The Denver Broncos head into their bye week at 7-1 with an offense on a record pace for yards and points. In addition, quarterback Peyton Manning remains on pace to shatter most single-season records. However as great as the offense has been and will continue to be; it is the potential of the Broncos defense that has to have their fans excited and their opponents concerned.
It was only one game and it’s too early to say that the defense has turned the corner from their early season struggles, but the effort versus the Washington Redskins was impressive.
The defense gave up seven points to a Redskins offense that is ranked fourth in the league, and was coming off of a 45 point output versus the Chicago Bears.
Yes I know the Redskins ended up with 21 points but 14 of those were off of turnovers.
In the second half versus the Redskins, the Broncos looked like the team that everyone had envisioned back in training camp. The offense started scoring which forced the Redskins to try and keep pace, and as good as that offense can be at times; they are not in the same galaxy with the Broncos offense. In trying to keep up, the Redskins played right into the hands of Jack Del Rio’s defense.
The minute the Broncos got the lead after being down 21-7, the defense turned everyone loose led by linebacker Von Miller. In his second game back, Miller was easily the best defensive player on the field and effectively ended the competitive part of the game with a sack and a strip. The Broncos turned that turnover into three points, giving the Broncos a ten point lead. Miller ended the day with a sack, five tackles including two for a loss but it was his effect on others that was most impressive.
Players who had been nowhere to be seen through the first seven games were all of the sudden making plays. Derek Wolfe had a fumble recovery and a sack in what was his best game as a pro. Terrance Knighton has been solid versus the run all season but was also putting pressure on Griffin III on Sunday with one of those pressures leading to an interception. Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers continued their strong play and the presence of Miller means they will continue to see more one-on-one situations.
The other area that Miller has had an obvious impact is in the secondary; all of the sudden they are much better. I’ve been saying for weeks that the secondary for the Broncos was nowhere near as bad as the numbers suggested they were; if quarterbacks have 4+ seconds to throw then no secondary is going to hold up. That’s what was happening to the Broncos before Miller; they were struggling to get to the quarterback and opposing teams were taking advantage. Now with Miller back and the pass rush improving, the secondary is better. The Broncos intercepted Redskins’ quarterbacks four times in the fourth quarter with one going for a touchdown. Pressure=poor throws=interceptions!
Miller is only one player but as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, he changes everything on that defense. It’s only one game but it was versus a very good offense, and the Broncos shut them down. The Redskins, who were averaging well over 400 yards per game, finally passed to 200 yard mark halfway through the fourth quarter on Sunday.
The focus with continue to be on Manning and the offense, but if the defense continues to show the form the showed on Sunday then the Broncos are going to be extremely tough to beat.
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