Von Miller and Derek Wolfe; when they’re on, they’re unstoppable.
The Denver Broncos nearly held onto their start-to-finish lead and victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, ultimately losing 15-13.
Considering Denver’s offense was inept, especially on third downs (16% conversion rate), keeping the lead nearly the entire game was thanks to the defense. And more specifically, two of their biggest stars.
For Broncos fans who were as disappointed in Miller’s play this season as the superstar himself, this was vintage Von Miller.
Early on, he sacked Jacoby Brissett and was a constant, consistent pressure from the left side of Denver’s defensive line. He racked up five tackles, three of which were behind the line of scrimmage, and would’ve had another but he was held by tight end Jack Doyle.
But when the pressure turned up, with the Broncos leading by the narrowest of margins 13-12 and 10 minutes left on the clock, Miller and Wolfe were at their peak.
With the Colts driving and near midfield, Wolfe and Miller rushed Brissett in tandem, with Miller stunting inside and Wolfe going up the field. The guard was forced to choose to block one or the other, picking Miller and allowing Wolfe to light up the quarterback with the clean but tough hit. The pass resulted in an incompletion and it set up a 2nd and 20.
There was Miller again, coming around the edge to grab onto Brissett and nearly pull him down by his jersey. But the 240-pound quarterback took off with speed and strength, only to have Wolfe, who was in hot pursuit, strip the ball from his hands for a crucial forced fumble.
That was the only turnover of the game for either team and it put the Broncos offense in incredible field position, which was squandered away, just like most every drive on the day.
Denver’s offense wasn’t able to gain key conversions on third downs — converting just 16 percent of them — meaning those plays by Miller and Wolfe were all the more impressive and important. Clutch, if you will.
When the Broncos, again, couldn’t get a first down when they needed it most, giving the Colts the ball back with nearly two minutes to play, Miller almost made the play of the game.
He rushed with speed and had Brissett dead to rights in the end zone, but the athletic and huge quarterback rolled out and completed a 40-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton for a massive first down.
That was the play which would’ve ended the game and won it for the Broncos, but Miller came up just that short, just that close; just like the Broncos as a team.
In the NFL, “close but no cigar” brings with it no consolation prize, nor any consolation.
A few plays after that game-changer, Miller’s phenomenal pursuit resulted in his second sack when Brissett tried to get the edge, wide to the sideline, but couldn’t outrun Denver’s greatest-ever defender.
However, the Colts just kept coming at the Broncos defense, which ended up bending so far it ultimately broke as Adam Vinatieri booted home a 51-yard field goal for the win.
Miller nearly doubled his sack production (2.5-to-4) on the season in this one game, while both of Wolfe’s tackles were sacks. Those four sacks were not only a great sign for Denver’s defense, but all the more impressive considering Indianapolis gave up a mere seven sacks in their first six games.
Still, the Broncos’ boring, uninspired, simplistic and predictable offense sunk the team’s hopes of winning. On Denver’s first scoring drive, a 17-play beauty, three straight incompletions from the 3-yard line meant settling for a field goal. On their next scoring drive, everything came to a crashing halt at the 11, and another field goal was the result.
Because of that awful offense, with 27 plays on seven drives in the second half, even Miller’s and Wolfe’s superhero-esque efforts meant a loss.
Denver now falls to 2-6 on the season, with a game against the strong Cleveland Browns next Sunday at 2:25 p.m. MT.