Denver's defense is on quite a tear right now. They're being discussed among the likes of the 2000 Ravens and 1985 Bears. We covered this analytically in our latest Elevated Stats; let's now go to the film room.
The Broncos held Aaron Rodgers to 76 yards passing offense and 140 total yards of offense through dominance across their entire defensive unit: the secondary did its job, the defensive line was aggressive and disruptive, and their linebackers boasted both versatility and discipline. Here's how Denver's defense did what it did.
Primarily, Denver's secondary made Rodgers' job impossible
There were a few different times during Sunday's win where Rodgers seemed to have seven seconds or more to throw. Check that, he plain did have seven seconds; then he'd throw it away. Pro Football Focus did a fantastic job breaking this down; the next two images are via PFF.
Seven seconds in pro football is an eternity. Peyton Manning notoriously takes an average of less than two seconds from snap to throw. Rodgers typically does to, but from Rodgers' point-of-view, there's an obvious reason he had to hold onto the football for seven seconds - no one was open.
If you look closely at that screengrab, you'll note that's #58 smothering a Packers outlet receiver in coverage. Yes, pass-rushing specialist Von Miller is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate not only for his ability to get to the quarterback, but for keeping up with his assignments in coverage. Coverage is something Miller has been working on for years - I can distinctly remember a few training camps ago, Miller working out with defensive backs instead of linebackers to improve his coverage abilities and complete his game. It's paying dividends now.
Also, note Derek Wolfe, your Week 8 AFC Defensive Player of the Week, getting within inches of Rodgers here. And he was being double-teamed. Which brings us to our next point.
The Broncos pressured and rattled Rodgers. He was seen wincing from the game's first series
Credit Rodgers and the Packers' offensive line for being able to stay in the pocket for seven seconds at all. Denver's defense has been specializing in pressures and sacks in 2015, and they got the ball rolling early against Green Bay.
#Broncos defense was all over Aaron Rodgers on first drive. NBC caught Rodgers wincing after.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 2, 2015
Overall, the Broncos defense notched 11 hurries, four hits, and three sacks on Rodgers, an impressive feat given he only dropped back 33 times by our count.
Add an impressive day against the run, and you have a 29-10 victory for the Broncos. It all started with the secondary making the Packers' passing game look ordinary, but it's fair to say this defense has no weakness. Whether it's Danny Trevathan being a "tackling and playmaking machine" or Wolfe and Malik Jackson performing as "fantastic run defenders at about 290 pounds who are also athletic enough to also provide a pass rush," Denver's defense is solid and deep from top to bottom.
Beating the Packers is one thing, and it is impressive. But in order to cement their status among some of the all-time greats, they'll need to win a Super Bowl.