Nik Bonitto began the play as a spy and ended it as a sprinter.
It was the first defensive third-down play for the Denver Broncos during their 24-9 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8, and Bonitto was inserted into the game to mark quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It was his job to prevent Mahomes’ “second act,” as Broncos head coach Sean Payton labeled it, from burning Denver’s defense. So Bonitto waited patiently as Mahomes scanned futilely through his progression of tightly covered receivers. Then, as Mahomes began to evade the pocket, Bonitto gave chase. He zoomed around two offensive linemen, skirted around teammate Zach Allen and finally hit a scrambling Mahomes as he tossed a wayward pass to the sideline.
Bonitto exchanged verbal barbs with Mahomes afterward, letting the MVP quarterback know that Denver’s defense, its confidence growing in the weeks following a historic flop against the Miami Dolphins, was up to the challenge. The Broncos limited Mahomes to a 59.1 passer rating, which went down as the second-worst mark of his career. They sacked him three times, stripped him of the ball once and picked off two of his passes. It was the biggest reason Denver snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Chiefs and created optimism that the Broncos, despite a 3-5 record, could make noise in the second half of the season.
“They had a great game plan,” Mahomes said, “and they executed it.”
Now, as they strive for winning consistency, the Broncos must show they are up to the task against another of the NFL’s most dynamic quarterbacks when they face Josh Allen on Monday night on the road.
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