Is Denver Broncos Defense Really Good Enough to Sustain a Super Bowl Run?

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Featured Columnist IVNovember 13, 2013

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 27:  Outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos sacks quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on October 27, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos beat the Redskins 45-21.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

After 10 weeks of the 2013 NFL season, the Denver Broncos have to be on the short list of favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Offensively, there isn't much to complain about. The team is averaging 41.2 points per game and it has scored 97 points more than the second-highest scoring team in the league, the Dallas Cowboys.

However, plenty of questions remain on defense.

The Broncos rank fourth in the league in defending the run, giving up just 87 yards per game. But how much of that can be chalked up to the fact that almost every opponent they've faced has had to at least somewhat abandon the run?

On the flip side of that coin, the Broncos come in at No. 30 against the pass. Teams have found plenty of success through the air against the Broncos this season.

Yes, injuries have hurt the secondary this season, with both Champ Bailey and Duke Ihenacho missing time. However, many teams that have won Super Bowls have dealt with injuries.

Denver has given up at least 19 points in every game this season and struggling teams such as Jacksonville, Oakland and Washington were still able to find success on offense.

That doesn't bode well for a team that faces its toughest three-game stretch of the season.

Sandwiched in between two battles with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs is a trip to New England to take on the Patriots.

The Broncos' bid for the top spot in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs will hinge on those three games.

So what does the team need to do differently?

Last season, the Broncos were among the top pass defenses in the league. What changed?

The first thing that comes to mind is the pass rush.

In 2012, the Broncos tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks as a team. This season, they have half that. But it isn't the decrease in sacks as much as the lack of pressure, especially in key situations.

Do the Broncos really miss Elvis Dumervil that much? It appears they do.

Dumervil has collected eight sacks as a member of the Baltimore Ravens this season. No one on the Denver roster has that many, though Shaun Phillips has been a tremendous acquisition.

Von Miller missed the first six games of the season due to a league-mandated suspension, but the team will rely on him heavily down the stretch.

Getting pressure on quarterbacks and hurrying their throws will be one of the biggest keys for the remainder of this season.

2013 Denver Broncos Defensive Rankings
Category2013 SeasonNFL Rank
Third Down Defense38.3%18
Yards Given up Per Play12.230
Passing Yds Against Per Game287.830
Avg. Score Against Per Game26.425
First Downs Given up due to Penalties23T-27
NFL stats

Without the pressure, quarterbacks have been able to find the holes that do exist in the secondary.

Another issue continues to be covering tight ends. Several tight ends burned the Broncos last season, and this year they are giving up 86.3 yards a game to that position.

This needs to become a focal point of the coaching staff. Opponents of the Broncos have been able to convert on 38.3 percent of their third downs this season (49 of 128), and many of those have gone to tight ends.

Finally, the team needs to become more disciplined. It has committed 23 penalties on the season that have resulted in a first down for the opposition. Only three teams have allowed more.

Can a bad defense lead to a Super Bowl win? Sure, but it doesn't happen often.

Since 1991, only three defenses ranked No. 20 or lower have won it all. But in 2006, the Indianapolis Colts hoisted the Lombardi trophy despite giving up 360 points—more than any Super Bowl winner ever.

Who was the quarterback on that team? Peyton Manning. Is Manning good enough to overcome the odds again, seven years later? Or will the defense start to turn things around?

Those are questions that should be answered very soon.

Manning and the offense can light up scoreboards and break offensive records, but defense is still needed to secure a championship.

Indianapolis was able to score 39 points against Denver in its only loss of the season, and a mediocre Dallas team very nearly won a shootout, posting 48 points against the Broncos.

Teams around the league have seen the Broncos can probably be beaten in more than one way. It is imperative that Denver buckles down on defense to balance out its incredible offense.

If this defense puts pressure on the quarterback, limits penalties and gets off the field on third down, the Broncos will be incredibly hard—if not impossible—to defeat.


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