As Peyton Manning, Eric Decker, and the rest of the Denver Broncos’ first string offense hogs the highlight reel, we can’t forget about the team’s first string defense.
If preseason play has taught us anything, it’s that the Broncos defensive performance drops off once the first string leaves the game. Against the San Francisco 49ers, the No. 1 unit gave up just 14 rushing yards on 9 carries, and 83 total yards in the first half of play. Keep in mind that Alex Smith’s 44 yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis constituted more than half of those yards. The Broncos defense also gave up just three first half first downs while the offense had 16 first half first downs.
“Everything was kind of going our way,” rookie defensive tackle Derek Wolfe said. “The ball was falling into our hands…We executed what we were practicing all week.”
The Broncos defense opened things up like this: On first down, Von Miller brought Frank Gore down in the backfield for a 5-yard loss. On second down, Smith completed a 9-yard pass to Michael Crabtree, and he was taken down by Wesley Woodyard. Then, as Smith called for the ball in the shotgun, Elvis Dumervil sacked him to force the 49ers to go three and out in less than two minutes.
On the Broncos second defensive series, Smith fumbled the ball on the fourth play of the drive, and Woodyard recovered. After that, the Broncos scored their 17th point of the game and before the first quarter had to even come to a close.
“It feels pretty good, but it is a whole game,” Miller said. “There is four quarters in a game and we still have a lot of tuning to do. I am sure we will take advantage of these next practice, we will be alright.”
As a whole the Broncos gave up 139 yards on the ground which shows a weakness in the backups regarding their run defense.
Even though the Broncos reserves couldn’t measure up to the output that the No. 1 group put forth, the team still played better than the week before in which they gave up 228 rushing yards to the Seattle Seahawks.
Leading the team in tackles against the 49ers was undrafted rookie out of Kansas Steven Johnson who had 6 tackles. Woodyard’s fumble recovery gives the Broncos a fumble recovery in each of their three preseason contests this season.
The Broncos defense not only has to adjust to a new coach, but to a new offense. The fast-paced offense doesn’t give the defense much time to rest, but that’s something that they’ll have to adjust to.
“Doesn’t matter,” defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. “We’ve got to get off the field on third down. Since [the offense] plays no huddle, we’ve got to get adjusted. We attack everything like we’re supposed to, and we’ve got to be accountable for each other.”
Accountability is one theme that has carried over from Dennis Allen’s one-year regime. It’s also something that Jack Del Rio preaches. This season is on everyone, not just the one everyone talks about.