From Invesco Field, Denver
For eight years, Mario Haggan has played in the NFL, and he’s done it in relative obscurity. He started back in 2003 when he was a seventh-round draft choice from Mississippi State selected by Buffalo.
Haggan, 6-3, 267 pounds, joined the Broncos in 2008 and coming into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, he had played in 97 NFL games and 32 with the Broncos. In those nearly 100 games he had a career total of three sacks.
But against the Chiefs on Sunday, Haggan was able to equal that total in just the first half. It was his pass rush pressure, including the fumble he caused that led to a return TD for the Denver defense and took the Chiefs right out of any chance of coming back and winning the game.
In the first half, Haggan just seemed unstoppable, as he was constantly harassing Cassel. He was playing outside linebacker only because the starter on that left side Robert Ayers was out of the game with an injury. Haggan was moved into his spot and he had a career day, with six total tackles, three sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
“I’ve never had three sacks, so it was a career day for me,” said Haggan. “Right now, I just want to build on it and continue to help my teammates.”
In a game where the Chiefs never really had a chance, one of the key plays for Denver came when Haggan blew through RT Barry Richardson and got to Cassel, where he knocked the ball out. The fumble bounced around and was scooped up by LB Jason Hunter and he returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
“At the very last second I saw him,” said Cassel. “He was coming free off the edge. He knocked the ball away from me. I have to do a better job of protecting it. I can’t let that happen in that situation.”
Haggan said he was in such a zone he doesn’t really remember the play.
“I don’t even remembering it happening,” he said. “I just looked up and heard the crowd going crazy so that told me to get up and I see Jason running and I got out of breath trying to run with him. That’s all I remember.”
That touchdown made the score 35-0, leading to that 49-29 butt kicking and it had folks in Denver wondering if Haggan is going to continue to rush the passer from outside linebacker.
“That’s a big value to our football team that he can go from the middle linebacker position most of the year and then all the sudden we bump him out there and he gets the job done,” said Denver head coach Josh McDaniels. “Give credit to Joe Mays, who was able to play inside at the middle linebacker spot is what allowed us to put Mario outside, so credit to both of those guys.”
Haggan last sack before this Sunday was in the 2009 season opener against Cincinnati on September 13. It was his only sack of the season.
“You’ve got to have opportunities and that wasn’t really my job last year or earlier this year,” said Haggan who has been a starter in the last 25 games for Denver.
It’s a good bet the 30-year old native of Mississippi will get another chance to get after the quarterback.