Al Wilson knows exactly what the Broncos need to do today to #BeatThePatriots.
Put. Pressure. On. Tom. Brady.
“If I were playing right now with Von Miller, I’d say, ‘you just go do what you do and go eat! I’ll just be back here making sure nobody comes through,’” said Wilson with a big laugh and hint of yearning to be playing the game alongside Miller.
Wilson, a Broncos linebacker from 1999-2006, had his share of games trying to beat Brady and his coach, Bill Belichick.
“To be successful against them, I’ll tell you, you have to put pressure on Brady,” said the Tennessee native who is braving the chilly Mile High temps this weekend to promote Colorado Crush, an Indoor Football League team he co-owns.
And Wilson knows this is not revelationary advice – but it is sound.
“And you have to hit him too,” he said matter-of-factly, calling the pass rush both a gift and a curse. “If you get to him, he’s done. But if you don’t, he’ll definitely pick up a bunch of yards on you.”
Brady, who is among the best at getting rid of the ball quickly, has only been sacked 12 times this year. But if there’s a team that can rattle him, it’s the Broncos.
And if there’s a player who can get to him, it’s Miller.
In the AFC Championship in January, Miller sacked Brady 2.5 times plus got a pick in Patriots territory (an interception that Miller stills kicks himself for not turning into a score). And to boot, the eventual Super Bowl MVP helped the Broncos defense deliver 20 punishing hits on Brady - the most to any quarterback in any game last season.
That kind of performance needs to happen again.
Miller noted in a Player’s Tribune essay this week that especially against quick QBs like Brady, the edge rusher really has to anticipate the snap count to get any kind of a jump and get to the quarterback. So Miller is just fine with a five-yard offsides penalty every now and then because the trade-off is an antsy quarterback.
Wilson could not agree more.
“Getting to the quarterback is all that matters,” Wilson added. All an edge rusher needs to do is make the QB feel a couple of hits and he’s won because now the quarterback is going to start hearing that pass rusher coming. “If Brady thinks a guy is coming, he’ll throw the ball faster than he wants to.”
Given the banged up nature of the Broncos inside linebackers heading into Sunday, Miller would probably love to have a Pro Bowler like Wilson there to back him up, but the edge rusher says he’s ready to step it up another notch if he has to.
“Last year, I wasn’t expecting to turn up to another level, I just dug deep,” Miller noted. “I just wanted to do my part to make sure my teammates could play a little bit better and a little bit faster. That’s the same thing now. I have to step it up another notch before we get to the team or the defense stepping it up another notch. It starts with individuals.”
But Miller and his counterpart DeMarcus Ware know that a lot of their success will come down to the No Fly Zone doing its thing.
“It all starts with the cornerbacks and the ‘No Fly Zone’ giving us enough time to get to him,” Ware said.
Miller added that the Broncos defense just needs to do what it always does – work in tandem to take away the QB’s options.
“We just have to play our game, we just have to rush,” Miller said. “We’re going to get our opportunities to rush the passer. We just have to get there.”
A big difference this time around, however, is that Brady’s offensive line is playing much better and running back LeGarrette Blount is sharing the load on offense, giving the Patriots much more of a dual threat.
Von Miller, on cause of run D struggles: "It's not the coaches, formation, personnel or anything else ... it's us."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) December 15, 2016
And Miller knows that the Broncos’ suffering run defense just has to execute much better, especially against a team with an elite quarterback and a mastermind play caller.
“It’s all a mental thing. It’s not the coaches, it’s not the defense, it’s not the personnel and it’s not the formations. It’s not any of that. It’s us. It’s the players. You have to have a mindset to be able to play the run,” Miller said, adding that the Broncos defense has to expect it.
“You can’t go one-for-one on run plays. They make every offensive play to be designed to go to the house,” Miller added. “We have to beat our individual matchups and be able to help out on the tackle.”
Still, Miller and Ware will be aiming for the QB as often as they can. Ware says he never cares about the size of the tackle he’s going against because that doesn’t tell him anything about winning his matchup.
“I look at what type of heart he has…and how he plays every play,” Ware said. “That’s what I do. I come every play, and I hope that he’s ready.”