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Derek Wolfe: Pass rush + coverage will have to work together to get to Mahomes

The veteran defensive tackle says the new coach will have a game plan to put the Broncos in position to beat the Chiefs. It will be all about execution.

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After a shutout win at home, the Broncos’ defense is full of confidence but hunkering down for one of its biggest problem QBs when it hosts Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in two days.

“Anytime you get a shutout, confidence is riding high, but we’ve got to go out this week and stop Patrick Mahomes and ‘Shady’ McCoy,” Derek Wolfe told the Broncos Country Tonight crew on Monday. “We’ve got to limit those two with their feet; make sure they don’t beat us with their legs.”

Ryan Edwards pointed out an interesting stat from Sunday’s 16-0 win over Tennessee - the deepest drive that Marcus Mariota ever got into Denver territory was to Denver’s 49-yard line. He asked Wolfe if that statistic surprised him - or if he had told him two weeks when the Broncos were 0-4 that that would be the case, if he’d be surprised.

Wolfe didn’t hesitate. “No.”

“We never go into a game thinking we’re not going to win. This is just another game where we think we have another great opportunity to establish ourselves as a dominant team in the AFC, the AFC West,” Wolfe said. “This is big for our division, big for our season. It will keep us right on track.”

A big reason for Wolfe’s confidence is in his new head coach’s game plans.

“Every week we feel that way. Vic Fangio’s game plans are great. I never feel like we’ll be out of position as far as game plan goes,” Wolfe said “It’s all about execution. If everybody on the field is winning their matchups, we’re going to have a successful day on defense.”

But the veteran defensive tackle also noted how hard the defense is to grasp.

“His defense is really hard to learn. It’s difficult to learn. I have missed assignments still, and that’s never happened to me,” Wolfe said, explaining that there’s a lot to process at the last minute, just before “two, 350-pound dudes are coming at me.”

But the defense is coming together and Wolfe definitely believes the addition of Alexander Johnson to the linebacker corps is a big help.

“AJ Johnson, man...I love him,” Wolfe said, adding that Johnson’s previous coach at Tennessee, Butch Johnson, who also coached Wolfe, called him to say give Johnson a shot when the Broncos signed him. “ He told me he’s a good player, give him a shot. I love the way he plays. He’s tough. That guy’s got All-Pro ability.”

Wolfe also praised the secondary from Sunday’s performance, pointing out how important it is for the pass rush and DB coverage to be in sync.

“Rush and coverage have to work together,” he emphasized. “If we’re getting good push and making them throw the ball, we’re going to get picks. If they’re plastering every receiver and not letting them off, that gives us just that split second so we can get to [the quarterback].”

That will be the plan Thursday night when Wolfe and his fellow defenders try to get the guy who has eluded them since he first played against the Broncos in the final game of 2017.

It’s a tall order because even though Mahomes is nursing a bit of an injury, he seems to have magical powers on the field.

“Mahomes gets out of something he should never get out of and then complete a no-look pass on 2nd-and-30. Second and 30!!!” Wolfe said, recalling a play last season when the Broncos nearly got the upset victory.

But Mahomes’ elusive play was a metaphor for the outcome as the Chiefs escaped Mile High with a win.

“I was watching some film on that game today. I had his legs in my grasp, and the dude just does things that most QBs, most players can’t do. They can’t get out of those things. Then he turns his body and throws to Travis [Kelce],” Wolfe said. “Travis is my boy and we’re super competitive and the fact that we haven’t beaten those guys in a while just makes me sick.”

So Wolfe has a goal for Thursday. Although he thinks Tom Brady is the toughest quarterback he’s played against, Mahomes is definitely the toughest to bring down.

“But he’s got a bad wheel right now so that opens up an opportunity for us so maybe we can get some sacks,” he said. “Get him down, get the ball out of his hands. I need a sack-fumble, man. I’m dying to get one.”


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