The adage “the best defense is a good offense” has been used for a variety of fields, but cornerback Chris Harris Jr. says it fits best for the Denver Broncos.
“You’ve got to attribute (late defensive success) to the offense,” Harris said. “Once they get up, it’s sack and interception time. Once we feel like we get up two touchdowns, it’s over for that team.”
So far this season, the Broncos haven’t had the luxury of a two-touchdown lead, except with less than two minutes to go against the Indianapolis Colts, and yet the defense has still been able to shut opposing offenses down to secure victories for the Broncos.
Safety Darian Stewart, fellow member of the the “No Fly Zone,” said that while a two-touchdown lead would be great, what really is important is the timing.
“I feel like we just need to be heading into the fourth quarter with a lead,” Stewart said.
Rookie safety Justin Simmons went one step further, saying that all the defense needs is a lead.
“When we get up it’s over,” Simmons said. “That’s the type of confidence that we have. That’s taking nothing away from the opposing teams and great players; that’s just the mentality that we have when we attack the game.”
This isn’t just confident talk, either. In fact, this defense is built to win when they have a lead, especially late in the game. When an opposing offense is down, especially in the fourth quarter, they typically have to abandon the run and rely on the pass.
The best formula for attacking a pass heavy offense is having a relentless pass rush and a shut down secondary. The Broncos arguably have the leagues best in both of those areas.
“It’s hard when [a defense] only rushes four and [the offense] has to max protect and the guys in the secondary can cover as well as we can. It’s pretty tough to beat,” Simmons said. “That’s why we are one of the best.”
The pass rush, led by AFC Defensive Player of the Month Von Miller and accompanied by Shane Ray and DeMarcus Ware has thrived in the fourth quarter this year.
Through three games the Broncos are second in the league in sacks with 12. However, over half of those sacks, seven, have come in the fourth quarter, proving that opposing quarterbacks have a very difficult time when trying to comeback.
“[Pressure] leads for a lot of bad decisions by the quarterback. [The quarterback is] thinking quick, quick, quick,” Simmons said. “They try and get rid of the ball. … It’s [interceptions] for the giving.”
On the opposite end of the defense, the Broncos are anchored by the best defensive backfield in the league with three top corners — Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby — as well as two safeties that can play both the run and pass very well — Stewart and T.J. Ward.
The “No Fly Zone” has also been extremely clutch closing out games just like the pass rush. The Broncos have three interceptions on the season, one in each game, and all have come in the fourth quarter.
“That’s where we thrive. That’s where this secondary thrives, just put in those positions. … They love the pressure,” Simmons said. “They love having their backs up against the wall because it’s a way to answer to answer the bell.”
Through the first three games the defense has not only made a case that it could be better than last year’s defense, but it has proved that they play best when it matters the most late in a game. While a two-touchdown lead would be nice for any defense, the Broncos defense has made a case that all it needs from the offense is simply a lead, and they will take care of the rest.