After a breakout season in 2019, Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton missed the bulk of the 2020 season because of a torn ACL.
Sutton was quiet in his first regular-season game back from injury last week, catching just one pass for 14 yards vs. the New York Giants. But against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2, that changed.
The fourth-year receiver caught nine passes on 12 targets for 159 yards, providing a much-needed presence after the Broncos lost Jerry Jeudy to a high-ankle sprain against the Giants.
After the Broncos' 23-13 win over the Jaguars, head coach Vic Fangio had no doubts that Sutton is back to form.
"No, he's back," Fangio said. He’s back."
Fangio continued to break down Sutton's performance. "It was great. There’s a lot of big plays in every game—the catch he made in the first drive of the second half there for the big one was critical."
That 55-yard reception by Sutton put the Broncos at the Jaguars' 17-yard line. Two plays later, the Broncos scored a touchdown.
Though Sutton didn't find the end zone himself, his timely catches kept drives alive. He might have had at least one touchdown, too, were it not for defensive pass interference that wasn't called. But Sutton took the missed calls in stride.
"You've got to play through it," Sutton said after the game. "If they call it, they call it. If they don't, it is what it is. It's not like I can go out there and yell at the ref and then they will throw the flag two plays later... You take the game as it comes to you. And the ball finds you in crazy ways throughout the game. And you can't dwell on the things that happened in the past. You go to snap clear and keep it moving."
The 55-yard reception, in particular, stood out.
"Oh, yeah, we needed that one," Sutton said. "I feel like my mindset whenever the ball goes in the air, this opportunity—Teddy's giving me an opportunity to go make a play for the offense for the team and when the ball's in the air, we don't get too many plays in a game. It's not like where we get 80, 90 snaps. You get opportunities and you've got to make the most of them as they come to you in the game."
Sutton's big game happened almost one year after his ACL injury. The Broncos' wide receiver said he went through a lot in his recovery and is truly grateful to be back on the field.
"I thank God every day that I'm in the position I am in right now because there's a lot of hard work that went into it," he said. "And a lot of support staff from the trainers, my family, my friends. I've had a lot of people in my corner supporting me throughout the whole process. And to be able to go out there and compete in games, it's just a blessing."
It's something to which teammate Von Miller can relate. Miller's 2020 season ended before it began because of a torn ligament in his ankle in practice. Back in 2013, Miller missed six games because of a suspension, then tore his ACL shortly after he returned.
Miller came back strong in 2014, though, and is off to a good start for 2021, much like Sutton.
"It feels amazing," Miller said. "You’re reassured in the offseason and you’re reassured during OTAs and training camp, but there's nothing like having success in the game, for the mental. Mentally, you can say ‘I'm back, I can do it.’ So, we all know he (Sutton) can do it. For him, I’m sure, having success on game day goes a long way."
During his post-game interview, Miller proclaimed the same thing Fangio did: "Courtland Sutton, Courtland is back."
It's certainly good to have Sutton back — and his presence will be appreciated by the home crowd when the Broncos host the New York Jets for their first game at Mile High this season. Sutton, for one, looks forward to that.
"I'm just excited that we're bringing a 2-0 start to Empower Field," Sutton said. "Broncos Country is going to be loud. I already know—I don't expect anything less. One of the best places to play ball in. And I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a lot of fun. I hope Bronco country shows up and shows out."