Last season, the Denver Broncos tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 52 quarterback take downs. Over half of those sacks (29.5, or 56 percent) came courtesy of linebacker Von Miller (18.5) and defensive end Elvis Dumervil (11).
So it was no surprise when Denver's defense struggled to generate a pass rusher early on during Thursday's season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. But as the game went on and Denver started to build momentum, the defense stepped up.
Once the Broncos started playing with a lead, it was easy for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to put his players in positions to harass Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. The Broncos finished the night with four sacks, ranking them tied for fifth overall after one week of play (at the time of this writing on Monday evening).
Of note was veteran pass rusher Shaun Phillips, who notched 2.5 sacks playing at the defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid position.
Wondered about the #Broncos pass rush without Von Miller. Well, Shaun Phillips answered the bell with 2.5 sacks. Huge.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 6, 2013
Phillips, a ten-year veteran, signed a one-year deal with the Broncos in April after recording 69.5 sacks from 2004-2012 while with the San Diego Chargers. Now in Denver, Phillips will be counted on to step up and help keep quarterback's rattled until Miller returns and takes over the main quarterback-bedeviling duties.
Fox named Shaun Phillips and Chris Harris -- the guys who replaced Von + Champ -- as two players who stood out on game tape.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) September 6, 2013
"Football is not about one guy, especially on defense," Phillips said after practice on Tuesday. "It’s about 11 guys playing on the same page at the same time and we keep preaching that. We try to just make sure we have a tight knit family and continue to try to preach that around the locker room."
The preaching has obviously worked, as Denver managed to beat up Baltimore 49-27 in Week 1 despite not having Miller or star cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) out on the field.
"Having Von (back) will be great, having Champ will be great because it makes things easier for a lot of people, but it has to be, ‘Next man up.’ We have guys that are all prepared to be starters in the NFL and we prepare every week to start the football game. No one prepares to be a backup. If you get a chance to start then you get out there and you play or if you get the chance to play you get out there and make plays when you can."
Phillips is currently ranks third overall in league sacks with 2.5.
On Sunday, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was sacked three times and threw three interceptions in a 36-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Phillips and Denver's defense will look to keep the pressure on when they travel to New York to take on Eli this weekend.