Where so many others saw a Super Bowl favorite in Dallas' swaggering offense with its all-star linemen and pair of backfield superstars, Denver's defense envisioned a chance to show everybody that the Broncos are back.
They did just that in a 42-17 crushing of the Cowboys .
They held Ezekiel Elliott to a career-worst 8 yards on nine carries — 43 yards fewer than his previous low — and forced Dak Prescott to throw a career-high 50 times while also putting a dozen hits on Dallas' second-year QB, a beating that left Jerry Jones complimenting the Broncos (2-0) for being everything he thought his Cowboys (1-1) were.
It included Aqib Talib's 103-yard interception return for a touchdown , an interception by Chris Harris Jr., two sacks plus five more QB hits by Von Miller, two TD catches by Emmanuel Sanders , 154 scrimmage yards and two TDs from C.J. Anderson and a career high-tying four touchdown throws by Trevor Siemian.
Elliott's less-than-a-yard average was the exclamation point.
"He had nine carries for 8 yards? Wow. Damn, that's crazy," linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "We are the best defense in the NFL. I don't know how many times we have to say it. I saw the picks on the NFL Network, everyone picked the Cowboys. Everyone thinks Dak is this and Zeke is that. They are good players, don't get me wrong.
"But I take it as the same thing as when we played in the Super Bowl" two years ago, added Marshall, whose block of Prescott guided Talib into the zone on his pick-6. "Everyone picked the Panthers because of their offense. But neither team had ever faced a defense like this. There is no defense in the NFL like this."
He has no argument from the Cowboys.
"I want to emphasize today, this is not what we're about in my view," Jones said. "I feel strongly about that. On the other hand, this is what Denver is about."
There are several other topics fans are buzzing about after Dallas lost its sixth straight to Denver and failed to become the first NFC team with 100 wins against the AFC:
Miller ended his career-worst five-game sackless streak in a big way with a pair of sacks, five quarterback hits (not counting the two times he was flagged for jumping offside), two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
"Sacks are good. You just can't be worried about that type of stuff," Miller said. "You can't really put all your focus on that. My focus has always been on being a dominant football player and being a dominant defensive player."
Bennie Fowler nearly had his third touchdown catch of the season but when he tumbled out of bounds just shy of the pylon he landed on his neck and head. Then, when he got up and tried to run back to the bench, he stumbled twice and couldn't gain his bearings. He was diagnosed with a concussion and didn't return.
The Broncos first-round draft pick will go for an MRI on Monday after X-rays were negative on his injured left leg. He walked out of the stadium on crutches and with his left foot in a boot.
Bolles was carted off midway through the third quarter when he got stepped on near the goal line toward the end of Denver's 15-play, 75-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes to start the second half. Veteran Allen Barbre finished up at left tackle for Denver.
"Hopefully it's not too serious," said guard Ron Leary, who returned to the lineup just six days after sustained a concussion in the Broncos' opener.
In addition to throwing for six scores with two fluke interceptions (last week the ball ricocheted off a defender and this week his intended receiver tripped), Siemian has shown better mobility in his second year as a starter, running 11 times for 33 yards.
"I thought Trevor played excellent, once again. Very, very, very efficient with the football. He put us in good plays all night," his coach Vance Joseph said. "Again, outside of the one interception, which was more of a unit issue than a Trevor issue, he played well. If he plays that solid for us, we'll be hard to beat down the stretch."
The teams retreated to their locker rooms for 45 minutes when a lightning delay that lasted 62 minutes struck with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
"The first thing we did was turn the AC off. We wanted the guys to stay warm," Joseph said. "We turned the football games on. The guys relaxed and kind of hung out."
Miller joked they "turned on the music for a dance contest."