There were plenty of ‘terrible towels’ residing on the dirty ground after the Denver Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
The talk of the town is Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas, and John Fox. However, there’s something special on the other side of the ball.
The team known for their No. 1 ranked defense got out ‘yellowed’ by Denver’s 24th ranked defense.
Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times and he was picked off by rookie Quentin Carter in the first half.
“Man it felt wonderful,” Carter said. “We were in a perfect call. We knew the tendencies and knew the area of the field they like to work. I was in the right place at the right time and finally got one.”
The Broncos made the stops that were needed most. The back up players stepped into some big shoes. The Broncos defense helped force Roethlisberger into just the fourth playoff loss of his career.
“Coaches said at the beginning of the week whoever had the best defense was going to win,” Chris Harris said after the game. “Today we outplayed the Steelers, and we’re the young defense – they’ve got all those vets. We came out and outplayed them today to get the win.”
David Bruton, filling in for the injured Brian Dawkins, led the team in tackles with 8. Robert Ayers doubled his season sack total and had two sacks on Roethlisberger. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller added two more sacks.
In the Broncos’ three previous losses, the defense stood their ground at times, but the big plays were missing. They weren’t creating turnovers. Against the Steelers, all it took was one turnover to get the job done. This win is as much the defense as it is the offense.
The Broncos have relished their role as underdogs, particularly the defensive guys.
“That’s a big source of motivation, but it’s not our only factor,” Ayers said. “We do this for the guys in our locker room, the guys on our team, the guys that we love. We put in a lot of work, and that’s our motivating factor.”
As for next week’s opponent, the New England Patriots? Once again the Broncos are the underdog and once again they have to mature fast.
“Each game gets bigger, and I think we’re going to have to make a while lot more plays against a team that we faced earlier on in the year to put up a lot more points,” Andre Goodman said.
That means points on the defensive side of the ball too.
It’s when the Broncos are at their best.