The Denver Broncos appear to have corrected their defensive woes from their previous two games, allowing only 20 points after back-to-back 40-plus point games. Of course, it helped that the Broncos were facing the 3-6 Cincinnati Bengals, who ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in just about all major offensive categories.

But as it has been the case too often over the past two seasons, a solid defensive performance was wasted by a poor offensive showing. The Broncos dropped their sixth consecutive game, and seventh in eight, 20-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the week leading up to the game, a key headline for the Broncos-Bengals tilt was Broncos nose tackle Domata Peko‘s first game against his former team. Peko spent his first 11 years in the NFL as a member of the Bengals defense, developing a reputation as one of the most consistent nose tackles in the NFL.

In the 2017 offseason, the Bengals opted in favor of younger talent on the roster, declining to resign Peko. Looking to prove he still has what it takes to play at a high level, Peko put on a truly dominant performance against his former team.

While nose tackles don’t often record the same “headline” stats that other defensive players do, Peko made an exception against his former team. Peko led the team with five tackles (two for loss) and also recorded one assist. Peko made life difficult for Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton, consistently providing an interior pass rush that prevented Dalton from stepping up in the pocket throughout most of the game. Dalton passed for just 154 yards in the game.

Outside of his pass-rushing ability, Peko was a force against the run. His constant penetration of the backfield and ability to shed double-teams made life difficult for the Bengals running backs all evening. As a result, highly touted rookie Joe Mixon was held to 49 yards on 20 rushes. As a whole, the Bengals were held to 49 total yards rushing and 190 total net yards.

The Bengals capitalized on two Denver turnovers — scoring touchdowns on both — to negate Peko’s strong showing.

Peko, who is still highly respected within the Bengals organization, received many high-fives, handshakes and hugs from former teammates and coaches before and after the game.

Peko’s impact on the Broncos’ defense this season cannot be understated, as he has turned the 27th-ranked rush defense of 2016 to a top-five unit in the NFL stopping the run. His veteran leadership and powerful play have been invaluable assets to the Broncos on the field and in the locker room, despite the poor results in the win-loss column.

Despite Peko’s Pro Bowl-level play, the Broncos season appears to be all but over sitting at 3-7 on the season. No team in NFL history has ever started the season 3-7 and made the playoffs.