathan Wilhite? Mario Haggan?
It’s the support guys that often make crunch time (a.k.a. “Tebow Time”) possible.
A day after Woodyard’s big-time forced fumble, he held a toy drive at the Denver Aquarium with his 16Ways Foundation. His foundation provides resources for at-risk youth in the Denver area.
Tim Tebow and Rahim Moore helped with the toy drive.
"“I’m proud to call him a teammate, I’m proud to call him a friend,” Tebow said. “I think what he’s doing is inspiring.” – Denver Broncos.com"
That’s a short 24-hour glimpse into the life of Wesley Woodyard. He’s making big plays on and off the field, and he makes any Broncos fan proud.