DENVER -- For all the attention Denver gets because of quarterback Peyton Manning -- and rightly so -- it's about time someone notices what's happening with the Broncos' defense. And what's happening is that it's shutting down opponent after opponent, with three of its last six victories over opponents who couldn't score more than 14 points. One of them was New Orleans, and you see what the Saints have done since Denver buried them.
"I think we woke them up," said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. So do I. But somebody should wake up to a Denver defense that stuffed San Diego on 11 of its first 12 third downs Sunday, held the Chargers to 54 first-half yards and forced eight Mike Scifres' punts -- in one half.
"I think it's the best Denver defense I've seen since I've been playing," quarterback Philip Rivers said afterward. "I don't know, just coming off the field I'd say it's as good a group as they've had because they can rush you with four down linemen, can play coverage and mix pressure."
Rivers should know. He was sacked four times and intercepted twice. He also fumbled three times, with one of them lost, and get used to it. But the Broncos can do that to you. This is a defense that had a run of 26 consecutive third-down stops ended Sunday when the Chargers finally hit after 11 misses in a row. That streak, which includes the past three games, is the longest in the NFL in 10 years and merely another reason to put the Broncos at or near the top of the AFC.
2. Those three sacks do more than push Denver's Von Miller to 13 for the season; they have him in the race for Defensive Player of the Year with J.J. Watt and Charles Tillman ... and the gap is closing.