For the most part, the Denver Broncos defense seems to have picked up right where they left off back in February.

They’re still finding ways to get to the quarterback, they’re still forcing turnovers when they need to and they’re still figuring out how to win games they could’ve easily lost.

In Thursday’s season opener, the valiant Denver defense played hard and hit even harder. Some of those hits didn’t sit well with many of the viewers watching the game and some of those playing in it.

As soon as the game was over, the internet exploded with people calling the Broncos defense dirty.

Cam Newton is one of the most physical quarterbacks in the NFL, so it wasn’t surprising to see him take off and run early on in Thursday’s game. When Newton ran, the Broncos hit him, and the hits just got harder as the game went on.

Newton left the Mile High on Thursday battered and bruised. The Broncos defense, especially in the second half, woke up and played like the defense they were in 2015. As a result, Newton took a few shots right in the chops.

The Broncos defense hits first and asks questions later, something that doesn’t fly in today’s NFL. A few of those hits on Thursday were a little high for the rest of the league’s liking, but does that mean that the Broncos are dirty?

Head coach Gary Kubiak doesn’t think so, claiming his team just “plays hard.” Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t think so either, and he made it clear on “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” following Thursday night’s game.

“When you talk about how the game is supposed to be played,” Lewis said. “If you’re the Denver Broncos, that’s the way you’re supposed to play defense.”

While some of the hits Newton took to the head should have been called, some of them were simply unavoidable. That’s football.

The Broncos are the new standard for defense in the NFL, and as a result of that they’ll be slapped with the “dirty” tag  from time to time.

Kubiak is right, the Broncos do play hard. They are a true defensive football team. They have swagger, they are mean, they are nasty and they like to hit. While sometimes those hits may get them in trouble, they will live and die with their defense.

Cam Newton was the first, but he won’t be the last quarterback the Broncos beat up in 2016. But what the Broncos did on Thursday shouldn’t be labeled “dirty.” That was a physical defense playing tough football.

The Broncos defense is everything you could want in a defense. They are fast. They are mean. They are tough. But they are not dirty.