ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Von Miller has had plenty of days when he’s helped lift the Denver Broncos to a win, but Sunday he quickly took the Broncos’ rather homely 26-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills and put it squarely on his own shoulders.
Miller’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty kept a fourth-quarter Bills’ drive going — the Broncos would have forced a punt without the penalty — and 10 plays later the Bills kicked a field goal that made their seven-point lead a 10-point lead with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
“I can’t put my team in situations like that,” Miller said. “… I’ve got to be smarter than that. I’m always on the rookies and the young guys about being smart, doing this, doing that. And in a crucial situation in the game — I’ve just got to be better than that … I killed the game today with that play. I’ve just to be better than that.”
The Broncos, who trailed 23-16 at the time, had put the Bills into a third-and-5 situation at the Denver 46-yard line. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor dropped back and was trying to get the ball to wide receiver Jordan Matthews when Miller crashed into the quarterback.
Taylor’s throw fell incomplete and the Broncos appeared to have forced a punt in what was still going to be a one-possession game.
Miller, who said he and Taylor had been “laughing and joking” all game, then offered Taylor his hand to help him before he quickly pulled it away. As soon as the linebacker pulled his hand away, referee Carl Cheffers threw the flag.
“I didn’t see it, but how [the officials] explained it to me, I guess Von gave him a hand to help the guy up and he moved the hand away,” said Broncos coach Vance Joseph. “He called it, so I guess that’s what he thought it was. It’s pro football, but he called it.”
The penalty kept the Bills’ offense on the field and moved the ball to the Broncos’ 31-yard line. The Bills steadily moved the ball to the Broncos’ 9-yard line, and from there Steven Hauschka kicked a 27-yard field goal to give the Bills a 10-point lead with just over three minutes left.
“I know Tyrod … I don’t even talk to quarterbacks, I don’t do anything with quarterbacks,” Miller said. “But Tyrod, we were laughing and joking the whole game and on that play I just made a very, very crucial mistake at a vital point in the game … I’ve got to be a better sportsman and I just can’t put my team in that situation.”
Taylor confirmed that he and Miller were laughing throughout the game.
“Yeah, me and Von came out the same year. Good friends. We was actually laughing on the field. I don’t think he knew. I honestly didn’t know at the time it was going to be a flag. Like I said, we were laughing. But [it] ended up working out in our favor, so just a bad play by him at the time. Pretty sure he wishes he could have that back, but got to move forward,” he said.
When asked if he was laughing because it was funny or because they threw the flag, Taylor said: “Both. Both, for sure.”
Miller finished with six tackles and a sack in the game.
ESPN’s Mike Rodak contributed to this report.