Rookie wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. has a special trait very few on Denver’s roster seem to possess. Whenever he touches the ball, big plays happen.
In Week 2, Mims hauled in a 60-yard touchdown catch against Washington. A week after that, he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score in Miami. And in the Broncos’ 31-28 victory over Chicago on Sunday afternoon, Mims’ latest burst helped put the “tank for Caleb Williams” discussions on hold.
With the game tied at 28 and 2:52 left in the fourth quarter, Denver desperately needed to make something happen. Quarterback Russell Wilson stepped up into the pocket and threw a deep pass near the sideline to Mims, who maneuvered past one defender and another before getting tackled for a 48-yard gain to Chicago’s 33-yard line. Three plays later, kicker Wil Lutz nailed the go-ahead 51-yard field goal with 1:46 to go.
A fumbled kick return from earlier in the day suddenly seemed like a distant memory.
“I was on the other side of the field when he made that catch and he got up and he was so juiced,” said veteran receiver Courtland Sutton, who had three receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown.
“I told him, ‘I could feel that energy from the other side of the field.’ It’s contagious.”
If there’s one positive to take away from the first four games of the Broncos’ season, it’s that they appear to have struck gold by selecting Mims (two catches for 47 yards) in the second round and signing undrafted rookie running back Jaleel McLaughlin, who had 104 total yards and a touchdown reception.
In the Windy City, both rookies helped the Broncos to turn a potential nightmare into a 21-point comeback win that ranks among the best in franchise history.
“(Mims) brings a spark and some juice to this team,” Sutton said.
Mims, the former Oklahoma standout, was drafted by the Broncos because of his big play ability. Through four games, he has met those expectations and more. He entered Sunday’s contest with a team-best 195 receiving yards on seven catches while averaging 27.9 yards per reception.
As a returner, he’s quickly established himself as an impact player. In addition to his kick return for a touchdown last week, he had a 44-yard punt return against the Commanders, and on Sunday, he added a 25-yard fourth-quarter punt return to his resume.
McLaughin, the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher across all divisions, was one of the shining stars during the preseason with his speed and how well he takes advantage of space. Those traits were on display against Chicago. In the first quarter, McLaughlin caught a screen pass from Wilson then slipped between two defenders to score from 18 yards out and give Denver a 7-0 lead with 5:08 remaining.
In the third quarter, Broncos running back Javonte Williams was ruled out with a hip injury, and McLaughlin met the moment. Trailing 28-7, McLaughlin burst down the field for a 31-yard gain then made an 11-yard reception that helped set up wide receiver Brandon Johnson’s 4-yard touchdown catch that trimmed the deficit to 28-14 with 14 seconds left.
“He was outstanding,” head coach Sean Payton said of McLaughlin, who rushed for 72 yards on seven carries. “He’s hard to tackle, good in space and made some big runs. We will keep expanding his role.”
Maybe the Broncos build off this victory. Or maybe they take a step back and increase their odds in the Williams’ sweepstakes. But there’s one thing that’s certain: Denver has something special going with Mims and McLaughlin.
“It’s fun to watch (Mims) continue to grow and develop into the superstar that he is,” Sutton said.
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