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Broncos' defense relentless in pursuit of quarterback, guarding end zone

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Where the Broncos' offense was vanilla in its 'good enough' win over the Rams, the defense was "32" flavors (yes 32!) of dominance all over the field.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It was only a preseason match up, but the Broncos' defense made it look like a regular season tune up as they once again kept their foes from stepping a single toe inside the end zone all night.

"The starting defense hasn't given up any touchdowns. This is the second game in preseason that we didn't give up a touchdown at all," Brandon Marshall pointed out. "I think our defense is good. Our pass rushers are good, and I think we have a chance to be something special."

They are going to need to be if this team has a shot at all of contending for the division, the conference or the league, but that's a worry for the head coach, not the defense.

"Whatever decision the head coach and the leadership make, I'm going to be comfortable with it," Von Miller said of the starting QB choice. "It's not going to really change how we play defense. We still need to get after the quarterback, go after the ball. We're still going to have fanatical effort and relentless pursuit."

That's all going according to plan.

"We look at ourselves as one of the biggest roles on the team. If we're not doing our job and applying pressure on the edges and getting to the quarterback, we're not doing our job," said second-year contributor Shane Ray. "To see everybody just take that in and focus on that from the one's, two's and three's is excellent; that's what we want."

And those edge rushers -€” all 142 of them -€” seemed to find a Rams quarterback to lay out at some point Saturday night.

Together the Broncos defenders had six sacks, three hits and 20 hurries on the night.

Six-year journeyman Dekoda Watson looked like Miller in his 14 pass rushes (and a lot like the man whose No. 57 he bears on his back), bringing the quarterback down on his own twice and combining with Darius Kilgo on a third, plus adding a quarterback hurry to his stats.

Undrafted rookie Sadat Sulleyman added another two sacks while quarterback sacking monster Miller sprinted right past Case Keenum, dropping the Rams' starting QB somewhere along the way in a move so fast and so smooth, you almost had to see the dance to know Miller made a play on the quarterback.

"It feels good, man. Sacks are what I'm supposed to do. That's in the description," said Miller after the game. "Whenever I can go out there and do my job, it's always great."

But the terrorizing edge rusher didn't want to talk about his game; instead he wanted to give props to the young guys taking up the charge, many of whom may not even be able to make the Broncos roster because it oozes with depth.

"I don't want to sit here and talk about myself all day. Sadat Sulleyman had a great day today. Dekoda, he's not young, but he went out there and looked like a sack master, so I'm proud of those guys."

Another undrafted rookie, Vontarrius Dora, nearly brought home the Broncos' seventh sack on the night when he drilled Jared Goff just a millisecond after the rookie QB got the ball away late in the game.

Last night's victory is another testament to Wade Phillips' genius as his linebackers continue to shine. Watson, who did all he could do last night to stay on the team, absolutely loves this approach from the defensive coordinator.

"I've been waiting and wishing for an opportunity, like, ‘why can't I be just like Von?' I remember being in Tampa and thinking, why can't you let me go? Von goes. He doesn't have to think. He just goes," Watson said. "Now that I'm here and they're telling me that I can go, it's lovely."

What's lovely is seven sacks, no touchdowns and a defense wanting to stuff the other team on every play.

"It's a great mentality. That's what we go out there and try to do every game. We don't want any team to put points on us," Ray added. "It doesn't matter how long we're on the field or how many times we get put back out there, we going to do our job."

Aqib Talib, playing for the first time this preseason after recovering from an offseason gunshot wound, had a solid game despite notching a 15-yard personal foul for hitting Keenum as he was running out of bounds.

Miller defended his teammate - whose hit, for the record, on the quarterback looked legal on replay - even if not a good look for a preseason game.

"I don't want to say that I encourage the 15-yard flag, but I do encourage the aggressive behavior from my guys out there," said Miller. "It's a man's game."

And the defense knows it will be playing men when the Panthers come to town Sept. 8 for the Week 1 contest, and they need to be ready.

"We just want to rest up, make sure everyone is fresh and study Carolina," Marshall said about the defense's game plan for the next 10 days. "They are coming in here, and I think they are going to try and get some revenge."

Talib believes the defense -€” the No Fly Zone, in particular -€” has started right where it left off last season and is therefore ahead of its game for Week 1 competition.

"I think we have a great grasp of all the concepts now," Talib said, adding that they weren't always sure of things during several of their zone blitzes last season. "In a couple of our third down calls, we were up in the air the whole year. I feel like as a defense and as a team, we have a great grasp of all our calls."

If Miller plays lights out like he has so far, "his guys" follow suit, and the secondary keeps the zone "no fly," Cam Newton will have another tough day in two weeks.

"I feel good. I feel better than I've ever felt before in my conditioning with the speed of the game," Miller said. "I'm feeling comfortable out there and I'm ready to go back to the regular season. I don't want to sit here and say ‘We're ready to go right now,' but come [Sept. 8], we'll be ready to go."