ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos don’t always blitz. But when they do, they make things happen.
The Broncos lead the league in sacks (26) and takeaways (17) and are second in the league in forced fumbles (nine) and interceptions (nine). And in a season when the Broncos’ defense has already scored four touchdowns of its own, Denver has won games and influenced people because the Broncos simply have been willing to turn up the heat in some of the tightest moments.
“We go for it," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “We want to make plays that decide games at big times, you know, big moments. We want that pressure."
It has been a theme in the Broncos’ 6-0 start that they want to force the issue with their defense when the team believes games are at the tipping point. Whether it’s a sack, an interception or a forced fumble, the Broncos’ defense has made a play with the game on the line in all six of the team’s wins because the Broncos simply went for it.
When they, as coach Gary Kubiak has said, “sell the farm."
“Oh yeah, man, we’re out there trying to slam the door," said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, who has returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season. “ … We’ve got the guys who can do it and in this defense, guys can go make plays."
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said right from the start of offseason workouts that the Broncos have a combination of players in coverage and in the pass rush to play aggressively. That if the Broncos wanted to blitz, against the run or pass, they had the players to cover up the open spots behind those plays.
And the list of havoc they've wreaked is impressive. In the season opener, they rushed at least six players at Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on just one snap in the game and it was an interception by Talib that he returned for a game-changing touchdown.
In Kansas City, the Broncos rushed six on just one snap and Talib had an interception. Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Broncos rushed five on 16 snaps in the game and had four sacks and a forced fumble on those plays.
In Oakland, the Broncos rushed six at Raiders quarterback Derek Carr on four snaps in the game, and one of those turned into Harris’ 74-yard interception return for a game-winning touchdown with just under seven minutes to go in the game.
In Cleveland this past Sunday, the Broncos rushed six players at Browns quarterback Josh McCown on four snaps and had a sack and an interception among those plays.
In Oakland, Phillips said Kubiak walked by him in the bench area just before Harris’ interception and said, “You'd better be aggressive.' I said, 'OK.'"
In Cleveland, when the Broncos pushed the Browns out of field-goal range in overtime with sacks on back-to-back plays, Kubiak said he and Phillips were on the same page again.
“We were. … I just got on the headset and told Wade, ‘Be aggressive; just go, sell the farm,’" Kubiak said. “ … But I’ve been with Wade before; I know that’s where he was, too."
Just about the only time the Broncos have been stung in go-for-it mode was on Adrian Peterson’s 48-yard touchdown run when the Broncos attacked the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-1 play. The Vikings creased the Broncos’ defensive front and Peterson sprinted to the end zone.
But with Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Tom Brady among the quarterbacks on the Broncos’ docket in the coming weeks, Phillips said the importance of picking the right spots will be important. But he added that the ability to crank things up is a defensive luxury.
“The good thing for us is we don’t have to rush six, or even really five, to get pressure," Phillips said. “We can rush four and pressure people. ... We want our guys playing fast, getting to the ball and making some things happen. But really to play really, really fast."
“Yeah, that's what Coach [Phillips] tries to preach, tries to teach us and put us in situations to do that," said linebacker Von Miller. “In the spur of the moment, it just happens."