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  • Kyle Newman (Denver Post)

Broncos’ Randy Gregory after clutch sack, forced fumble vs. Texans: “There’s more I can do”

Chubb chipped in two more quarterback hits, while the Broncos also got a pass-rushing boost from Dre’Mont Jones

Tytus Howard (71) of the Houston Texans blocks Randy Gregory (5) of the Denver Broncos during the second quarter at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Prior to the Broncos’ home opener Sunday, linebackers Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory threw down the gauntlet with each other.

“We turned it into a little internal competition,” Gregory said. “We challenged each other, ‘Who can get (to the quarterback) first?'”

Gregory responded with his second forced fumble in as many games, this week’s coming on a sack, plus three quarterback hits and a tackle for loss. Chubb chipped in two more quarterback hits, while the Broncos also got a pass-rushing boost from Dre’Mont Jones (two sacks and a forced fumble) in the 16-9 win over Houston.

“Before the game we talked about beating each other to the quarterback,” Chubb explained. “There was one play where we sandwiched (Texans quarterback Davis Mills) in the second quarter, and it felt good to see us back there at the same time. Then (Gregory) finished the game off with a strip-sack.”

Gregory’s fourth-quarter sack was his first with the Broncos and cemented the home team’s ugly win on a day where Denver needed its defense to rise up as the offense sputtered.

With 2:38 left, Gregory burst around the left edge on first-and-10, easily shedding a chip block and then speeding past tackle Tytus Howard to get to Mills. Gregory knocked the ball from the quarterback’s hand, but Chubb, who was also in the backfield, was unable to corral the loose ball.

Three plays later the Broncos forced the Texans into a turnover on downs and the game was essentially over, but that didn’t stop Gregory from razzing his edge-rushing mate in the locker room postgame.

“Bradley should’ve had that ball,” Gregory said, smiling.

“I told (you) I should’ve had it,” Chubb pleaded. “I should’ve had it, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry bro.”

“I don’t think you should’ve had it, you definitely should’ve had it,” Gregory laughed. “We’re supposed to meet at the quarterback, and I knocked the ball out, you’re supposed to be there to pick it up. It’s all good though. We’ve still got 15 games left, plus playoffs, so we’re all good. We’re working on it.”

The good-natured back-and-forth speaks to the two’s budding relationship, and their collective hopes for this season.

For Chubb, getting back to double-digit sacks — as he did in a record-setting rookie season — is the clear goal. For Gregory, it’s about staying on the field and proving he’s worth the five-year, $70 million deal he signed as a free agent this offseason.

“I know there’s more I can do,” Gregory said. “These two games are a good baseline as far as rushing the passer and I thought I did better this week than last week. But there’s still some little things, like mental errors and misalignments, stuff I should have down pat as far as playbook stuff that I need to work on. Once I get those details squared away, the sky is the limit for (me and Chubb).”

Chubb also emphasized that Jones’ first sacks of the season are a sign of bigger things to come from the fourth-year defensive lineman.

“I was happy for Dre’Mont to get his strip sack too, and being able to get his confidence up and into the groove of his rush and (on the path) to showing he can be the best D-tackle in this league,” Chubb said. “I’m excited for where we’re going as a defense, as rushers and how we’re getting there.”

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