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This Broncos defense is better than you think

We’re seeing the best play of Shelby Harris’ career.

There are times I feel bad for box score scouts. Last Thursday is one of them. Yes, the Jets are a dumpster fire and the organization will need to deep clean everything after they’ve finally exorcised their Gase demons. They also served as the perfect opportunity for the Broncos to disappoint after a shot week and East Coast trip following a demoralizing loss to the Bucs.

Vic Fangio and the defense made sure it didn’t happen.

Harris is seeing the game better than he ever has.
Harris is seeing the game better than he ever has.

Up 7-3 following the long Sam Darnold touchdown and a Nick Vannet-induced field goal, the Jets offense begin their second drive out for blood. With a crossblock across the front, the plan is to catch Harris chasing a pulling guard and hit him from the side. Harris sniffs out the waiting trap, sees Frank Gore set to take the handoff, and meets Ryan Griffin (84) while maintaining leverage in his gap.

As Gore plants, he looks past Harris to see Alexander Johnson working down the chute and cuts right. He tries to accelerate as Malik Reed separates from his block, which buys Josey Jewell the time to clean up. 2nd and 12.

Harris built a new home on the Jets’ side of the line of scrimmage last Thursday.

Down 13-17 and facing a 2nd and five early in the third quarter, the Jets line up with a bunch set to the left. With two receivers to help stave off the backside pursuit, Chris Herndon (89) cuts back across the formation as the line blocks left. Sam Darnold and Frank Gore both know Justin Simmons is working his way down on the backside fit, so ideally the play goes off the left butt cheek of Alex Lewis (71).

Shelby Harris isn’t having it. He beats Lewis off the snap, works half man so he can maintain control of the B-gap, and works upfield. The best way to beat zone runs is with penetration. When Harris blows through the gap Gore is aiming for, the timeless back has to cut.

If not for Malik Reed and Mike Purcell, perhaps the 37-year-old rips off his 10,000,000th 3-yard gain. Instead he has to bounce right into Justin Simmons’ waiting arms. The stop sets up a 3rd and four. That pass falls incomplete. Three points, not seven.

Fangio's more aggressive 2020 defense means more blitzes and man coverage. It also means more one on ones.
Fangio’s more aggressive 2020 defense means more blitzes and man coverage. It also means more one on ones.

Clinging to a two point lead with just over two minutes left in the game, Fangio pulls out all the stops on fourth down. Harris lines up alongside Bradley Chubb on Darnold’s blind side while Johnson comes on a blitz off the strong side. Harris works inside to fully isolate New York’s third string tackle Conor McDermott (69) against Chubb.

To Darnold’s credit, he keeps his eyes downfield against the rush but everyone’s covered, which buys the trio time to hem Darnold in the pocket. Chubb corrals him for a sack.

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