For the first three weeks of the season, the defense of the Denver Broncos has been under fire. They had not played well and deserved all of the criticism they were getting, but they showed up in a big way on Sunday versus the Oakland Raiders. Before you say it’s only the Raiders, keep in mind this is the same team that put up 34 points on the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense.
There were three primary areas of concern for the defense heading into the game versus the Raiders, with the first one being a lack of a pass rush. The Broncos ended up with only two sacks on the day, but the beat up Carson Palmer all day. Once the Broncos went up 17-6 in the third quarter, the defense teed off. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller were in the Raiders backfield more than Darren McFadden.
The second area was the defense versus the run and with McFadden coming to town, there was plenty of reason to be concerned. McFadden had destroyed the Broncos in his career but he was shut down on Sunday. The Broncos held the Raiders to 57 yards rushing as a team and McFadden had 35 of that on 12 carries. Keith Brooking did a great job stepping in for Joe Mays and was a key contributor in stopping the Raiders run game.
The Broncos had also struggled getting off the field on third downs, not on Sunday. The Raiders were 1 for 12 on third downs and the defense did a great job getting the ball back to Peyton Manning. The defense had been pretty good on first and second downs, but could not stop their opponents when it mattered most. When Manning is playing like he was on Sunday, the defense has to get him the ball back and they did that versus the Raiders.
Just like Manning, the Denver Broncos’ defense is a work in progress and Sunday was a positive step in the right direction. Things do not get any easier, as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are on deck.
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