The biggest concern facing the Denver Broncos as they kicked off the 2013 season was where their pass rush would come from. Elvis Dumervil had left town and joined the Baltimore Ravens and Von Miller was suspended for the first six games of the season. Together, those two had combined for over half of the team’s sacks in 2012, so Denver needed someone to step up to fill the void. Luckily for them, Shaun Phillips was there to step up and found that extra gear to bring the pressure the Broncos so desperately needed.
He didn’t start the game that hot, however. In the first half, the Baltimore offensive line was dominant, giving a perfect pocket for Joe Flacco to stand around in before carefully picking apart the Denver secondary. That was a major reason for the Ravens’ 17-14 halftime lead as the defensive line just couldn’t generate pressure to get off the field in passing situations. For a while, it looked like Flacco was going to have all the time he needed to put together a big night.
But Phillips answered the call in the second half. He benefitted from the injury to Ravens’ starting right tackle Michael Oher who sprained his ankle when teammate Marshal Yanda crashed into his leg on a touchdown run by Ray Rice. That left rookie Rick Wagner in charge of the edge and the veteran Phillips started to find success. He was getting into the backfield quickly, collapsing the pocket and forced Flacco to move off his spot or throw quicker than he wanted, leading to several off-target passes.
On the night, Phillips finished with a game-high 2.5 sacks in his Denver debut. At 32 years old, he may have his best years behind him, but he’s proving that he can be a viable stand-in for the Broncos’ pass rush as they find ways to get Derek Wolfe unleashed and await the return of Von Miller. With Phillips’ contribution, the Denver defense looks like it might just be okay even without Miller for the first six games of the season.