The Denver Broncos Defense Must Rise to the Occasion vs. the New England Patriots

Denver's D needs to have its best game of the season against the Pats. Sound familiar?

Entering the last third of the season, December football raises the stakes for many teams around the league. Losers of their last two games, the Denver Broncos are in the proverbial pressure cooker.

The rallying motto for the team last year was, “Iron sharpens iron." The second part of the passage, often forgotten, is just as important: “as one man sharpens another.” The Denver Broncos will need to have every man at their sharpest when the New England Patriots come to town Sunday afternoon. The 11-2 Patriots are playing some of their best ball of the year as they enter their contest with the Broncos. Despite losing tight end Rob Gronkowski for the remainder of the year with a back injury, little has slowed down New England.

The New England offensive attack is incredibly balanced. Led by Tom Brady, the Pats are fourth in the league in total offense, fourth in passing and seventh in rushing. Often perceived as a finesse, pass-heavy scheme, LeGarrette Blount has given New England a smash-mouth element. The former Oregon Duck has averaged a healthy 4.1 yards per carry to the tune of 1,029 yards and a league-best 14 touchdowns this season.

With weapons at receiver, running back and Brady at the helm, the No-Fly Zone is tasked with slowing down the Pats. Any hope of making it in to the postseason will depend heavily on it.

Safety T.J. Ward, the wild man of the secondary, broke down what he felt the defense had to do to get Denver over the hump on Sunday.

“We’ve got to have a dog mentality, a bear mentality," Ward said. "Once you want it, you have to keep charging. You can’t sit back and feel sorry for yourselves, man. We got to pick it up.”

“We feel that we have to play great every week. There is major pressure every week, especially in the back end. We feel like we have to be our best every week to try to keep this team in the game or to win the games," Chris Harris said, echoing the need for defense to continue playing at a high level.

It has been an odd couple of games these last two weeks. Without huge momentum swings or uncharacteristic moments occurring at the worst possible times, Denver could easily be 9-4 or 10-3 coming into this week’s game.

Outside linebacker Shane Ray alluded to those situations.

“Right now, I’m not going to make any excuses and say that we’ve been given the bad end of it, but things haven’t been going our way," Ray said. "We just have to continue to grind and be who we are and push each other.”

The Denver defense made a good case for itself last Sunday. After allowing DeMarco Murray and the Tennessee Titans to pile chunks of yardage on the ground in the first two quarters, the Broncos played an inspired half of football. Down two scores, Denver would hold Murray and company in check and keep Tennessee off the board for the remainder of the game.

The identity of the Denver Broncos lies in the defense. With younger players at key positions on the offensive side of the ball, the Denver defense is doing much of the heavy-lifting when it comes to winning games as of late. In many ways, these next few games mirror last year’s run to the playoffs. Coming off demoralizing defeats on the road to the Pittsburgh Steelers and at home to the Oakland Raiders, the team would rally to take two crucial wins in tough games against the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers to capture the number one overall seed in 2015.

The Denver Broncos leave themselves with little margin for error. Likely having to win out to get into the postseason, Denver will have to overcome the always-talented Patriots this week and tough divisional games against Kansas City and Oakland to close out the year.

Solace, however, needs to be found in the fact that this is a team that has had its mettle tested before. In those trying times, character is built, as well as the ability to dig down deep and win a game that many are already counting the Broncos out of.

Whatever happens on Sunday, look for the Denver defense to rise to the occasion and do everything in their power to get the W.

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

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