What we expected to see from the Broncos’ defense against the Colts in the return of Von Miller actually happened against the Washington Redskins one week later.
It was a bit unfair of us all to expect the Broncos’ defense to immediately return to the dominant form it had shown in the 2012 season, but I think a majority of us deep down knew that there was a chance it might not all come together in that short of a period of time.
With a week under his belt, and the rest of the team having that week to adjust to their new roles as well, something apparently clicked for the Denver defense, because they were rolling against the Redskins.
Save for a huge drive by Washington that took out nearly half of the entire second quarter with 16 plays that should have resulted in a disappointing field goal, but the Broncos were stupid and didn’t have the correct 11 players on the field for that play, instead trying to keep 12 on the field.
Side note–is there not a set group of 11 guys that are on the field for every field goal or PAT? If not, is that not a major fault of the coaches? Just have a set 11 guys. Problem solved.
Anyway, what should have ended in a very disappointing three points and 7-3 halftime lead turned into a 7-7 tie with the Redskins being handed a TD by a special teams personnel gaffe. The defense bent pretty far on that drive, but for my money, they didn’t break.
The next touchdown the Broncos’ defense gave up came early on in the third quarter when Peyton Manning was strip-sacked, leaving the defense with an incredibly short field with which to work. There was a holding penalty called on Manning of all people to shorten the field even more. Not long after, Alfred Morris trotted into the end zone for six more points.
That would be the last touchdown the Broncos’ defense allowed the rest of the way, as the only other points scored by Washington came on a pick-six by Manning the next play offensively after the Morris rushing touchdown.
So what was the key to Denver’s success, giving up touchdowns to the Redskins on a special teams personnel mistake and a short field off of a turnover.
I don’t mean to make excuses for why the defense gave up points, because that fact can’t be ignored, but as far as giving up 14 points goes, this was one of the more impressive outputs you will see.
The Broncos used primarily a 3-4 defensive look in this game with Von Miller and Shaun Phillips playing the edges. This is a look that has been effective for them against read-option QBs like Terrelle Pryor and Mike Vick, whom the Broncos have done a good job of containing this season.
Clearly the objective for Denver in this game was to hit RG3, and they did that masterfully. On the game, Griffin was hit a total of 16 times, and those hits took their toll. Eventually, RG3 was removed from the game and put on an evaluating table.
Alfred Morris didn’t hit 100 yards, but the Broncos had probably their least effective game defending the run as a whole, as it appeared they struggled with the zone/stretch running plays to the outside edges for whatever reason.
Still, after some embarrassing performances against the pass, the Broncos made it a point to take away the Redskins’ aerial attack, and they were able to hold them to just eight first downs through the air, and forced five turnovers on the day.
It was reminiscent of the defense the Broncos played in 2012 when they were a top five unit. The key now is going to be keeping that kind of play consistent as they progress to the playoffs, allowing the offense some more opportunities with a short field in the first half.
So far this season, the Broncos have not put together a dominant first half, allowing them to play with their ears pinned back in the second half. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with the offense right now (aside from the fourth quarter explosion against Washington) but clearly the defense is going to have to up its game as we enter a tough stretch with three of four on the road against San Diego, New England, and Kansas City.