How The Denver Broncos Defense Rallied Around The Fallen Wade Phillips

When Wade Phillips was carted off the field in Week 8's bout with San Diego, the Broncos defense rallied and found a way to win. How'd they do it?

The elation of seeing cornerback Bradley Roby return a deflected Philip Rivers pass for a touchdown during Sunday’s win over the San Diego Chargers was quickly tempered by a scary moment that happened during the play. 

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was forced out of bounds by a Broncos defender sending him careening into 69-year-old defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, knocking him down. While Phillips was responsive and taken away to a local hospital as a precaution, it was an uneasy moment for all of Broncos Country to see their beloved coach down and out on the sidelines. The baton of calling the defense would be passed to linebackers coach Reggie Herring. Herring did a remarkable job on short notice and led the defense to pick off Rivers twice after Phillips’ exit, holding the Chargers out of the end zone on a crucial drive that might have tied the game. Head coach Gary Kubiak talked about his confidence in Herring after the game. 

“Reggie has done that before," Kubiak said. "When I was at Houston, I lost Wade for a couple of games and Reggie called the game. Reggie has done that. I’m really proud of him. I gave him a game ball. When it happened, I got on the headset a couple of times and he told me to shut the hell up and get off the headset. He did a good job. Reggie is a fine coach. He’s been a teacher for Wade for many years and he really stepped up and did a great job today.”

Additionally, Kubiak would remark on the excellent job Herring did in keeping the defense going without their sideline general and in dealing with the absence of key starters like linebacker Brandon Marshall and cornerback Aqib Talib

“The thing that’s really tough, is remember, that guy coaches a position," Kubiak said. "Not only did Reggie have three linebackers he was working with today because ‘B-Marsh’ was out; he was coaching all of those guys and now he has to call the game. It puts him in a dual role. It makes it tougher on everybody. Give [Defensive Line Coach] Bill [Kollar], ‘Pug’ [Outside Linebackers Coach Fred Pagac], [Defensive Backs Coach] Joe Woods and [Assistant Secondary Coach] Samson [Brown], give all of those guys credit. They came together and helped. I thought we played our tail off and made some big stops. I’m just very proud of how they pulled it together.”

The interception returned for a score by Roby was a highlight in a defensive battle that took place between the Chargers and Broncos. Both sides hunkered down early and stifled the opposing offenses. In such a crucial Divisional game, Coach Kubiak would touch on how important it was for coaches and players to rally in the face of losing Phillips. “You’re sitting there watching one of your soldiers like that and they’re worried about him," Kubiak said. "The good news is, Wade was responding to all of us on the sidelines. I didn’t see it, so I don’t know exactly what happened. He was responding and our guys did the right things by him and making sure that he was okay. The players responded and played their tails off for Reggie and the defensive coaches.”

The Denver defense continues to be the inspirational backbone for this team. Players like Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan left via free-agency but it doesn’t matter when Todd Davis and Jared Crick step in an do an adequate job.

What do you do when you lose key playmakers like Marshall and Talib? Sub in Corey Nelson and Bradley Roby and the defense continues to purr like a well-oiled machine.

Even when the architect of one of the best defenses in league history is lost, the coaching staff bonds together and produces a game plan that put the handcuffs on one of the most productive offenses in the league this year.

The Denver offense is still searching to find its identity and that’s fine. The coaching staff continues to work on tweaking things to get more out of the unit.

However, as long as the No Fly Zone performs to it's fullest capabilities, the Broncos will continue to be tough to beat on any given Sunday. 

As for Phillips, he was back at Broncos headquarters on Monday, doing his regular thing. 

“He’s sitting in the back of the meeting just now and has a big smile on his face," Kubiak said Monday. "He’s sore, but he’s feeling good. He’s back at it. I’m trying to get him to go home and rest a little bit today, but he doesn’t want to do that. He’s good. He’s himself today.”

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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