The way the Denver Broncos 2011 season started, it looked to be just like the 2010 season for the defense; lousy.
But in the last three games, something happened. With all the injuries, the legal issues and having the fourth defensive coordinator in four years and the third head coach in four years, things are starting to look up.They started ranked around 30th in the NFL in total defense and are now around 16th. And moving up.
It didn't hurt that the new brain-trust of Elway, Fox and Xanders used the highest pick ever in Broncos history to choose the pending 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Von Miller. And it hasn't hurt that Chris Harris, an undrafted cornerback rookie, has played like a veteran.
And a trio of ageless veteran defensive backs, CBs Champ Bailey, Andre Goodman and Safety Brian Dawkins have played like they drink from the fountain of youth before every game. CB Goodman's pick-six was a thing of beauty and allowed the fourth quarter magic to happen.
Watching the game tonight, it was becoming clear that all these things plus the changed offensive scheme to being run-centric has allowed the defense to stay off the field and be fresh in the fourth quarter. It has also allowed Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller to put some serious hurt on the opposing quarterbacks. Tonight they combined for three sacks split evenly between them and also left Jets QB Mark Sanchez bloodied and dazed at the end.
And Miller now has nine sacks, almost one a game, 11 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. As I said, barring injury, he should be the runaway Defensive Rookie of the Year.
What this has also done is allow the Denver offense to not have to put 30 points on the board every game. And that has kept the turnovers down and is giving new starting QB Tim Tebow the chance to run the read option and learn the NFL passing game along the way.
And maybe for the first time since back in the Shannahan Super Bowl years, there is balance between the defense, offense and special teams. With the great kick return by Cassius Vaughn and the pinpoint punting of Britton Colquitt, steady place-kicking by Matt Prater and the solid kick coverage, we now have all three phases working together.
Winning, even winning ugly is what counts. And this group of players, coaches and front office have figured that out and are taking full advantage.
And trust me, winning ugly is better than losing. If you don't believe me, ask Rex Ryan and the Jets.