While the offense for the Denver Broncos was playing awesomely, the defense had their struggles. Those struggles came more in coverage than stopping the run, or rushing the quarterback. As a unit for the entire game, their performance was really good overall. They had moments of brilliance, like the interception, or the sacks, but they also had moments where they weren't so brilliant.
Now, onto the layer grades. Each player starts off with a C. A positive play raises their grade, while a negative play hurts their grade.
Snaps: 42. Stats: 3 sacks, 1 hit, 1 assisted tackle, 3 stops.
The 49ers offensive line had no answer for the Broncos front seven. Those issues were due in part to the presence of DeMarcus Ware. Ware was all over the 49ers offensive line causing disruption, even disappearing and reappearing to sack the quarterback. His grade: A.
DE Derek Wolfe
Snaps: 53. 2 hurries, 3 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 3 stops.
Wolfe continued his great play, especially against the run. He continued to cement himself as the best run defender on the Broncos and one of the better ones in the NFL. Rushing the QB for Wolfe is still an area that needs work, but even still, he caused disruption in the passing game. His grade: A-.
Snaps: 40. Stats: 1 sack, 5 hurries, 1 stop.
Jackson has a chip on his shoulder and it shows on every snap. His hard work and play was rewarded with a starting role against the 49ers. On the first snap, Jackson started at DT and was consistently rotated throughout the game. His grade: A-.
Snaps: 29. Stats: 2 hurries, 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop.
Smith looked excellent against the 49ers. He was causing disruption in the passing game, getting pressures on the QB. Against the run, Smith was even better. He was blowing by the offensive line to blow up the play in the backfield. His grade: A-.
Snaps: 21. Stats: None.
The last few weeks has seen a decline in snaps for Terrance Knighton. That isn’t because of his play, but more so the play of others. The Broncos have found a rotation that is excelling on the defensive line and have been using it. Knighton is still a great player and has an impact whenever he takes the field, even if he doesn’t fill up a stat sheet. His grade: B.
Snaps: 31. Stats: 1 hit, 3 hurries, 1 batted pass, 1 tackle.
The only reason Sylvester Williams saw more snaps than Knighton against the 49ers was due to pulling the starters. However, in those snaps, Williams played a lot better than Knighton did in the game. Williams seemingly took losing his starting spot hard and his play has improved. Can he keep it up? That is the question. His grade: B+.
Snaps: 28. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop.
Austin has a big role against the 49ers. He entered the game early and often, as a part of the rotation. For a defensive tackle in the Broncos system, stopping the run and pushing the pocket is key, and that is what Austin did Sunday night. He was consistently in the backfield and hardly got pushed off the line of scrimmage. His grade: A-.
SLB Von Miller
Snaps: 52. Stats: 2 sacks, 1 hit, 4 hurries, 1 tackle, 3 stops.
Von Miller has proven that he deserves to be considered as a top 5 defensive player in the NFL. If he isn’t hitting the quarterback or sacking him, he is right there causing discomfort. He is so disruptive getting after the QB that his run defense gets overlooked, but it is excellent as well. Miller has that combination of size, speed and power that gives any offensive tackle troubles. His grade: A+.
MLB Nate Irving
Snaps: 23. Stats: 2 tackles, 2 stops.
Nate Irving has been relegated to a two-down run stopper the last few weeks, something that is probably for the best, as his coverage skills are lacking. Against the 49ers, Irving played a major part in shutting down their running game. His ability to read the run and plug the hole is up there with the best in the NFL. His grade: B.
WLB Brandon Marshall
Snaps: 66. Stats: 3 hurries, 8 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 4 stops. 4 targets, allowing 3 catches for 21 yards.
The coverage linebacker, Brandon Marshall, has been great all season for the Broncos. He has looked like a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. He can come up and blitz, defend the run or drop into coverage and all with great success. When he does drop into coverage and allows a catch, 9 out of 10 times it is because of a great throw. His grade: A.
LB Corey Nelson
Snaps: 20. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop. 1 target, allowing 0 catches.
The seventh round pick has stepped up in a big way for the Broncos with Danny Trevathan out. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t make mistakes though. Against the 49ers he got beat in coverage, but got bailed out by a drop by the receiver. His grade: B.
SLB Lerentee McCray
Snaps: 23. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop. 3 targets, allowing 3 catches for 21 yards.
Finally back on the field after dealing with an injury the last couple games, McCray did not look all that great. He was beaten consistently in coverage, and not just by exellent throws either. Against the 49ers run game McCray was nearly nonexistent and was taken out of the game. His grade: D+.
LB Lamin Barrow
Snaps: 9. Stats: 1 target, allowing 0 catches.
Unlike the seventh round pick, the fifth round pick, Lamin Barrow, is having a hard time coming around for the Broncos. His role on defense is limited, and mainly is relegated to special teams play. The only reason he saw time on the defensive side of the ball against the 49ers was because the Broncos pulled the starters. His grade: D.
CB Aqib Talib
Snaps: 64. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop. 5 targets, allowing 3 catches for 23 yards with 1 interception.
The Broncos cornerback has been playing on a high level this season. Rarely will Talib allow no catches for a game, but he doesn’t allow big plays either. When he allows a catch, he is quick to make the tackle. He also is one of the best run defending cornerbacks in the NFL. His grade: A-.
CB Chris Harris
Snaps: 55. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 stop. 5 targets, allowing 2 catches for 8 yards.
The best cornerback in the game kept up his excellence against the 49ers. He did allow 2 catches, but he was right there to make the stop. In fact, he allowed a long of 9 yards, and one catch was made behind the line of scrimmage. On that play, Harris was quick to make the tackle for a 1 yard loss. His grade: A.
CB Bradley Roby
Snaps: 64. Stats: 7 tackles, 2 stops. 10 targets, allowing 6 catches for 75 yards and 1 touchdown.
After multiple games of strong play where he did not look like a rookie, Roby looked worse than a rookie Sunday night. He made mistake after mistake. On the four incompletions thrown his way, only one was due to him making a play. The other three were overthrows by the QB or drops. His grade: D-.
Snaps: 27. Stats: 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle. 4 targets, allowing 2 catches for 28 yards.
After a strong game in week 6, Webster took a slight step back in his performance. On Sunday night Webster was very up and down in his performance. He had moments of excellence, but then would allow a catch or commit a bad penalty. On the two catches he allowed, only one was on Webster. The other was an excellent pass and catch that would be hard for anyone to defense. His grade: B-.
CB Omar Bolden
Snaps: 13. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 stop. 2 targets, allowing 1 catch for 7 yards.
When the Broncos pulled the starters, Omar Bolden went in. Well, he saw some time before that when the Broncos were rotating their defensive backs, most likely to keep them fresh. Bolden played really well when on the field, but then he got hurt. His grade: C+.
SS T.J. Ward
Snaps: 66. Stats: 5 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle. 2 targets, allowing 2 catches for 45 yards.
Ward is a box safety. Meaning, he is excellent against the run and struggles in coverage. That is exactly what he showed against the 49ers. He was beaten in coverage whenever he was targeted. On one catch he allowed, he missed the tackle to allow a bigger play to the receiver. His grade: D.
FS Rahim Moore
Snaps: 66. Stats: 1 tackle, 2 missed tackles. 4 targets, allowing 4 catches for 72 yards and 1 touchdown.
Moore started off the season strong. But, lately his play has slowly gone downhill. Sunday night it hit near bottom. Moore was making mistakes left and right. He was taken bad angles to make the tackle, and when he was there to make a tackle, he missed. His coverage was poor as well, often losing track of his man. On the touchdown he allowed, he looked like he gave up on the play early when he thought the QB was going to be sacked. His grade: F.
Snaps: 23. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop. 2 targets, allowing 1 catch for 1 yard with 1 pass deflect.
Cater saw a surge in his snaps from the previous games. He came in and performed the best of the safeties. He provided a spark with a deflected pass. The catch he allowed came from soft coverage, but he came up right away to make the tackle. His grade: B.
Snaps: 10. Stats: None.
David Bruton is one of the best special teams players in the NFL. However, he struggles on defense, especially in coverage. In the limited snaps he got during the 49ers game, Bruton played well. He was quick on the field and made sure the play stayed in front of him. His grade: C+.
The first unit of the Broncos defense played at a high level, but they had some struggles in the secondary. If it were not for dropped passes by the 49ers offensive weapons, the game would have looked different than it was. They got bailed out multiple times.
With their issues in coverage, the Broncos were on the opposite end of the spectrum in their run defense and rushing the quarterback. They were excellent in those aspects. The Broncos strongest group on the defense happens to be their defensive line. They hold one of the best in the NFL. Their linebacker corps is an underrated group, with talent all over the place and versatility to do whatever is needed.