Highlighting the Top 5 Interceptions of Champ Bailey's Broncos Career
He was a leader and a soldier on the football field. A captain who deserved every star on his jersey.
He's always been the type of player who approached the game with class. He doesn't brag. He doesn't yell at camera crews after the game to tell them how great he is. He just quietly, almost casually, shuts down the best wide receiver in the game, every game.
When the Broncos released Bailey, it was truly the dark side of the salary cap era, of free agency—not being able to keep a fan favorite, a hero who has been in the city for a decade, because of cap space.
It was also due to Father Time, who even Bailey has not been able to outrun.
However, it is not time to dwell on what happened or why, but to look back at the 10 years given to fans in Denver by one of the greatest players to ever wear the orange and blue. He's made many insane plays over the years, but these five interceptions stand out.
When looking at the top interceptions, there are three main points that have to be addressed:
1. Impact on the game.
A pick in a playoff game automatically gets a bit more weight than one in a regular-season game. Momentum swings and the overall impact that the interception had on that specific game at that moment play a big part. The time left in the game also has to be considered.
2. Who it was against.
3. The eye test.
This is the catch-all. If it just jumps off the screen—due to athleticism, a crazy bounce, etc.—it can make the cut. If it makes you stand up and yell and spill your nachos, that's worth something.
With that, let's celebrate 10 years of watching Champ Bailey grace the field in Denver. The impact that No. 24 had on the city was undeniable, and it was a thing of beauty to watch.
New York or Baltimore?
These two clips are very short and I couldn't decide between them, so I've just decided to use them both.
Go to about 0:14 in this video and you're going to be treated to two picks, the first of which is a diving grab against the New York Giants. That's the game from 2005, and Bailey is actually getting that pick with under four minutes left, which, at the time, appeared to seal it.
However, New York managed to get the ball back and score for the win, which is why this isn't higher. It's a great dive, though, showing athleticism and awareness.
The clip immediately after that is a diving grab in front of a Ravens' receiver. This one is just great because of the way he flies in front of the receiver, leaving him windmilling his arms and grasping for a ball that was so cleanly snatched away from him. The timing by Bailey could not be more perfect.
Leaping Snag in Seattle
This huge leap is at about 0:54 of this video.
When Matt Hassleback lets this ball go, he probably thinks that he has plenty of room. After all, Bailey is inside of the receiver, giving him some space.
Turns out that Bailey is just baiting him. Never underestimate this man.
There isn't much room for returning one of these interceptions, but watching Champ soar for that ball just gives you some idea of Bailey's incredible athleticism and his drive to never give up on a play. Most corners would watch that sail over their heads, but he's going to go get it.
Pick-Six in Dallas
Go to about 2:27 in this video, and you'll see one of the cleanest interceptions for a touchdown that has ever taken place.
It's a beautiful read on the ball, but the thing that makes it is Bailey's speed. The receiver gives up on the play, but Champ just flashes by, grabs the ball and has nothing but green in front of him.
You have to think that that's the dream for any cornerback—being able to run in the open like that, knowing that you don't even have to make a single move to put six points on the board.
It's also one of the best ways to deflate an offense. Almost before the quarterback can even process the fact that he's thrown a pick, the ball is in the end zone.
Toe Drag Against New Oreleans
Go to 2:04 and just watch Champ's feet.
Forget the fact that this pick comes against the Saints or that it's late enough in the game that it basically ends the contest.
Forget that Champ makes a great read and shows insane closing speed, flying out of nowhere to explode across the receiver's path.
Just watch the way that he drags that second foot to make sure that he's in.
While running at a full sprint, he still has the presence of mind and the physical ability to drag his toe and secure the pick.
103 Yards Against New England
This one was huge. The Patriots were about to take the lead in the game. They were the Super Bowl Champions from the year before, striving to defend their title in the playoffs.
If they got into the end zone at the end of the third quarter, who knows how this game would have ended. The Patriots could have easily strolled out of Denver with a win.
Instead, Bailey snagged the ball in the end zone and took it back 103 yards, all the way to the Broncos' 1-yard line.
Denver scored on a run to extend their lead, but, for all intents and purposes, Champ won that game when he caught the ball.
Not only does this interception basically win a playoff game for Denver, but it also comes against Tom Brady. This is the type of play that only the best can make.
Have a play that you think deserves to recognized? Mention it in the comments and we'll see if anyone can crack the top five. Bailey has made many next-level plays over the years, and they're all worth watching as his time in Denver comes to a close.