Von Miller leads a scary Broncos defense
By: Jordan Anders
The Denver Broncos are coming off their third straight win to open up the 2021 season, which hasn’t happened since 2016. Although the offense has played a big role in scoring, the defense has been quietly making its mark through shutting down opposing offenses and sealing victories.
This Broncos defense first showed their strength in pre-season allowing zero touchdowns from their opponents (the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, and Seattle Seahawks). Last season, the Broncos only recorded 16 takeaways, as opposed to the past three weeks, the Broncos defense has recorded four interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Recapping the Broncos Defense the past 3 weeks
In week one against the New York Giants, the Broncos defense held quarterback Daniel Jones to 267 yards and 1 passing touchdown. The Giants’ offense was only able to put up 13 points on the board in comparison to the Broncos’ 27 points. Von Miller contributed by adding two quarterback sacks early in the game setting the tone.
Going into this season, the one main weakness in the Broncos’ defense was shutting down opposing teams’ run game. They certainly showed improvement in week one by holding Giants’ running back Shaquon Barkley to only 26 yards.
The most important stat however is in the first three games, the Broncos defense has allowed their opponent into the Red Zone just two times. These both came during the Giants game, one ending in a turnover on downs and one a touchdown. Since then, the Broncos’ defense has kept their opponent out of the Red Zone. This had led to the Broncos being ranked first in Red Zone defensive percentage through the first three weeks.
In week two, the Broncos were on the road again, this time traveling to Jacksonville to face rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Broncos safety Kareem Jackson and rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain recorded the first two interceptions of the season for the Denver defense during the game.
Jaguars’ offense only scored once as the Broncos’ defense held Trevor Lawrence to 118 yards and a 42% completion rate while holding Jacksonville’s rushing offense to just 75 yards. At this point, the Broncos’ defense were still not being underrated, that is until the defense led by star safety Justin Simmons would lead the way to a shutout the next week.
This past week, the Broncos were home to a packed crowd for the first time in two years and had the highest-attended NFL game on Sunday. Denver destroyed the New York Jets in a 26-0 shutout, their biggest shutout since 2005 where they beat the Jets 27-0. Broncos’ defense held quarterback Zach Wilson and the Jets to 162 total yards on 3.1 yards per play. On top of that, they kept the Jets out of the Red Zone the entire game, only allowing 11 first downs.
To add salt to injury, Broncos’ star safety Justin Simmons picked off Zach Wilson for his first interception of the season, shortly after rookie safety Caden Sterns would get his first NFL interception sealing the victory. The Broncos’ secondary weren’t the only ones who came to play on the Broncos’ defense, however. Von Miller, Shelby Harris, Malik Reed, and Alexander Johnson (2.0) all recorded sacks on Zach Wilson, four sacks coming from the first half alone.
Through the first three games, opposing quarterbacks are averaging 181.6 yards, a 53.4 completion %, .67 touchdowns, 1.3 interceptions, 2.67 sacks, and a 57.8 passer rating against the Broncos defense. Denver’s defense has given up 8.7 points per game which is the best in the NFL right now.
After three weeks, the Broncos have the number one ranked defense in the NFL. Von Miller became the AFC defensive player of the month for September with 8 tackles, 4 sacks, and 6 tackles for loss (most in the NFL) and currently sits at 23rd on the NFL’s all-time sack list. Patrick Surtain has a 10.7 passer rating allowed in man coverage, in other words, you’d have a higher passer rating if you threw the ball in the dirt every play (39.6), per PFF.
The Broncos defense have made a strong resumé so far this season, they rank fourth overall in defense and are first in coverage according to PFF rankings. The real test will come this week as they take on the offense-heavy Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson in their fourth game of the season.
The Broncos are sitting favorite for the game at a -1.5 spread and the Ravens are winless as 1.5-point underdogs or more on the road. Sunday’s game will be a battle between one of the league’s best offenses and arguably the best defense in the league.