Last season, the team hailed from "enver" -- as in, no D. The club allowed a franchise-record 6,253 yards; 471 points, second worst ever; and ranked in the bottom five in rushing yards allowed (2,473), rushing TDs allowed (26) and passing yards allowed (3,780), while posting an NFL-low 23 sacks.
But as the team heads to Minnesota this weekend in search of its fifth straight road victory, it does so with head coach John Fox and first-year defensive coordinator Dennis Allen overseeing a group that's been revitalized.
The defense has helped a run-heavy Denver offense stay in games for two overtime wins and another fourth-quarter rally.
In Denver's current stretch of five wins in six games, which has moved the Broncos (6-5) within one game of division-leading Oakland (7-4), opponents have managed to:
The Broncos' 24 takeaways to date are five more than Denver created in all of 2010.
"The formula that we're using helps the defense," Fox said, referring to a Denver offense that ran the ball 51 times on 70 offensive snaps in a 16-13 overtime victory Sunday in San Diego. "But there's no doubt they've jelled and are playing with a lot of confidence and swagger."
That belief is underscored by the play of rookie Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who have combined for a dozen sacks in the last five games.
Miller pushed his season total to 10.5. The Minnesota game will pit his AFC-leading output vs. that of Jared Allen, who is second in the league with 13.5 sacks.
Dumervil has had at least a half-sack for four straight weeks, the longest streak of his career. His return to form comes after an early-season shoulder injury followed by a high ankle sprain that had dulled his effectiveness.
The addition of two rookies into the lineup -- safety Quinton Carter and nickel corner Chris Harris -- plus another Pro Bowl-caliber season from cornerback Champ Bailey and a surprising uptick in the play of a rotating front four also have loomed large.
"That (defensive line) group has jelled because that group is almost all new," Fox said. "We changed from the 3-4 to the 4-3, so there was a lot of 'newness' early. Now, I think we're just playing without thinking. We're just reacting and playing ball."
TRENDING: Kicker Matt Prater's 37-yard field goal that beat the Chargers marked his second game-winner in overtime this season. Prater not only made his 37th straight kick from under 40 yards, but he also improved to 24-for-25 in his career on field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter and OT.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Touchdown receptions this season by 2010 third-round pick Eric Decker. A native of Cold Spring, Minn., and a former first-team All-Big Ten selection at the University of Minnesota, Decker returns to his home state already with the second-highest total of scoring catches by a first- or second-year player in Broncos history. Decker trails only Lionel Taylor's 12 TDs in the franchise's inaugural season in 1960.