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Broncos Rewind: Defense, special teams

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After a Week 3 overtime loss in Seattle, Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton offered a glimpse into the future.

A prediction he believed would come true and come true quickly.

“This is not the kind of defense we can play,’’ Knighton said following the 26-20 defeat. “We see pieces, but not the whole thing. We’re going to show the whole thing and when we do it’s all going to start with stopping people from running the ball on us.’’

That was after the Kansas City Chiefs had run for 133 yards in Week 2 to go with 129 yards for the Seahawks. In the three games since, all wins, by 21, 14 and 25 points, the Broncos have surrendered 37, 31 and 62 yards rushing.

So, after a long look at the game video, here are some thoughts on the team’s defense and special teams:

  • With six sacks in the win over the 49ers Sunday night, the Broncos are now tied for third in the league with 21 sacks and they have played one fewer game than the other five teams with at least 21 sacks. And beyond the array of moves DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller have shown, including Ware’s fake-spin effort against Joe Staley that is already a popular clip across the Web, Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is having success placing Miller, in particular, off the line of scrimmage at times in rush situations when he has often been in a three-point stance at defensive end. It makes it more difficult for offenses to slide things toward Miller, or get a running back or tight end out to chip him if Miller starts the rush just off the line of scrimmage a bit. Miller gets a running start and also has a little more flexibility to see the gap he wants. Miller came from off the ball to sack Colin Kaepernick in the second quarter Sunday night. With Miller leading the league in sacks (eight) and Ware among the players tied for second in the league in sacks, with seven, the Broncos have the most prolific duo through seven weeks of the season and the Broncos have already had their bye week. The 49ers also struggled to adjust, with plenty of injuries on their offensive line, when the Broncos aligned Ware and Miller on the same side of the formation.

  • When Peyton Manning is as dialed in as he was Sunday night it always makes sense to get him the ball back as many times as possible. "That’s what we want to do, stop people and get Peyton and our offense the ball back,’’ Miller said. But a stumble in a third-and-long situation by the Broncos' defense just before halftime tipped that idea on its side for a bit. With the 49ers facing a third-and-17 from the San Francisco 29-yard line, the Broncos took a timeout to preserve some time, anticipating an impending stop on defense, to give Manning another possession in the opening half. The Broncos took a risk in blitzing cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who has been their best player in coverage so far this season, and that left safety Rahim Moore in coverage on.

  • The Broncos’ aggressiveness paid off plenty as well. A particular look that figures to show itself again in the coming weeks, especially if the Broncos can consistently force favorable down-and-distance situations to crank up their rush, is a look with 10 players along the line of scrimmage with one deep safety. Broncos load the formation with speed and give a quarterback an awful lot to digest in the pre-snap reads.

  • Omar Bolden’s concussion impacts what the Broncos can do in the return game. The Broncos lined up Bolden as the kickoff returner in Sunday’s game, replacing Andre Caldwell. Bolden’s ability to do that job to the Broncos’ liking down the schedule could help rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer get on the field. Latimer has been active for one game this season and played only on special teams in the season opener. Despite Latimer’s potential to give Manning another quality size/speed receiver in the formation, the Broncos have not made him part of the 46-man game-day roster because Caldwell, a wideout, has returned kickoffs and Isaiah Burse, a wide receiver, has returned punts. Bolden taking one of those slots as a defensive back already in the mix, could allow Latimer an avenue to some game-day work. But at minimum, Bolden won’t play this week since he is under the concussion protocol and the Broncos would have to make another decision in the return game to get Latimer on the field.