Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stop Talking About Tebow, Start Talking About the Broncos Defense

Austen's Goal Line Stand:

Champ Bailey may be getting older, but he is still playing
like he is 20 years old and is still one of the best in the NFL.
I have been trying very hard to stop talking about Tim Tebow, but with so many injuries to high profile players, it is hard not to talk about the Tebow phenomenon. However, after watching the Broncos take a late lead against my beloved Jets, I was less impressed with Tebow and much more impressed with the Broncos' defense, which was one of the worst in the NFL last season.

Yes, Tebow put together a very impressive 95-yard touchdown drive that gave his team the lead and it will always be the offense that gets the majority of the attention, but it was the Broncos' only good offensive drive of the entire game. This is becoming a habit for Tebow, who can put together one or two great drives at the end of the game after playing poorly the rest of the game. It is the Broncos defense that has been keeping this team in games in order for Tebow to have a chance to win it for his team despite playing poorly for over three quarters.

While the Broncos' defense is middle of the pack in most categories, they are playing much better in recent games than they were in the beginning of the season, and even being middle of the pack is still a huge jump for a defense that was dominated by every offense they played last season. They are getting sacks and takeaways in critical situations, which will kill any offense's momentum and rhythm.

Defensive end Elvis Dumervil looks to be back to his old self, recording 3.5 sacks in the last three games, and rookie Von Miller has been an absolute beast all season. Since the first game of the year, Miller has recorded at least half a sack in every game but one, and that was against the Lions who got a huge lead early, allowing them to protect Matthew Stafford from Miller. Since these two are such effective pass rushers, the Broncos do not need to call many blitzes in order to get pressure on the quarterback, allowing more defenders to drop into coverage.

Speaking of coverage guys, Champ Bailey is this defense's unquestioned leader and he is once again playing like a top five shutdown corner in the league. He is taking out teams' number one receiver, which allows the Broncos defense to double cover opposing teams' secondary option in the passing game. This is exactly what happened against the Jets. Bailey was manned up on Santonio Holmes and they double covered Plaxico Burress, which really hurt the Jets in the red zone.

The biggest deficiency for this defense is their defensive tackles. During the lockout, I believe they had only one defensive tackle on their roster and it was clearly a position of need. They did not really address the position in free agency or the draft, but their tackle rotation has been holding up so far this season. The Broncos are in the top half of the league in rush defense, after last season being the unquestioned worst run defense in the league.

Against the Jets, they completely stuffed the Jets on almost every run attempt and forced Mark Sanchez to try to win the game for his team. This would be tough for any quarterback, considering Dumervil and Miller are attacking the quarterback every play and Bailey is shutting down one side of the field. Obviously Sanchez and the Jets fell victim to this defense, and it was Sanchez throwing a pick six that made the difference in this game, not Tim Tebow.

Tebow deserves some credit for his team's success, but it is really head coach John Fox who has come in and fixed this atrocious defense and has made the Broncos the most surprising playoff contender of the 2011 season.

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