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Broncos defense has plenty of game-day work to go around

DETROIT -- A sack here, an interception there, and as the Denver Broncos' defense continues to spread the work around, it continues to find a hero here and a hero there as well.

No fewer than 20 players played at least two snaps on defense in the Broncos' 24-12 victory over the Detroit Lions Sunday night at Ford Field. The Broncos forced three turnovers in the game, and all three came from players who are not starters.

“All the guys, everybody preach it, everybody preach it all day long, you can kind of see it, it’s coming out right now," Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said. “It’s early in the season, we’ve got to keep it up. But it’s huge, man ... huge plays, man. If we plan on winning something big, it’s definitely going to take everybody, it’s going to take plays like that every game."

Cornerback Bradley Roby, the No. 3 cornerback behind Talib and Chris Harris Jr., snatched the Broncos’ first turnover of the game, a first-quarter interception that gave the Broncos’ the ball at the Lions’ 36-yard line.

Roby was fairly busy overall on the night, playing 49 snaps as the Broncos spent more than half of their defensive snaps in either their nickel or dime packages. He also made the most of his work.

“(Roby) pulled that in, that’s a big play," Harris said. “It shows you can’t just put the ball anywhere you want to. We have guys all over who can make plays."

And in a 10-point fourth quarter that helped the Broncos reach their final margin of victory, it was another two players off the bench who forced the turnovers.

First, there was linebacker Shaquil Barrett's sack on Matthew Stafford with just more than 10 minutes remaining in the game. Barrett, who is in the rotation to help the Broncos manage the snaps of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, crashed into Stafford’s arm, knocked the ball free and defensive end Malik Jackson won the battle for the loose ball at the bottom of the pile.

The sack was one of just 10 snaps in the game for Barrett. And five plays later, Brandon McManus kicked a 48-yard field goal to push the Broncos’ lead to 17-12, which meant the Lions would need a touchdown to take the lead.

“Being fresh helps a lot. You play a whole game, you’re going to be tired on some third downs," Barrett said. “... When you come in, you’re ready to go. But I think we give (the coaches) confidence in practice. ... We’ve been showing them we can help the team out when they need us."

And on the Lions’ next possession, as they had moved the ball just past the 50-yard line and into Denver territory, Stafford tried to fit a ball in to Calvin Johnson. This time it was safety David Bruton Jr. who first tipped the ball up and then reeled in his own deflection for an interception at the Broncos’ 37-yard line.

He returned it to the Broncos’ 49-yard line and five plays later the Broncos added another score on a Peyton Manning to Owen Daniels touchdown throw. It was one of Bruton’s 29 snaps in the game.

On his team’s defense, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who has consistently promised to use anyone in a uniform on game day, called the unit’s play "exceptional" and added: “We talk about playing a lot of people, and as coaches that’s easy to preach, but you’ve got to make sure you do it on game day."