The Denver Broncos defense might have gotten off to a slow start in Week 1 vs. the Carolina Panthers, but by the time the final whistle blew, Cam Newton was just as beaten and battered as he was when he emerged from Super Bowl 50.
Carolina mitigated the Broncos pass rush early on with some well-designed protections and schemes, but just like water will find the path of least resistance in gravity's slow relent, so will Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and company eventually get to the quarterback.
However, the NFL's reigning MVP took several shots to the head late in the game. Only one was penalized, and it ended up costing the Broncos nothing in-game, due to an offsetting flag for intentional grounding.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... The officials might have missed some calls but the league office took notice, fining linebacker Brandon Marshall $24,000 and safety Darian Stewart $18,231. Since Thursday night's game, there has been a rampant backlash against the Broncos defense, with some pundits calling them "dirty" and even alleging that they targeted Newton's head.
Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips finds the notion laughable.
“I think it’s ridiculous," Phillips said Thursday. "We’ve never taught that. It’s never happened before. We actually—if there’s penalties that should’ve been called in the game, we get on our players even if they weren’t called. We get on our players because we don’t want penalties. Nobody wants penalties. Penalties can cost you games, so whether it’s a holding penalty or illegal chuck or any of those things, you’ve got to play the game penalty-free if you can, because it gives you a better chance to win."
The old football coach knows his craft. Phillips' units are always taught to play hard and physical. But dirty? No.
"There’s no way that you would want those things to happen," Phillips said. "And it almost cost us in the game because there was an intentional grounding play that would’ve put them [out of range]—the game would’ve been over again. We had one on a fourth-and-21. We had another where they had an intentional grounding. In both those situations, the game would’ve been over, so we teach against those things certainly.”
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1706867-marshall-articulates-plan... Phillips is the ultimate respector of the game. His football pedigree goes back decades and can be traced to his father, Bum. Wade holds the game of football with the utmost reverence, but his enthusiasm for his trade trickles down to his players and can be seen in the intensity with which they play the game.
Denver's defense isn't dirty. They are, however, battle-tested and poised. When the chips are down, they will not wilt. And that's why they each have a new piece of shiny hardware to flaunt on their respective ring fingers, and why Denver now boasts three Lombardi Trophies at team headquarters.
Phillips' unit paid the price for the hits on Newton. Two players got fined. And they know they were lucky in not being called for any of the other hits on Newton. They lived to fight another day, this time wiser.
The league will be watching on Sunday when Andrew Luck comes to town. Luck might be a different quarterback than Newton, but he invites contact when he gets outside the pocket, at times.
“They don’t run designated running plays for Luck," Phillips said. "That’s the difference really. Both of them are great quarterbacks and both of them have been to Pro Bowls. One of them is the MVP and the other guy’s starting out with four touchdown passes and 385 yards. Luck can run with the ball, but his are scrambles. The other guy’s are designated running plays.”
The Broncos are 1-3 vs. the Indianapolis Colts in the Luck era. Phillips and his unit have their work cut out for them. This time around, the Broncos defense will work to ensure that Luck does not emerge from this game victorious.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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