|10-21-2005, 08:52 AM||#1|
Never say Always
Join Date: Jan 2003
Denver defense deserves praise after tough start
Denver defense deserves praise after tough start
Oct. 20, 2005
By Pete Prisco
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
They once had the Orange Crush defense, but admit it, when you think about the Denver Broncos you think offense.
Isn't coach Mike Shanahan considered an offensive wizard?
Al Wilson helped seal Denver's win over the Patriots with a huge hit on Deion Branch. (AP)
So what the heck has happened to the Broncos? They've morphed into another team, a pound-it running team that happens to play pretty good defense.
The Broncos are ninth in scoring defense, giving up 17.8 points per game, down from their 19-point average in 2004. By contrast, the offense is scoring 21.3 per game, which is down from 23.8 per game in 2004.
The run defense is ranked fifth in the league, but the pass defense has been suspect at times, ranking 26th overall. That gives the Broncos a ranking of 22nd overall, which isn't impressive, but they have played better than that.
After seeing the Indianapolis Colts do a number on them in the playoffs the past two years -- playing pitch and catch at will -- it's a nice sign for the Broncos and their fans to see improvement.
Maybe it's time the Denver defense got its due.
"The offense is always going to get all the credit and the glory," Broncos linebacker Ian Gold said. "We pride ourselves on getting the job done and staying behind the scenes. Now that we're winning, people are saying, 'Hey, they can play defense, too.'"
At 5-1, Denver has the second-best record in the league, their only loss coming on opening day at Miami against the Dolphins.
It was an awful day for the defense, with Miami gaining 426 yards of offense. That's the same Miami team that has struggled on offense most of the time since.
There was talk after that game of friction between Shanahan and defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, something both denied.
"Never heard that," Gold said.
What Gold and his teammates did hear was the wakeup bell. In the five games since, the Denver defense has given up 315 yards per game.
"I think after that Miami game we looked around at each other; we have to expect more from each other," said Gold, who returned to the Broncos this year after one season with Tampa Bay. "I knew what to expect from Al (Wilson) and some of the other guys. But the new guys on defense started realizing we have some high expectations. This isn't Cleveland. Once they realized that, they stepped up their games, and it's showing."
The Broncos brought in four linemen who played for the Browns last season in an effort to improve their defensive front. At the time, it was considered a controversial way to improve because the Browns struggled on defense and several of the players came with question marks over their heads.
So far, Shanahan gets the check next to being right for these moves.
Defensive tackles Gerard Warren and Michael Myers are both playing well, while Courtney Brown and Ebenezer Ekuban have started at end. Tackle Monsanto Pope is the only starter from 2004 to start a game this year.
"Well, they worked out extremely well, all four of them," Shanahan said. "Sometimes you kind of reap the reward when someone goes from a four-man front to a three-man front because we had an eye on a few of those players the year before and they weren't interested in trading anybody.
"With the change in coaching staff and philosophy, we were able to get some people that we thought would give us some depth and help our football team get stronger and we were able to that because three of those guys are starting and the other guy's the first substitute."
The return to health of Trevor Pryce this year has made a real difference. He missed 14 games with a herniated disc last season, but when he's healthy -- which he is now -- he can dominate the line of scrimmage.
All together, the front has made a huge difference, Gold said.
"What we're doing is because of them," Gold said. "It makes it so much easier for our linebackers to get to the ball."
He might just be being a bit modest. The feeling among some Denver players is that the linebackers key the defense.
In Gold, middle linebacker Al Wilson and strong-side linebacker D.J. Williams, the Broncos might have the fastest group of any team in the league.
In the secondary, the Broncos have been forced to play without star corner Champ Bailey for three games because of a hamstring injury. That has forced rookies Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth into the lineup. Both have played well.
"I told them they're not rookies anymore," Gold said. "They're beyond that. Even before Champ was hurt, I could sense they were past being a rookie. They came in focused. A lot of times guys come into the league and get the money and they want to party and hang out. These guys came in focused on being good football players. And now we're seeing what that means for them."
When Bailey is back to 100 percent, the pass defense will improve. When it does, it should help a pass rush that has just eight sacks, tying Denver with Cleveland and Oakland for third fewest in the league.
This week the defense gets its stiffest test when it faces the New York Giants, the league's highest-scoring offense. If the Broncos can shut down the Giants, who knows? Maybe the defense will finally start to get some due.
Maybe come playoff time, the D in Denver will mean defense again instead of that other d-word: demolished.
|10-21-2005, 09:14 AM||#2|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Sep 2005
What scares me is the part of our D that is still suspect is our pass D. All the great play in the world won't matter if Peyton comes and picks us apart like a thanksgiving turkey once again.
Encouraging thought? While Champ was in, the Pats were held to some mediocre passing yardage in the first half (119 and no tds I believe). When he went out is when we got lit up.
So, here is hoping to staying healthy, and continuing to put pressure on the QB!
What disgusted me was how much Pryce was getting held, and it was never called. Yet he touches the QB (grazed his helmet), and gets a 15 yard personal foul. When will they allow him to play football?
|10-21-2005, 09:16 AM||#3|
Fan of the home team
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Durango, Colorado
|10-21-2005, 09:24 AM||#4|
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Wash DC
I really think you can chalk up the pass defense the last couple games to playing safe with 2 rookies in there. They schemed to keep the ball in front of them and not give up any huge scoring plays, and while it isn't evident in the final numbers, it really worked. A good 100 yards of Brady's last week can be attributed to blatant non-calls of holding. Scoring defense is the only defensive stat I really care about anyway, and so far so good there.
|10-21-2005, 11:41 AM||#5|
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Northern Utah
Spot on 2KB...
Remember the Super Bowl teams in 97 and 98? They weren't all that great in pass D either but that was mostly because the Broncos always jumped out to an early lead and the run D was stout, forcing the opposing team to pass. Sounds a lot like what has been happening this year so far doesn't it?
|10-21-2005, 11:58 AM||#6|
RIP Darrent Williams
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Glendale, AZ
The pass D is a lot better when Champ is in there. They run different plays and it opens up opportunities for some TO's to happen.
As the others said, the rooks have been told to play off the ball and dont let anything behind them, and so far they have done well in that area.
|10-21-2005, 12:08 PM||#7|
Join Date: Aug 2005
The Defense, including the pass defense, is a lot better than the stats indicate. Key factors:
When we have been healthy we have often been dominant against some very good teams.
|10-21-2005, 01:20 PM||#8|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Mar 2004
We have given up a lot of Passing yards late in the game. Call it garbage yards or whatever. Im not sure of the number but we have to be close to giving up around 60 yards rushing a game outside of Miami game, which means we are forcing teams to pass. The numbers may not look good, but making a team one dimentional does.