The enduring wisdom encapsulated by the saying ‘victorious offenses win games, but championship defenses win titles’ still holds its truth, particularly within the realm of the Denver Broncos.
Once the confetti had settled in the aftermath of the Seattle Seahawks humiliating the Broncos in Super Bowl 48, a stark reality emerged: Denver, despite possessing a historically prolific offense, lacked a defense suitable for championship glory.
Many questioned whether a high-octane offense, like that of the Denver Broncos, should suffice to secure Super Bowl victories.
In theory, it appeared to be sufficient until the offense encountered difficulties penetrating the opponent’s end zone. In the era of Peyton Manning as their quarterback, such a struggle seemed improbable.
However, times have changed.
Even with Peyton Manning’s breathtaking audibles, intricate hand signals, and surgical precision, he remains a mortal player.
He is not an automaton, implying that there will be days when he and the formidable offense face challenges in scoring points. This became evident during their recent Super Bowl appearance.
This is precisely why possessing a defense capable of keeping games tightly contested is of paramount importance.
With the acquisitions of TJ Ward, Demarcus Ware, and Aqib Talib, along with the return of a healthy Von Miller, the Denver Broncos now field a defensive unit that demands recognition as late January and early February approach.
While these are illustrious names on paper, the true significance of these additions lies in their influence on the opposing strategies on the gridiron.
The most pivotal addition within this new assembly was undeniably Demarcus Ware.
It may raise eyebrows as to why an aging, previously considered washed-up, and injury-prone defensive end – a perspective held by the Dallas Cowboys, leading to his eventual release – could have such a profound impact.
The answer lies in Demarcus’s enduring ability to apply relentless pressure on the quarterback.
Pairing him with Von Miller has compelled opposing teams to overhaul their entire protection strategies to counter the threat posed by these two dominant edge rushers.
Consider, for instance, Denver’s recent encounter with the Arizona Cardinals, a resounding 41-20 victory that showcased the Denver defense making substantial advancements, with strategic advantages becoming increasingly evident.
In the scenario below, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves ‘chipping’ both Von Miller and Demarcus Ware using their running back and tight end.
Given the standard five eligible pass-catchers on any given play, the back end of the Denver defense only needs to monitor the movements of three receivers engaged in route running.
The numbers game becomes strikingly evident, with seven defenders tasked with covering only three receivers. In terms of sheer numerical advantage, the odds invariably favor the Broncos’ defense.
Such a configuration is a desirable prospect for any NFL secondary and is a scenario they would embrace without hesitation on a play-by-play basis.
However, offenses are well aware that such an arrangement is less than ideal. To counter the dual threat posed by Demarcus and Von, teams are compelled to devise alternative strategies, as demonstrated in the subsequent screenshot.
To maintain a full complement of five eligible receivers in the pattern while still allocating two players to contain both Von and Demarcus, offensive units often opt to employ the combined efforts of an offensive guard and an offensive tackle in double-teaming these two relentless pass rushers.
This specific protection strategy often falls short of expectations due to its demand on the offensive tackle to act counterintuitively by surrendering the inside lane to the edge rusher while relying on support from the offensive guard.
As demonstrated here, Von Miller effortlessly splits the double-team formed by the offensive guard and tackle, generating significant pressure on the quarterback.
However, this approach proves to be a fruitless endeavor once offenses grasp the unfavorable trade-off of chipping both Demarcus and Von, resulting in a shortage of available receivers in passing routes.
Recognizing the ineffectiveness of double-teaming them, they resort to a final option: chipping one and taking the risk of one-on-one blocking against the other pass rusher.
When choosing which of the two rushers will face the one-on-one challenge, they typically expose the less obstructed side to the quarterback’s view.
In the last two screenshots, the Arizona Cardinals adopted precisely this strategy.
Given that Drew Stanton is a right-handed quarterback, they applied a chip to Demarcus (positioned as the right end), leaving Von in a one-on-one situation, as Drew Stanton had a clear line of sight to him.
Regrettably, for the Cardinals, both plays resulted in unfavorable outcomes. In the initial screenshot, Von Miller successfully sacked Drew, and in the subsequent play, Drew was hit with such force by Von that it forced him out of the game.
There truly exists no definitive ‘correct’ method to contain these two exceptional pass rushers effectively.
When one considers the disruption inflicted by both Von Miller and Demarcus Ware upon the quarterbacks of opposing teams, it becomes apparent that the Denver secondary consistently operates with an advantage.
This advantage is amplified by the likelihood that opposing offenses will often find themselves in a position of playing catch-up against a Peyton Manning-led offense, thereby adopting a championship-worthy stance.
The Broncos currently boast a dynamic duo of elite pass rushers capable of relentlessly pursuing the quarterback.
While Denver may not replicate the record-breaking offensive feats of their previous season, they have wisely recognized that such achievements are not the exclusive route to championship glory.
Instead, they have bolstered their defense, now equipped to propel them towards their championship aspirations.
This transformation is spearheaded by their formidable edge rushers, Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, whose disruptive abilities present evident challenges to opposing offenses.