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Aggressive defense becoming backbone of a physically, emotionally tough Broncos team

Sunday’s game against the Chargers was the manifest of a no-fear defensive coordinator.

Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The Denver Broncos’ defensive turnaround since halftime of the Chicago Bears game in Week 4 is nothing short of remarkable.

A stat Joe Mahoney will be expounding on in a post this morning points out just how big of a turnaround it has been:

During the past seven games, the Broncos defense has allowed 111 points, averaging 15.9 ppg. In the first six games the defense allowed 198 points (33.0 ppg) - allowing an average that is just under half the points they allowed on average in the first six games.

In a typically long-winded-yet-unusually-substantial quote from the guy leading the offense about the outstanding play of the defense revealed an interesting backstory.

“Our defense has been amazing, the past seven weeks or plus, I think they’ve been unstoppable,” quarterback Russell Wilson said after naming several key defensive leaders like Justin Simmons, Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell.

But then he turned to the primary guy responsible - defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

“I just think also, too, you have to credit Vance Joseph,” Wilson added. “I told him in the Bears game, when we came back out at halftime, I just told him ‘Hey listen, I’ve gone against you probably 100 times; you’re one of the best defensive coordinators I know and one of the toughest guys go against.’ I knew that he could turn it around.”

Normally I skim through Wilson’s quotes because there’s a lot of semi-irrelevant storytelling with occasionally nauseating optimism included.

But this one struck me as a brief look into the soul of this locker room and how the whole “sticking together” mantra is not just cliché. These guys have each other’s backs and it’s having a legit impact.

“[VJ’s] done a good job. We have more to do....That’s the best part about this game. It’s 11 guys on offense, 11 guys on defense, 11 guys on special teams and then all the guys that are helping us - whether it’s in the game, on the sideline, in practice, or mentally. Everybody is giving their all. I think it’s what’s making a difference.”

I do too, actually.

It’s not that I think Wilson’s comment to Joseph was some sort of Hollywood turning point moment for the DC [though I’m a sucker for those and it’s the reason I watch every ‘based on a true story’ sports movie so I would love to see this depicted that way]

But I can imagine those words of confidence from the quarterback bolstered Joseph’s resolve to keep the faith despite being bludgeoned on social media and sports talk shows for the defensive disaster in Miami.

And confidence has the same effect on coaches as it does on players. If you believe in your preparation and trust your teaching, you go in with no fear. And a fearless defensive coordinator is an absolutely necessary component for a championship team.

Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles chargers was the manifest of a no-fear DC.

Joseph jumped in his Ferrari and never took his foot off the gas. The defense kept bringing the pressure as six different players tallied sacks. The secondary had eight batted-down passes. The run defense only gave up 76 yards to the backs, including just 51 to Austin Ekeler. The defense nearly got a shut-out.

Credit to Joseph for not backing down once the Broncos had a substantial lead.

This is a tough team - both mentally and physically - that Payton is building through his players and coaching staff.

“I hope that’s something that you can say about our team, that we’re a physical team, because that’s something that we emphasize,” Payton said. “Emotionally and physically, you have to be tough, and we were today.”

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