Conventional football wisdom says that you can’t count on a defense, no matter how dominant, to make enough plays to help you win a majority of football games. That was the rationale last year for the Denver Broncos, until they proved otherwise, riding an historically smothering defense all the way to a Super Bowl Championship.
With a quarter of the season in the books and the team standing at 4-0, the Denver defense is continuing its stellar play while proving the “experts” wrong.
Looking at statistical evidence of the last four quarterbacks Denver has faced, along with rushing totals from those games, we get a clearer picture of how good Denver has been to start this year.
Cam Newton, Week 1
Newton went 18-of-33 for 194 yards, with one touchdown pass, one rushing score and one interception for a 69.5 quarterback rating. He took three sacks, and several shots for his troubles.
The Carolina Panthers racked up 157 yards rushing but if you look at the unconventional offense they use that makes the most of Newton running the ball, that number is slightly deceiving.
Take away Newton's 54 yards on the ground, and the Denver defense gave up 103 yards rushing.
Andrew Luck, Week 2
Luck went 21-of-40 for 197 yards, throwing for one touchdown, as well as one interception. He hit the turf five times and finished with a quarterback rating of 64.3 and lost a fumble that set up the go-ahead score for the Broncos. The Denver defense would be stouter against the run, only allowing 83 yards on the ground.
If you take out Luck’s 22 rushing yards, they would hold the Colts to just 61 yards on the ground.
Andy Dalton, Week 3
Dalton went 21-of-31 for 206 yards, throwing no touchdowns and one interception. Dalton would be under fire and sacked four times by Denver, with a 72.8 quarterback rating.
The box score for Cincinnati would see the team rush for 143 yards but again, if we adjust for Jeremy Hill’s 50-yard run in the first quarter and Dalton’s 40 yards scrambling and the Bengals would have just over 50 yards rushing for the day.
Jameis Winston, Week 4
Winston was held to 17-of-35 for 179 yards with a rushing touchdown but zero passing scores and two interceptions. Winston would feel the heat of the Denver pass rush to the tune of five sacks for a miserable 40.1 quarterback rating.
The Tampa running game did little to keep the pressure off of Winston or force Denver to honor the threat of a running game, as they would produce only 72 yards rushing as a team. Winston accounted for almost a third of that with 19 yards.
Coach Gary Kubiak remarked on the performance of his defense in Sunday's 27-7 road win at Tampa.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... “I mean obviously they get three turnovers and only gave up like 60 yards in the second half, but the good thing today is we struggled to run the ball but when we got the turnovers, we converted them," Kubiak said. "I think we were three-for-four in the red zone and in a game like that, who plays best in the red zone usually wins.”
Many teams will rally behind the idea of “not getting any respect” but in the case of the Broncos, how much longer must they wait for the national media as whole to recognize that this defense isn’t just a very good one, or a unit that is the middle of a nice run, but one of the best defensive units to play the game?
The 1985 Chicago Bears had a defense for the ages but couldn’t sustain it for more than one season. The 1986 Bears would still be a good team and make it to the playoffs that year but couldn’t overcome the loss of Jim McMahon at quarterback.
Comparing this Denver defensive unit, the Broncos continue to produce despite four different quarterbacks lining up behind center in the span of the last 23 games, including the postseason. The Denver defense has proven consistently that they can carry the offense and win games in lieu of a having a prolific offense.
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense is similar to this current Broncos group in that they would rely primarily on it’s defense to win its championship, carrying a slightly below average offense. The 2001 Ravens would make the playoffs but lose star running back Jamal Lewis during the season and fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional round.
However, the Ravens would return all but one member of their Super Bowl winning defense from 2000 in contrast to Denver, whom most pundits figured wouldn’t be able to replicate the production of 2015 because of free agent losses. Again, Denver gets the nod as it has been able to plug different players into a variety of spots and still maintain a high level of play.
Broncos fans, it would be wise to take as many pictures as you can and save as many newspaper clippings as possible of this team because it truly has the making of a once-in-a-lifetime defense. In an era where most contenders have a three to four-year window of Super Bowl contention, the uniqueness of the Denver defense is keeping that window open longer than expected in the same way it holds opposing offenses.
With superstars like Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Marshall and Chris Harris, Jr. all locked up for the foreseeable future, we are living in a golden era of Denver Bronco football where defense reigns supreme, much to the painful dismay of opposing quarterbacks.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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