Marvin Mims Jr. may not be seeing the ball much on offense, but the rookie has still turned himself into a one-man drive-starter.
The wide receiver out of Oklahoma is setting the Broncos offense up nicely almost every time he gets a chance in the return game.
This week, that work earned him the AFC’s special teams player of the week honor.
Mims, a second-round pick last spring, has already blossomed into one of the NFL’s most dangerous return men on both punts and kickoffs and his impact was on full display in Denver’s 24-22 win Monday night at Buffalo.
He logged a 31-yard kick return but really made an impact with punt returns of 17 and 27 yards. Those returns set up the Broncos’ only two touchdown drives of the night. That kind of production becomes even more pronounced when Denver had just one offensive snap that went for 20-plus yards without the aid of a defensive penaltyEven without many explosives, the Broncos were able to hold the ball for more than 37 minutes and generate a major field position advantage — they started at their own 41 on average — because of four Bills turnovers and the work of Mims and the return units.
“Our starting field position was outstanding yesterday,” Payton said Tuesday. “It felt like we played a lot of that game on their end of the field. Generally speaking when that happens, any mistake they make is magnified, and then any mistake you make isn’t quite as significant because it’s on their end of the field.
“Those returns were significant.”
They were indeed, and they have been all year.
It’s how Mims continues to make an impact even though he’s done nothing offensively since a blistering start to the season. Over the past five games he has two catches (four targets) for four yards and two carries for minus-14. But he’s setting the Broncos offense up well in the return game.
Mims, however, is tied for fourth in the NFL in total return yardage (kick and punt) at 421 and the Broncos currently lead the NFL in both punt return average (20.7) and kick return average (33.6).
He’s muffed a kick and a punt each, but besides that all eight of his punt returns have gone for at least 11 yards.
On the Broncos’ eight drives following a Mims’ punt return, the Broncos have scored touchdowns five times, including all three the past two weeks in upset wins against Kansas City and Buffalo.
They look like this:
Chicago: 25-yard punt return from Denver’s nine to 34.
Kansas City (Week 6): 12-yard punt return from Denver’s 27 to 39.
Kansas City (Week 8): 31-yard punt return from Denver’s 30 to KC’s 39.
Buffalo: 17-yard return from Denver’s 31 to 48.
Buffalo: 27-yard return from Denver’s 19 to 46.
Average spot where Mims fielded those punts: Denver’s own 23-yard line.
Average starting field position on those drives for the Broncos: Their own 46-yard line.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit before, he has a good awareness about him, he has good football intelligence, and obviously, he has a lot of athletic ability,” special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica said recently. “Again, whether it’s in the kickoff return game or punt return game, when that ball is in his hands, it’s just a level of excitement that I think is good for our unit and good for our team.”