After two lackluster efforts, the Broncos defense can no longer be called ‘elite’

Nov 12, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead (34) celebrates his touchdown in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, Denver Broncos fans potentially witnessed the end of an era in the Mile High City. After two horrendous defensive performances, it is no longer fitting to call this Broncos defense “elite.”

The New England Patriots came into Denver and throttled the Broncos 41-16, putting up 396 total yards of offense, including 297 yards passing by quarterback Tom Brady. Brady also finished the game, which he left early, with a 125.4 passer rating and three touchdowns.

“Defensively, they scored on seven straight possessions,” said head coach Vance Joseph about the defense’s effort after the game.

The loss comes on the heels of a 51-23 embarrassment against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles were able to put up 419 yards of offense, with the big highlight being 197 yards of rushing and three touchdowns. Quarterback Carson Wentz also did not finish the complete game, leaving after four passing touchdowns, 199 yards, and a rating of 118.7.

As a result, the defense’s ranking has taken a nose-dive, and they are no longer the top-ranked defense in the league.

The front seven are struggling to put any sort of pressure on the quarterbacks. They are ranked 18th in the league with only 20 sacks so far, this season. Against the Patriots, the defense were only able to put Brady on the ground once.

For the second game in a row, the defense also gave up over its average in rushing yards. Despite giving up an average of 89.6 yards per game, the Broncos surrendered 99 rushing yards to the Patriots, one week after the 197-yard disaster against the Eagles’ ground game.

The passing defense has looked lost on the field as well, giving up seven touchdowns across the two efforts, and 19 all season — good enough for 28th in the league. The secondary has given up 555 total yards to the opposing quarterbacks in the two games, and the lead has been great enough that neither starting quarterbacks even had to finish; enjoying the blowouts from the bench while their backups entered to finish the game.

“You don’t know what it’s going to be, so we have to find a way to put a complete game together as a team,” said cornerback Aqib Talib.

Due to the back-to-back poor performances, the Broncos have dropped quickly. The team ranks fifth in total defense (2,642), ninth in passing yards allowed (1,836) and sixth in rushing yards allowed (806). They also rank 31st in takeaways (7) and last in turnover differential (-14).

“We’re just doing the same things every week,” said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. after the game. “We’ve got to figure out how to get out of that slump. The effort’s there. Everybody is going hard and trying to do their best.”

Things could start looking up for the Broncos defense, though, as the Cincinnati Bengals come to town. The Bengals rank a lowly 27th in passing offense and 31st in rushing offense, meaning the Broncos could turn around any of their negative momentum this week, but, as Talib said after the game, it’s up to them to do their job.

“We have to finish,” Talib said. “It’s our job. We have to have pride and we have to finish. We’re men in the locker room. We all get paid to do a job. We have to go home and study and be better. We have to do our job.”