JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Sunday marked 364 days since Courtland Sutton's ACL injury a season ago.
And on the day before the one-year anniversary of the devastating injury that took place Week 2 in Pittsburgh, Sutton didn't disappoint. He had nine receptions for 159 yards — both career highs — in the Broncos' 23-13 win over the Jaguars.
The old Sutton is "back," and in a big way.
"He's back," coach Vic Fangio said. "It was great. There's a lot of big plays in every game, but the catch he made the first drive there of the second half, the big one, was critical."
Sutton was heavily relied on Sunday, after star receiver Jerry Jeudy suffered an ankle injury Week 1 and was placed on injured reserve. But no Jeudy, no problem for the Broncos, as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went 26 for 34 with 328 yards and two touchdowns, hitting wide receiver Tim Patrick for a 12-yard score in the second quarter and tight end Noah Fant for a 14-yard score in the third.
But it was Sutton who made the game-changing play that Fangio referred to. Leading 10-7 to start the second half, Sutton reeled in a 55-yard completion from Bridgewater on the second play, after the two missed on a couple of similar deep balls in the first half. The Broncos scored a touchdown two plays later and never looked back.
"The ball finds you in crazy ways throughout the game. You can't dwell on the things that happened in the past," Sutton said. "You get into a rhythm and you just kind of take each play as it comes to you. The stats and everything, they take care of themselves at the end of the day if you go out there and take each play as it comes to you."
Meanwhile, the defense took care of business, shutting down rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars' offense, holding Lawrence to 14-of-33 passing for 118 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Sutton, though, was the story of the day. With many wondering who would fill Jeudy's void, Sutton stepped up. And as one of the most well-liked players in the locker room, his teammates couldn't be happier for him.
"It was great seeing 'Court' going out there making plays," Bridgewater said. "You talk about 'Court' — how hard he's worked, the sacrifices he's made to get back to this point. He's a Pro Bowl receiver and you saw today why."
For Sutton, it was only two years ago that he made a Pro Bowl in only his second season. And now two years and an ACL surgery later, he looks poised to possibly make another if he can consistently make plays like he did Sunday.
But above all that, he's just thankful to be back on the field.
"Man, to even just go out and practice is a blessing," Sutton said. "I thank God every day that I'm in the position that I'm in right now because it was a lot of hard work that went into it and a lot of support from the trainers, my family, my friends — I've had a lot of people in my corner supporting me through that whole process. To be able to go out there and compete in games, it's just a blessing. I take each play as an opportunity to go be me. Just grateful."
Sutton and the Broncos hope to replicate Sunday's performance next week, playing host to the 0-2 Jets in their home opener. And as they head home, the taste of success has them feeling confident in themselves.
"I don't remember the last time we were 2-0," outside linebacker Von Miller said. "We've been fighting hard to get to this point. ... It's a different team this year."
It was 2018, Von.
And next Sunday they can become 3-0 for the first time since 2016, something the Broncos hope to deliver and fans hope to witness.
"That joint going to be, what? 75,000? 80,000?" Sutton said. "Whatever the capacity is, I'm going to say (it'll be) 1,000 over the capacity. I'm just excited that we're bringing a 2-0 start to Empower Field. Broncos Country is going to be loud, I'm already knowing. I don't expect anything less. That's one of the best places to play ball at and I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fun.
"I hope Broncos Country shows up and shows out."
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