ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As much as Von Miller likes sacking quarterbacks, as much as he’s done it as well as it can be done over the past nine seasons and as much as he likes spreading the gospel of how to do it to others who practice the craft, he has come away with one irrefutable fact about the whole process.
“You can’t just wake up and get sacks," Miller said. “I mean, you can’t just go out and say, ‘I’m getting this many sacks today,’ and go do it. It can be frustrating, and sometimes you’re just going and going and you don’t get there. But this is what I do. I know what it is ... I’ve just got to run over my guy. I’ve just got to run straight through him, put him on his back and get a sack. My job -- it’s not like I’m a receiver. It’s not like I’ve got to break at this route and catch the ball. I’ve just got to get there. I’ve just got to get there."
Sunday in StubHub Center, where the Broncos face the Los Angeles Chargers, there will be three players in the mix who know a little something about waking up in the morning and trying to get sacks.
Two -- the Broncos’ Miller and the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram -- have the better credentials, while Broncos rookie Bradley Chubb is threatening the league’s rookie record -- 14.5 sacks by Jevon Kearse, set in 1999.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Wednesday he looks at the Miller-Chubb combination like it “kind of reminds you of the [Robert] Mathis and [Dwight] Freeney days when you lined up against those [Colts teams]. You’re going to put the offensive linemen in some stressful situations."
And even in these crazy, offense-driven days, with the cascade of numbers and the piles of data swirling around the game these days, the sack is still a premium, yet elusive, item.
“You always hear ‘pressure is more important -- it’s not really about the sacks,’ and that’s true to a large extent," said Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall. “But there’s something about a sack, a strip sack, ball on the ground, that’s different, always will be. That’s a game-changer, maybe even a season-changer. All you have to do is go walk down the hall to see it."
By "down the hall," Marshall means the first floor of the Broncos’ complex where there is a large photomontage -- a mural, really -- of Miller’s Super Bowl 50 MVP performance in which he finished with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Miller and Chubb have combined for 17 sacks through nine games, making them the lead duo in the league. And while the Broncos have sprinkled in some of their own defensive struggles overall at times -- they surrendered back-to-back 200-yard rushers earlier this year -- Miller and Chubb have picked up the pace over the past month.
Miller has five sacks in the past four games, while Chubb has 6.5 sacks in the past four.
“Von is an every-down football player, Defensive Player of the Year-type guy; he’s not just a pass-rusher," said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. “And when they need a blow, they trot in [Shane] Ray and [Shaquil] Barrett, I bet a lot of teams wish they were their every-down guys."
The Broncos and Chargers have discovered what many in the league have come to know -- that having an elite rusher is a good thing, but having another rusher to help that elite rusher get free is even better. Last season, Miller was almost always swimming upstream against a parade of chips and double-teams on the way to 10 sacks.
Even earlier this season, when the Broncos were trying to do a little more on defense, Miller went through a three-game drought without a sack. But the Broncos took a few things off the rookie’s to-do list, turned Chubb loose in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Rams, and he finished with three sacks that day as Miller added 1.5 on the way to their current pace.
For his part, Ingram has been without Joey Bosa to this point in the season. Lynn has expressed the possibility Bosa could play a smattering of snaps against the Broncos. Bosa has missed nine games with a foot injury, but he took part in some position drills in Wednesday’s practice for the first time this season.
“Absolutely, we have two similar rushers with Melvin Ingram, but without Joey we had to get a little more creative, get the secondary involved, and I think our guys are winning one-on-ones more now than they were earlier in the year," Lynn said. “But [Chargers defensive coordinator] Gus [Bradley] has done a nice job just mixing the pressures, playing a little more man coverage, just doing what we can."
In the end, Miller said, the pursuit is never quite over.
“Offenses don’t want anybody near the quarterback. They design everything to keep you away from the quarterback," Miller said. “You accept that as the job -- my job is to get him, that’s it. I’ve said I don’t rap, write music, paint pictures; I sack quarterbacks. So every play, every day, I do everything I can to sack quarterbacks."