Denver Broncos honor late WR Demaryius Thomas in blowout win over Detroit Lions

DENVER -- On an emotionally charged day, full of memories and grief in equal parts in the wake of Demaryius Thomas' death on Thursday, the Denver Broncos put an exclamation point on a 38-10 win over the Detroit Lions with a final 14-play touchdown drive that went ... 88 yards.

"That's crazy," said Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton. "That's crazy."

"He's always going to be there [for us]," Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick said. "I think he's going to be there more in life ... yeah, he probably was out there with us."

The Broncos paid tribute to Thomas, who was found dead Thursday at his home in Roswell, Georgia, in almost every way they could Sunday as his No. 88 could be found in virtually every corner of the stadium through either signs or jerseys worn by those in attendance. Police said Thursday night preliminary reports were Thomas' death might have resulted from a medical issue.

Thomas, who would have turned 34 on Christmas, had officially announced his retirement from the NFL in June. His death shook almost every part of the organization that selected him in the first round of the 2010 draft.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio had promised after Friday's practice the team would "be ready to pay tribute to him Sunday."

After a moment of silence in the stadium as well as a video tribute played on all of the screens just before kickoff, the Broncos lined up for the game's first play from scrimmage with 10 players in the formation. On a first-and-10 from the Denver 25-yard line to open the game, the 10 players stood motionless and waited for the play clock to wind all the way down.

The Broncos, who wore helmet decals of Thomas' No. 88, were assessed a delay of game penalty that the Lions quickly declined. The crowd cheered loudly throughout, most chanting "D-T" before the play clock ran out.

Broncos chief communications officer Patrick Smyth brought the idea to Fangio this week, and Fangio then took it to Lions coach Dan Campbell.

"You could just feel the outpouring of love and sadness throughout the Denver community," Fangio said. "... I talked to Dan Campbell and he agreed not to accept the penalty, a classy move on his part ... and the Detroit Lions, they're a classy organization and the referee, John Hussey, he was in on it."

"A special moment," Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "To be a part of something like that ... it was great to go out there with 10 guys and understand he's out there with us."

Added Campbell: "He [Fangio] reached out to me [Saturday], which I appreciated. That was for him. That's for DT. That's who I did that for."

The Broncos have 10 players on their current roster who were teammates with Thomas during his time with the Broncos, and over 40 members of the organization were with the team during his career.

That total includes running backs coach Curtis Modkins, who recruited Thomas to Georgia Tech and was with the Broncos in 2018, Thomas' last season with the team. He was traded to the Houston Texans that year.

"Tough week for us," Sutton said. "... It is tough still. It's not something you wake up and then go to sleep and it goes away."

Broncos safety Justin Simmons intercepted Lions quarterback Jared Goff in the fourth quarter and immediately placed the ball between the 8s of the No. 88 painted on the Broncos sideline at the 10.

Simmons said the defensive players wanted to dedicate any takeaways to Thomas.

"I made the play, I kind of blacked out and the only thing I thought of was heading over and giving it to DT," Simmons said. "He was special."

Thomas was the first of two first-round picks for the Broncos in the 2010 NFL draft -- Tim Tebow was the other -- and spent nine seasons with the Broncos. He finished his career as the team's second-leading receiver (9,055 yards), behind only Rod Smith. He is third in franchise history in catches (655) behind Smith and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe.

He played in 10 seasons overall and finished with 724 catches for 9,763 yards to go with 63 touchdowns.

Between 2012 and 2015, Thomas had at least 90 receptions and 1,300 yards in four consecutive seasons, joining Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice and Rams legend Torry Holt as the only players to reach those totals over four consecutive seasons.

In the Broncos' record-setting season in 2013 -- Peyton Manning set NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) as the Broncos scored a league-record 606 points that year -- Thomas finished with a career-best 14 touchdowns. The following season he finished with a career-best 1,619 yards receiving.

Simmons said it would take much longer to deal with Thomas' death, but to get a win and stay in the AFC's playoff race was the best kind of tribute on Sunday.

"Even though everyone in the stadium wanted to get a win for DT, they just don't happen," Simmons said. "The other team is not just going to lay down and let you get a win ... You don't just win because you want to ... Today was definitely special, some mile-high magic in there."

Added Sutton: "Amazing way to be able to honor him and remember him. Not just the player, but the person he was."