It is no secret the Denver Broncos are an elite defense with immense skill and speed at every level. They also have an edge, an attitude, a nastiness that fuels their play. And just like their fantastic play has shown up nearly every Sunday, so has their tendency to take things on the field too far.

In Cleveland, Derek Wolfe hit Josh McCown late as the quarterback shuffled out of bounds. In Indianapolis, Aqib Talib poked the eye of Dwayne Allen in front of a referee as the game winded down. Then two weeks in a row, T.J. Ward took things to far. It has been a common occurrence that stems from the team’s aggressive nature, which the defense greatly values but a balance must be found now.

“It is very important,” Malik Jackson said of the team’s aggressiveness Monday while donning a t-shirt labeled “violent gentlemen.”

“We have 11 guys out there that are real aggressive,” Jackson said. “From the safeties down to the D-line, everybody it trying to get their nose on the ball, everybody wants to hit somebody, everybody wants to make a big play so that is our mentality. Some refs are going to call games differently or not. It is what it is.”

At least five players on the starting defense have been flagged for a late hit or a personal foul and each level of the defense has had its fair share of penalty problems. Head coach Gary Kubiak has been asked about the problem weekly and it seems he is tired of it; yet he understands the fine line his defense needs to walk.

“It’s frustrating,” Kubiak said Monday. “We committed some [penalties], but we made some plays, too. We talk about them and we keep working. I say this all the time, our aggression as a defense, playing man coverage and being aggressive is not going to change. Hopefully, our penalties can continue to get better.”

The Broncos have been penalized eight or more times in all but two games this season. In the Oakland Raiders game they were flagged for only six penalties but amassed 103 yards on said flags. For the defense, it is the type of penalties that has become concerning for Gary Kubiak.  They are near the top of the NFL in roughing the passer penalties and lead the league in personal fouls. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has also been focusing on their one glaring weakness.

“I’ve been talking, berating or whatever – I think whatever it takes. We did cut down on penalties, obviously, but we had one out of frustration. You can’t have those. I said the post-play penalties are really unacceptable. We were working hard on not having them during the game certainly and we did a lot better job of that, but after the play, there’s no excuse for that. It hurts your team. Even retaliation because it’s just something that you can’t do. We’ve harped on it. I think it’s through. I think we’re through with it now. You hate to learn the hard way, but we did,” Phillips said Nov. 19 ahead of the Chicago Bears game.

The Broncos clearly have yet to truly keep it in check. After Phillips words last Wednesday, the team went out and were flagged eight times, five of those on defense for 93 yards. The Bears offense gained five first downs via penalties and Ward was flagged for a late hit in the fourth quarter on quarterback Jay Cutler. After the game Ward’s reaction to his and the team’s penalties is what has become normal for some and concerning for the team.

“It seems to go that way every week. Whatever,” Ward said.

The penalties kept the Bears in the game and outside of some big passing plays, the defense had them in check. The worrisome part of the situation is it is a weekly problem that is being addressed, but not corrected.

“We are really working on it and that’s what it rough. We are trying to stay conscious out it but at the end of the day you can only do what you do. Some fouls are going to be called differently than others. You just have to be able to roll and do your thing. I think our plan right now is to keep talking about it and keep making sure we are being smart about it but also just play football.”

Chris Harris Jr., a vocal leader of the defense, also has seen how it can hurt the team and echoed Jackson’s comments this week.

“It is something that we have been able to just fight through. It happens every week. We definitely have to clean up some of the dumb penalties, the late hit penalties, things that we clearly know we can’t do.”

Talib’s eye-poke versus the Colts appears to be the only penalty that cost them a shot at completing their second-half comeback. Outside of that, the Broncos have been lucky that they have not suffered a loss due to playing beyond the whistle. Last week, the Bears were not flagged once (they had one penalty declined) while the Broncos incurred eight. It is safe to say that a similar, lopsided penalty total against the undefeated New England Patriots would surely result in an embarrassing loss.

“When you win, yeah it doesn’t matter,” Jackson said confidently. “It is part of the game and you try to just clean it up.”

The Broncos sit at 8-2 and have won all but one close game. If they don’t “clean it up” this week, their glaring penalty problem will be a monumental issue, accompanied by another notch in the loss column. Talk is cheap and each week that the team continues to talk about improvement, but plays without it, driving down the price of each word. The Broncos defense can find a balance between aggressive play and blatant disregard for the rules. Whether they truly want to reach that balance is the question now in Week 12.

Email Sam at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @SamCowhick