The Denver Broncos entered Sunday needing a win against the Lions in order to move above .500 on the season and keep pace with the crowded AFC Wild Card race, but also came into the game with heavy hearts.
On Thursday night, word emerged that former Broncos star receiver Demaryius Thomas had died at just 33 years old, leading to an outpouring of remembrances from his former teammates and opponents about a man who was beloved in not only the Denver locker room, but also in New York, New England, and Houston where he spent brief time to close out his career. Denver is where he is most closely associated, though, having starred for the Broncos, catching 90+ balls in five straight years including the Broncos championship season in 2015, and authoring one of the most memorable plays in recent Denver sports history with his touchdown catch from Tim Tebow to win a 2011 Wild Card game against Pittsburgh.
To pay tribute to Thomas, the Broncos opened Sunday’s game with just 10 men on the field, as wide receiver Courtland Sutton left the X receiver spot open and Denver let the play clock wind to zero as the crowd roared and chanted “D-T.”
— NFL (@NFL) December 12, 2021
The Broncos would go on to score a touchdown on that opening drive that started with that touching tribute in an emotional scene in Denver, and the Lions rightfully declined the penalty as a gesture of their own.