With 2015 regular season and the year itself coming to a close, I figured that this would be the right time to end the “Unsung Heroes” series for this season. I’ve profiled everything from underrated starters to players most fans have never heard of, but when it comes down to it, they all played an important role in the Broncos success this season.
For the final edition, I decided to not profile a specific player, but an entire side of the football that really deserves every bit of credit that they can get. They were the definition of “kicking and screaming” and without them, this team isn’t even in the playoff conversation this year. Of course, I’m talking about the Broncos defense.
Now you may be wondering, “How is the league’s #1 ranked defense unsung?”
It’s simple. We live in an era of football that is predicated upon throwing the football and having “Star Wars” numbers
that attract the attention of highlight reels. In a time in which fantasy football rules over the fan experience, the Broncos defense has found a way to consistently make plays and make them at the right times in order to win games.
Their opportune playmaking started as early as the first game this season. Without two major plays from the Broncos secondary (Talib pick six and Darian Stewart INT in the end zone), the Broncos lose to the Ravens in the season opener. To further emphasize the importance of this defense, let’s take a look at their stats up to this week in the NFL season.
(Stats from NFL.com)
Total Defense (yards per game)- #1 in the NFL
Pass Defense (yards per game)- #1 in the NFL
Rush Defense (yards per game)- #2 in the NFL
49 Sacks- #1 in the NFL
Only allowed 1 300+ yard passer in 15 games this season
Not too shabby. You could make the argument that each one of these defensive stats could be more important than the others, but quite frankly, the fact that the Broncos defense has been able to lead the league in multiple categories for this unit is beyond impressive. Outside of the talent on the field, the mastermind off-field for this defense has been the seasoned vet, Wade Phillips.
Maybe the best acquisition of the past Broncos off-season, the 69 year old “son of bum” concocted a defense that wreaked havoc on every opponent they faced. It didn’t matter who they played or what talent they faced off against, chances are, they won most of those match ups.
When you put things into perspective, the fact that this team is sitting at 11-4 right now is incredible. With the ongoing QB debate to the shuffling of the atrocious Broncos offensive line, the Broncos offense yielded inconsistent and underwhelming results. In most cases, the Broncos defense had to win games in spite of its counterpart being so porous. The days of the “Star Wars” offense are over in Denver and to take their place, a suffocating defense that might have potential to get better.
The only drawback to this defense is the fact that a good number of their players will be heading into Free Agency after this season. With the priorities always changing for NFL teams, it will be extremely difficult to retain all of these defensive stalwarts. For those people that think some of these guys are easily replaceable and aren’t priorities for this team, let’s keep this in mind.
This team fielded statistically the worst QB in the NFL and one of the worst offenses in the league for the first 9 games of the season, yet managed to go 7-2. They have since gone 4-2 with a young back up at QB and continued inconsistency by their offense. Outside of a poorly timed eye poke by Aqib Talib, this defense has kept our team in every game this season. When was the last time the Broncos had a defense like that?
For a team that is historically known for great offenses and great offensive players, wouldn’t it be nice to start a tradition of great defensive play? Outside of the Orange Crush era, the Broncos have never had a dominant defense for a stretch of time. After seeing their play this year, shouldn’t we be open to making that change?
So to conclude this article, I ask Broncos fans this simple question.
Over time, what has proven to be the most important aspect of a team in winning championships? That would be the defense. There’s no better proof of that than our disastrous appearance against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. Despite breaking records and becoming the most prolific offense in NFL history, we were suffocated and destroyed by the Seahawks top ranked defense. This is one of many examples in which the team with the defense outfoxed the team with the offense when it mattered most.
Now fast forward two years, we have the kind of defense that the Seahawks had. This group is championship caliber and can be that for many years to come. Do we really want to let some of those guys go? Maybe it’s time that this unsung group of players become a dominant and well respected tradition for Broncos country. Let’s keep the D in Denver and I promise you, they will eventually yield championship results.
I’d like to wish everybody a happy new year and GO BRONCOS!