By: Kyle Newman | The Denver Post
MINNEAPOLIS — Blame the Broncos’ gut-punch collapse on Sunday in Minnesota on a porous pass defense, which was torched for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Or blame it on a sputtering second-half offense that couldn’t close the deal.
But in the worst setback in a season darkened by three last-second losses, no blame from the 27-23 defeat at U.S. Bank Stadium can be placed on Shelby Harris and the defensive front.
Harris turned in a huge performance with a career-high three sacks, his first career forced fumble and two tackles for loss as Denver held Vikings tailback Dalvin Cook to 26 yards rushing.
“Shelby was great, and our front played amazing,” safety Justin Simmonssaid. “I don’t know if you could’ve asked for a better game from him or them, limiting the leading rusher in the NFL (like that).”
Harris, a former seventh-round draft pick by the Raiders in 2014 who was waived five times by three different teams before finding a stable role in Denver, said his performance on Sunday “was a long time coming.”
“I feel like we can have an opportunity to break out like that every week, because we were really putting it together the first half,” Harris said. “We just needed to unleash it a little bit, and that’s what happened with me today.”
Harris credited the secondary, which played well in the first half as the Broncos shut out the Vikings, for his big day in the backfield. He also said consistent pressure from the rest of the Denver front helped his output. Von Miller and Dre’Mont Jones also had a sack.
“The secondary was shutting it down on those plays to enable me to get those (sacks),” Harris said. “A couple other plays, it was pressure from other places that was letting me get free.”
After re-signing in Denver for a one-year, $3.1 million deal in the offseason, Harris is a free agent after 2019. He, like veteran defensive end Derek Wolfe, is proving his worth in a contract year for the Broncos. Had Denver not choked away the win against the Vikings, Harris might have gotten the game ball.
“He had a heck of a day,” nose tackle Mike Purcell said. “He was the one making a bunch of plays and it (stinks) we couldn’t get the ‘W’ on top of that.”