It wasn't much more than a month ago that I predicted that the Broncos' defensive line didn't have the talent needed for the transition they were making to the 3-4. In fact, I basically expected them to be a bust right from the start.
Okay. So it's going to take more than one game to change my prediction, or at least to make me admit I was wrong, but even I'm not stubborn enough to see that the defense couldn't have played much better than they did on Sunday.
In the first game of the Josh McDaniels era, Denver struggled to move the ball against the athletic Cincinnati defense. Other than Brandon Stokley's history making 87 yard touchdown reception in the final seconds, the Kyle Orton-led offense scored only 6 points through four quarters.
So it's a very good thing that the Broncos' defense was there to pick up the slack.
Wait a minute, scratch that. The Broncos' DEFENSE picked up the slack? Let's put that in perspective for a moment.
Last year, the offense had to play out of their mind every week just to give the Broncos a chance. In 4 of their 8 victories, the Broncos had to score more than 20 points to make up for the defense's embarrassing inefficiencies. Only twice did the Denver "D" hold opponents to less than 15 points (14 and 13).
The Broncos didn't win a game where they scored 10 points or less. In fact, they were blown out in all 3 games that they failed to reach more than ten points, courtesy of the Pats, Raiders, and Panthers. Yes, that's right, the god damn Raiders.
If last year's team only scored 6 points in a game, they would have had absolutely no chance to win. That was just the depressing reality that the Broncos had reached under Mike Shannahan.
Under Josh McDaniels, the man behind the Patriots' record-setting offense, everyone knew things would be different this year. But to win a game in which the offense can only put up 6 points? That's just ridiculous.
The defense held a mostly healthy Carson Palmer to just 247 years passing and picked him off twice. Ochocinco caught 5 balls for 89 yards, but never scored a touchdown. Cedric Benson carried 21 times for 76 yards, but take away his 20 yard run and he carried 20 times for only 56 yards, an average of 2.8 yards per carry.
And just take a look at the result of the Bengals nine series' before the touchdown: punt, turnover on downs, interception, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt.
Thanks to the strong play of the front three, the linebackers roamed free for much of the game, stifling the Bengals' running game and sacking Palmer 3 times. Brian Dawkins had 7 solo tackles and was involved in almost every play.
Bottom line; not only does this unit appear to be light years ahead of the one from last season, but it kept the Broncos in a position to win the game. That in itself is the most promising sign to come out of Dove Valley in quite some time.
Still, its too early to get overexcited. Even if the defense can play this well against Cleveland, and after the way Brady Quinn played last week there's no reason to think they can't, the real test will be whether or not the Broncos "D" can survive the season.
Or maybe its the offense we should all be worried about now. Really I just don't know anymore.
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