The Denver Broncos defense is ballin. For real. After falling behind 10-0, the Broncos defense buckled down and really made things difficult on Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Sure, the Chargers made some plays and Ryan Mathews ran for over 100 yards, but every time the Broncos needed a play, the defense got it done. The hard part this week was finding 5 plays in nearly five quarters of action.
The entire game is worth a watch, but for me the defense excelled the most during the final 20 minutes of game action, starting late in the 4th quarter. Here are my Top-5 defensive plays, with thanks to MHR Contributor Colby for the video:
#5. Chargers have a 2nd and 5 from their 35 yard line. 6:16 to go in 4th Quarter:
Von Miller puts the Chargers lineman Jeremy Clary through the spin cycle to sack Phillip Rivers. This hit, as well as the next two plays on the list, had Rivers bailing out of the pocket early - or at the very least going to the check-down option. This is an example of Miller's amazing pass rushing skill - even as a rookie. There are still some plays he leaves on the field in the run game, but when he puts it ALL together, LOOK OUT!
4. 3rd and 11 from Chargers 29, 5:45 to go in 4th Quarter:
The previous sack by Von Miller, turning a manageable 2nd and 5 and turning it into a drive-killing 3rd and 11, is a great example of how the Broncos want to play defense under Dennis Allen. With the Chargers likely to pass, Allen dials up a delayed safety blitz from Brian Dawkins. Specifically, watch for Dawkins to hesitate to see if Randy McMichael comes out of the backfield. He stays in to block, and Dawkins gets a free run on Rivers. While not a sack, Dawkins breaks up the pass and sends a clear message that I feel had a huge impact the rest of the game.
3. 1st and 10 from Chargers 40, 1:08 to go in 4th Quarter:
You could almost feel it coming. After the Broncos tied the game with a 26-yard field goal by Matt Prater, the Chargers got the ball back with just enough time to attempt a game-winning drive. After a 20-yard gain on their first play, the Chargers had a 1st and 10 from their own 40. The entire playbook at their disposal. The Broncos defense once again comes up huge, with Elvis Dumervil sacking Rivers for a crushing 10-yard loss. The key to the play, however, was Von Miller pushing the offensive line right into the face of Rivers, removing his escape route. Norv Turner would point to that play after the game since it changed how the Chargers attacked the final minute of regulation.
2. 3rd and 6 from the Broncos 31, 3:31 to go in OT:
Remember I said earlier that Von Miller leaves some plays on the field in the run game? While true, Miller does show flashes of what he can become, both in coverage and in run-stopping. The Chargers, inexplicably playing for a 50-yard field goal, lineup with an unbalanced line in front of Miller. Assuming they can run right at Miller by double-teaming him, Miller proves just how dominant he can be by splitting the double-team, tackling Chargers runningback Mike Tolbert for a 4 yard loss. The loss would prove costly for the Chargers with Nick Novak missing the game-winning field goal from 52-yards. Had it come from, say, 48 yards it may very well had gone through. A dominant play by an emerging superstar.
1. 2nd and 2 from the Broncos 49, 5:23 to go in OT:
While the runner up this week could easily be considered the defensive play of the game for the Broncos, Von Miller doesn't even get that chance without a great open-field tackle by the ageless Brian Dawkins. Playing much younger than his age, Dawkins is back to doing what he does best - attacking quarterbacks and defending the run. ON this play, however, Dawkins is playing centerfield. With no one behind him, Dawkins needs to tackle Ryan Mathews in space or the game is likely over. It is a form tackle by Dawkins and a game-saver as well. Two plays later, Von Miller would come up with his play and the Chargers would miss the field goal.
This series is turning out to be a ton of fun. The Broncos defense is playing great, giving us plenty of options. I've given you my choices, which defensive play was number one in your mind?