Midseason Defensive Evaluation

Josh GilchristContributor INovember 13, 2009

The Denver Broncos have reached the halfway point of their 2009 season. There have been a lot of changes this season. Some of those changes have been a little discouraging, but, for the most part, Broncos fans have a lot to be excited about.

Some fans may be discouraged by the points the Broncos have allowed the past two games (58), but the scores are not completely indicative of a defensive failure. They have definitely let up at the end, but they have been keeping the offense in the game for a long time. The Broncos had a legitimate chance of beating the Steelers for three-and-a-half quarters. The Steelers really poured it on those last seven minutes.

I want to start by mentioning some positives about the Monday night game. Our defense continues to show that it has the ability to make big plays that can change the game. Elvis Dumervil added to his number of total sacks when he was assisted by Darrell Reid on a 1st quarter sack of Ben Roethlisberger. Andra Davis and DJ Williams also tag teamed Big Ben to the ground.

However, the biggest sack of the game came in the third quarter when Kenny Peterson sacked Roethlisberger, knocking the ball loose, and rookie Robert Ayers picked up the fumble and returned it for a touchdown. Usually, such big defensive plays have been huge momentum shifters for the Denver Broncos, but the Steelers came back on the next drive and scored in just four plays, going ahead for good 14-10. A few drives later, it looked like the Steelers were going to score again when Andre’ Goodman picked off a Roethlisberger pass in the end zone, delaying the nailing in of the coffin.

Yes, the Broncos ended up losing by 18 points, but the defense showed me that they are still a strong unit with game-changing playmaking abilities. They continue to find ways to put pressure on the quarterback and take the ball away.

So, why the let downs the last two weeks? I am not one hundred percent sure, but I do have a theory on this. My first theory is that they have gone against two of the best offensive teams in the AFC and have been slightly outplayed. Still, they are making plays, especially in the Pittsburgh game. Also, in the thrilling wins against Dallas, New England, and San Diego, the Broncos’ second half defense was as bendable as a cinder block, but they had help from the offense. Denver’s offense has been nonexistent in the second half versus Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

I don’t like the excuse that the defense is getting tired by being left out on the field for so long. These guys live to be out on the field. Denver’s defense may be good enough to beat teams like Oakland, Cleveland, and Kansas City with minimal help from the offense, but teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh are going to require a more balanced contribution. Nonetheless, the defensive unit deserves credit for keeping the Broncos in the last two games for as long as they did.

Here are some notable defensive stats at the midway point:

Total YPG Allowed: 280.2 (3rd in NFL)
Points Allowed PG: 15.5 (3rd in NFL)
Rushing YPG Allowed: 97.0 (8th in NFL)
Passing YPG Allowed: 183.2 (7th in NFL)
Sacks: 26 (3rd in NFL)

Takeaways: 14
Interceptions: 7
Forced Fumbles: 11
Fumble Recoveries: 7

DJ Williams: 63 tackles (leads team); 2.5 sacks; 2 forced fumbles
Elvis Dumervil: 10.5 sacks (leads team); 27 tackles; 2 forced fumbles
Andre’ Goodman: 2 interceptions (leads team); 1 sack
Champ Bailey: 45 tackles; 1 interception; 1 forced fumble
Darrell Reid: 3.5 sacks
Robert Ayers: 54-yard fumble recovery return for touchdown in week nine

The conclusion: The Broncos defense is hitting people in the mouth and not running a charity like last year. They are still a work in progress, but Josh McDaniels and Mike Nolan definitley have things going in the right direction in 2009.

Let’s shut down the Redskins!