The Denver Broncos will face a huge challenge when they square off against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game this Sunday. New England has found a nice balance between the run and pass, getting their offense clicking at just the right time, making them a handful for any defense right now. But Denver faces them desperately short-handed following the injury to cornerback Chris Harris, putting their already thin defense up against the wall with the Super Bowl on the line.
Harris has been one of the best defenders in the Broncos’ secondary this season, stepping up and becoming a leader early in the season. He finished the regular season with 65 tackles, three interceptions, and 13 passes defended as a key piece of the pass defense. Harris left the game against the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter after making two tackles with one pass defended with an apparent knee injury that was confirmed to be a torn ACL by an MRI conducted Monday morning. He has distinguished himself as the team’s most consistent defensive back and played in every package due to his versatility.
Once Harris left the game, Denver put Quentin Jammer into the game in his place and San Diego took advantage of him. The former-Charger was routinely beat by rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen as San Diego scored all 17 of their points in the fourth quarter after Harris’ injury. After the game, Jammer copped to being not very good in coverage saying he has to “be better” and there were “some technique things I need to clean up.” Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will certainly make sure those technique things are cleaned up this week in practice before putting Jammer back into a big spot against the Pats.
If Jammer doesn’t pan out, the team has few options with Harris sidelined for the the rest of the playoffs. Champ Bailey could move back outside after playing in the slot as a nickel cornerback for the last three games after returning from a foot injury that caused him to miss 11 games this season. If the team doesn’t think he’s ready for that and Jammer just isn’t cutting it, the team could also use more of rookie Kayvon Webster, who has flashed some nice coverage ability this season but is playing with a cast on his surgically-repaired right thumb.
The injury to Chris Harris could loom large for a Denver defense that has had to overcome injuries all season long to get to this point. Will losing their most consistent cover-corner be too much of a loss for the Broncos or will they find a way to rally and overcome Harris’ absence to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl?