Von Miller's three sacks just the beginning? That's what Broncos think

DENVER -- One game, one win, one more game ball for his mantel thanks to one more "How did he do that?" performance.

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller was at his dancing, game-wrecking, sack-artist best Sunday in perhaps his most complete effort since he took over Super Bowl 50 to close out the 2015 season. With those three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in a 27-24 Broncos victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Miller offered a rather heady reminder of what Denver's potential on defense could be. Coach Vance Joseph presented him with a game ball for his efforts.

"When he got the first [sack] I was like, 'OK, he's so special.' He got the second one, I was like, 'OK, he needs to slow down, I need to get one,' and then he got the third one I was like, 'All right, this is his game and nobody can take that from him,'" Broncos rookie outside linebacker Bradley Chubb said. "He's just a great player."

Personnel executives around the league believed Miller might have had his best all-around season as a linebacker in 2017 despite finishing with 10 sacks, his lowest total since a 2013 in which he missed seven games. But one part of the Broncos' on-field misery in last season's 5-11 finish was the almost-constant attention Miller got from opposing blockers each week.

The Broncos couldn't provide another pass-rush element from elsewhere on the defense to force offenses to do something else. The Broncos also rarely played with a lead last season -- they led just 26 percent of the time and had six games in which they didn't lead at all -- so they rarely were able to set Miller loose against an offense trying to catch up by throwing the ball.

"I don't think that much about that," Miller said. "All I got to do is rush."

That's what he did in his eighth regular-season opener with the Broncos since becoming John Elway's first draft pick in 2011. Sunday was Miller’s fifth career three-sack game and the first time he's had three sacks in a season opener.

The three sacks also gave him 86.5 in 105 career games, putting him at No. 50 in NFL history.

"I think it's great to be 29 [years old] and in the top 50," Miller said. "It's a true blessing."

But beyond the numbers, Miller is poised for a huge season if the Broncos can take the formula of a Week 1 win into autumn and beyond. The Broncos have other rushers in the formation now, most notably Chubb, the team's first top-five draft pick since Miller.

The Broncos also have a healthy Shane Ray -- who missed much of last season after three surgical procedures on his wrist -- and Shaquil Barrett in the mix. Barrett had one of the team's other three sacks on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on Sunday, while Chubb split a sack with safety Darian Stewart. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. had the team's other sack.

"When that pass rush is working, there's not much [an offense] can do," Broncos linebacker Todd Davis said. "Also with us playing with the lead, teams can't run the ball. You're going to have to sit back and pass ... it's going to be a long day for you."

All three of Miller's sacks Sunday came when the Broncos held the lead. That included a three-play span in the second quarter when Miller sacked Wilson twice, knocking the Seahawks back and eventually resulting in a missed 51-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.

Miller's third sack came midway through the fourth quarter, right after the Broncos had gone up 27-24.

"I just take it one day at a time," Miller said. "You know me, I never move faster than I have to and never slower than I need to. We've got a great team, a great win today, played great defense; that's how you want to start a season."

Miller's play fueled a day when the Broncos held the Seahawks to 306 total yards, including 64 rushing. Even Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, who usually spends the time when the defense is on the field reviewing photos of the Broncos' previous possession on a tablet, felt something was up as the game wore on -- a feeling he hopes to have many more times as the season unfolds.

"I'm more so trying to stay focused on looking at the pictures, getting ready for my next series, but it's hard not to notice when the crowd's going crazy and Von's out there crawling, or doing whatever his sack dance is," Keenum said. "That's impressive to watch -- I'm glad I'm on the sidelines [now] when he's on the field, that's for sure."