Mitch Unrein helps Broncos beat Bucs 31-23

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 3, 2012 at 4:03 am •  Published: December 3, 2012
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DENVER (AP) — What Mitch Unrein lacks in dance moves he more than makes up for in shock value.

The second-year defensive lineman out of Wyoming helped the Denver Broncos wrap up their second straight AFC West title Sunday with their seventh straight win, a less-than-perfect but oh-so-pretty 31-23 win over the feisty Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Unrein caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to open the scoring, then came free for the big hit on Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman that forced a bad throw that ended up in Von Miller's hands for the game's biggest play.

Miller's pick-6 marked the first career interception and the first career touchdown for last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year, who is making a stronger case by the week for Defensive Player of the Year honors.

And it put this game out of reach at 28-10.

Miller did a hip-swaying jig in the end zone, unlike Unrein, who became the first defensive lineman to catch a touchdown pass in Broncos history and celebrated with a big-time spike — followed by a mad scramble to retrieve the football.

"After I spiked it, I was, like, 'Uh, oh, where'd it go?" Unrein said. "Luckily, I got it back."

He left the dancing to Miller, though.

"I have two left feet as they say. I can two-step a little bit, country dance," Unrein said. "It all happened so fast I didn't know what to do."

Unrein trotted onto the field on first-and-goal from the 1 and lined up at fullback.

"Certainly when you put a big D-lineman in there, a lot of times the defense is thinking run," Manning said.

Unrein, though, slipped into the left flat and hauled in Manning's floater in stride.

"It was a Willie Mays catch," marveled teammate Kevin Vickerson. "It was over the shoulder just like Mays."

And it seemed the hang in the air for just as long as Vic Wertz's drive to the warning track in the 1954 World Series, too.

"It felt like a really long time when that ball was floating toward me," Unrein said. "I was like, 'Don't drop it. Don't drop it.' Luckily, it hit my hands and I caught it. That's why I wrapped it up with both hands and stood there for a second and was like, 'I just scored a touchdown. That's pretty cool.'

"Then, afterward, I had no dance, no skills like Von Miller."

Although the Broncos had put in the trick play at practice several weeks ago — and Unrein said he caught it every time — the play surprised teammate Champ Bailey.

"Not that they threw to him, but that he caught it," Bailey noted. "Too many times you see a defensive player run a route, be wide open and he drops it. He got his hands up and caught it."

It sure stunned the Buccaneers.

"You never prepare for that play," safety Ronde Barber said. "It happens. There isn't much you can do about it. It never had shown up on film."

About 90 minutes later, Unrein helped Miller get into the end zone for his first career TD, coming through the line unblocked and hitting Freeman just as he threw toward Vincent Jackson.

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