DENVER — Russell Wilson, Nathaniel Hackett and the Denver Broncos’ new high-flying offense has been the talk, and the hope, of the Mile High City for the past six months.
But through the first two weeks of the NFL season, it’s been the other side of the ball — the ‘Dark Side,’ as the defense calls themselves — that has carried the team, kept them afloat and guided Denver to a 1-1 record.
“We just knew it was one of those games where we needed to [step up] a little bit and shut things down, which happens all of the time in the NFL,” Dre’Mont Jones said after the Broncos 16-9 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. “Offense was still trying to get rolling, it’s only Week 2, and they needed us a little bit and we stepped up.”
For a second-straight week, the Broncos’ defense held their opponent to under 260 total yards. In Week 1, they only allowed 17 points to the Seahawks. They nearly cut that in half on Sunday, only allowing three total field goals to the Texans, while shutting them out of the end zone entirely.
“The defense has been spectacular, two weeks in a row,” Nathaniel Hackett said after the game. “They are exactly what they have been, and they’re just getting better.”
On Sunday, Denver’s defense, led by Ejiro Evero, only allowed 234 yards all game. Additionally, the Texans were 2-for-13 on third down, 1-for-3 on fourth down and 0-for-1 in the red zone.
“First of all, it was the gameplan. They called [it] and I was able to execute it. It’s a big testimony to how smart the coaches we have, from Coach [Marcus] Dixon up to ‘Coach E’ (Ejiro Evero),” Dre’Mont Jones said after his two-sack performance. “They’re calling a hell of a game and I’m just doing my part.”
After allowing 17 points in the first half against the Seahawks, Denver’s defense clamped down, not allowing a single point to Seattle in the second half. On Sunday, against the Texans, the Broncos only allowed three points in the second half. Additionally, Houston’s only field goal in the second half came off a Russell Wilson interception.
In his first two games as a defensive coordinator, Evero’s defense is giving up an impressive 13 points per game.
“I hope I don’t sound too biased, but I think he is a Top 3 DC. Right now,” Jones stated, pointing to Evero as a top defensive coordinator in the NFL already. “His defense is a top-tier defense. From ‘Dark Side’ up to the back end, we can shut down through on through.”
What’s more impressive is Ejiro hasn’t had every player at his disposal. Justin Simmons, Denver’s All-Pro safety, missed Sunday’s game with a quad injury. Pat Surtain, potentially the Broncos’ best defensive player, left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Josey Jewell, Denver’s starting inside linebacker, has missed the first two games of the season. Yet Denver’s defense hasn’t missed a beat.
“A lot of guys stepped up. Not just on the back end, the inside linebackers as well. A lot of guys stepped up and that is what you want to see guys go down,” Randy Gregory said, after having a strip-sack on Davis Mills on Sunday. “People have to be prepared to go in and make plays. We have to give props to them. We have to continue to do that on the back end. We have to work together and have that level of cohesiveness.”
In the past six quarters of football, Denver’s defense hasn’t given up a single touchdown. The last time an opponent got into the end zone on the Broncos’ defense was with 2:31 left in the second quarter in Week 1.
“We just believe in ourselves and I think we really understand what each person does well,” Gregory said about the defense’s early success. “We are excited to play for each other and play hard for one another, which makes it more competitive. You cannot worry about what the offense is doing, that will come around. Like you said, six quarters [of] good play. Hopefully we can keep that going.”
On the flip side, Denver’s offense, led by a first-time head coach, new quarterback and new system, has struggled out of the gate, only scoring 16 points in each of the first two games. Despite the initial struggles, Denver’s defense isn’t concerned about Russell Wilson and Co.
“We have a lot of faith in No. 3, this man makes $250 million. I have a lot of faith in him. I wasn’t really worried about him going out there and not doing his thing,” Jones stated. “Watching and being a fan and seeing Russell doing his thing, it has been inspiring. To see him live, with the adversity and knowing that things aren’t going (the team’s way), and he’s always keeps [his] composure. It’s a great testimony for how he prepares every day. He’s consistent, he’s the same Russell Wilson every day.”
But until Wilson, Hackett and the offense find their groove, the defense is ready to continue to step up to the plate and dominate.
“Honestly, we try to take over the game at all times,” Bradley Chubb said confidently. “We try to be the catalyst for them to be the spark that the crowd needs and we need as a team. We try to go out there every possession with that same mindset. It worked out for us a couple times with Dre’Mont’s two sacks and Randy’s strip-sack. We just have to keep pushing.”