The 2012 Denver Broncos have caught on fire of late during a five game win streak that has propelled them to 7-3 and a three game lead in the AFC West. To go with the accolades that have been given to Peyton Manning and the offense for being recognized with one of the best in the NFL, much can also be said of their menacing defense.
I am going to be the first to put it out there right now, and I understand that it is still early in the season. But this Broncos team could be the best that has ever played in the Mile High City. Now before anyone kills me for being a complete fool, just hear me out.
From the old days of the Orange Crush defenses, the Broncos have fielded incredible play-makers on defense. Starting with 1977, when Tom Jackson, Randy Gradishar, Lyle Alzado and Bill Thompson were patrolling the field, this team has prided itself with a hard-hitting, fierce unit that could get to the QB and force turnovers. That defense ranked third in the NFL allowing only 10.6 points/game and recorded 25 INTs. This, however, was before the NFL started to record sacks in 1982 and when offenses were almost nonexistent.
Fast forward to 1984 when the Broncos posted the 2nd best defense in the league giving up 15 pts/game with Karl Mecklenburg, Dennis Smith, Tom Jackson and Rulon Jones wreaking havoc. The Broncos as a team posted 57 sacks that year and 31 INTs. This, in my opinion, was considered the best of the Orange Crush defenses, and if the Broncos had any sort of balanced offense with RB Sammy Winder and John Elway did not throw as many INTs as he did, they more than likely would have been in another Super Bowl.
In 1989, the Broncos had the services of the hardest-hitting safety in their history in Steve Atwater to go along with INT machine, CB Tyrone Braxton, team sack leader LOLB Simon Fletcher and troublesome RDE Ron Holmes. This defense allowed 14.1 pts/game which was number one in the NFL. Then they met a certain team in the Super Bowl that year and got lit up for 55 points.
In 1997 and 1998, the Broncos back to back championship years, they were 6th and 8th, respectively, in total defense. They were, however, 1st and 2nd in point differential for those years as the league was changing and more emphasis was put on offense to improve the fan experience, and the Broncos delivered. A top five defense was not needed to beat the Green Bay Packers or the Atlanta Falcons, but their pass rush with players like Maa Tanuvasa, Bill Romanowski and Neil Smith was as daunting as the Broncos have ever fielded.
The last really good defense for the Broncos was in 2005, when they ranked third in total points allowed, and made it to the AFC Championship game and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That defense was not a tremendous pass rushing machine, but the combination of Champ Bailey, Nick Ferguson, John Lynch and others recorded 20 INTs and were stout against the run, only allowing three 100 yard rushers.
So where does that leave the defense so far in 2012? Let me just say this. Anyone can look up every stat and decide for themselves what may be the best Broncos defense of all time. Every defense mentioned has had their share of incredible talents that achieved amazing success and posted excellent numbers. Through 10 games, the Broncos, led by Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Derek Wolfe and Bailey have already garnered 35 sacks, 12 INTs, have hit opposing QBs 54 times and is 2nd in the NFL against the run.
The one thing that makes this defense stand out is the complete team effort that is being achieved week in and week out. The Broncos are getting 100% effort from the likes of LB Wesley Woodyard, CBs Chris Harris and Tony Carter and veteran leadership from LB Keith Brooking, Bailey and S Jim Leonhard. So where do you rank this team among the Broncos best? Wherever you put them, just know that they belong in the discussion, or you can just kiss my rant!
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