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Broncos' defenders going into Colts game with a big chip on their shoulders

It would be easy to look past a 3-5 team. But when that 3-5 team is led by a competitive QB that handily beat you in the playoffs last year, you can be anything but complacent about the game.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Being a No. 1-ranked defense and going against rather fledgling offense of late might make players complacent.

That's not going to happen in Denver.

Although the Indianapolis Colts are 3-5 and have had erratic play from their Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck so far, this Broncos defense is not about to let up in its prep for Sunday's game.

"He's the same player," Gary Kubiak said of Luck, pointing out that the Colts' QB threw 200+ yards in the fourth quarter while trying to bring his team back against the Panthers last week. "Great players like him keep going, find their way out of things and work their way out of things. We know how explosive he is. ...with his cadence and those things, it makes it even tougher for us, defensively."

Wade Phillips notes that he always looks at the big picture, not the 3-5 record, when game-planning, especially for players like Luck and the explosive Colts.

"I think he's going to be a great, great quarterback for a long time," Phillips said, noting that the Colts have lost by a total of 16 points over the last three games, two of which were against undefeated teams. "[The Colts] are playing really well, really competitive. It's going to be a tough game."

But Phillips has a plan for that. Just don't expect to know what it is.

"We'll have a plan, obviously. We're not going to tell everybody what it is," the "son of Bum" coach said Thursday. "We've matched up, we've not matched up. Whatever we do, they won't be able to tell whether we're playing man or zone or which coverage we're playing, I can tell you that."

He can also tell us that his players are looking forward to this chance to prove they are not the same Broncos team that dissolved during the playoff game against the Colts in January.

Von Miller is definitely looking forward to proving what the Broncos are about this season.

"We're a different team than what we were last year," Miller said. "We're playing pretty good football right now. It's a whole new season. We've got a whole different momentum this year. We just want to go out there and play the type of football that we've been used to playing."

Even though most of the current coaching staff was not at Denver for last year's playoff loss, they understand this game is still a motivator for most of the team.

"I think motivation-wise with our players that were there, it's a big factor," Phillips said of the loss. "I think they want to come back and show that, having similar people, they can beat that team, even on the road. We're going to try to motivate as much as we can that way."

It won't be hard to motivate this defense - if as much for avenging last year's loss as for gaining respect for this team.

"I don't feel like we're getting enough respect still," Miller said of this Broncos squad. "I don't feel like we've even scratched the surface of the type of defense that we know we can be. We've done some great stuff, and we just want to keep on doing the same stuff that we've been doing."

But a little disrespect isn't always a bad thing. Antonio Smith notes that complacency is real, and it's important for the team - the defense - not to start patting itself on the back.

We like being the underdog. It puts a chip on our shoulder.  -Derek Wolfe

"When you're feeling good and everybody is patting you on your back, you just get to feeling like, 'Ah, this feels comfortable. This feels nice. Let me enjoy it,'" Smith said. "Like I've said, the one thing that we don't do is let that happen."

Derek Wolfe believes that is because of the "kicking and screaming" attitude the team has adopted.

"I think this team has embraced the fact that every week they're going to say we're underdogs, which makes no sense to me, but I like it," said Wolfe, who was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his dominating performance against the Packers. "We like being the underdog. It puts a chip on our shoulder and we play even harder."

Focusing on the potential danger Luck poses to any defense will also help the Broncos stay hungry. DeMarcus Ware believes Luck's ability to extend plays is something to be wary of on Sunday.

"He's the same guy we played last year," Ware said, adding that Luck is among the best at getting touchdowns after you think the play is over. "Right now, the numbers don't show that, but the last minutes of that game, you can see he's getting himself back and he'll be ready for this week."

Malik Jackson sees this game as another one where the defense will have to make its big plays happen.

"You really have to go out there, work, try to get in their mind and make them do what you want to do to get the sack," Jackson said, saying it needs to be a chess game rather than checkers. "I just think that we have to go out there and make our own opportunities."

Brandon Marshall, who has been a key every week to stopping powerful offenses, notes that the Broncos can't let up in this game because no matter what is going on, Luck will be trying to win.

It was just a bad taste after last year. We didn't play to our capabilities. That was probably the worst part.   -T.J. Ward

"They outscore all of their opponents in the fourth quarter, so this is a game where we have to be on our game throughout the whole game," Marshall said. "He's been turnover prone and we'll have to capitalize on that, but we definitely can't sleep on them just because they're under .500 and he's been throwing interceptions. He definitely will throw touchdowns."

Safety T.J. Ward says this weekend's game is less about avenging last year's loss as it is proving this defense can live up to its potential - something it did not do in January.

"It just was a bad taste after last year," Ward said. "We know we didn't play to our capabilities. That was probably the worst part about it, knowing that we didn't play our brand of football that day."

This season, that "brand" includes aiming for a shutout. Every game.

"Our expectation is to come out every week and shut the opposing team down," he said. "We're mad if we give them a field goal. That's our goal every week - no points."

As in, NO points.