BRONCOS

Denver’s defensive success this preseason was a perfect warmup

Aug 26, 2023, 10:48 PM | Updated: 10:50 pm

It’s not how you finish, it’s how you start said no romantic interlude ever, but Denver fans should pay heartthrob attention to the Broncos first-half defense.

“I thought up front we played well defensively and offensively, and when you play that way in the trenches you’re going to you’re going to have games with success,” Sean Payton said. “The third down numbers were good on offense and they were good on defense, turnovers. All of those things I thought we were physical tonight. We did a lot of things well.”

Preseason game one against the Arizona Cardinals: zero first-half points allowed.

Pre-season game two against the San Francisco 49ers: three first-half points allowed.

Pre-season game three against the Los Angeles Rams: another stern first-half shutout.

It doesn’t seem that far removed from the 2022 Christmas Day massacre. In that forgettable affair, the Broncos gave up 31 first-half points as part of a 51-14 shellacking featuring Dalton Risener, who has yet to find a job, shoving Brett Rypien who took quality reps for the Rams Saturday night.

While it’s fair to temper enthusiasm about shutting out an L.A. team that cares as much about pre-season games as Donald Trump cares about debate participation. It still feels satisfying to put up a number that equals Jonathan Cooper’s zero.

Newly implanted defensive coordinator Vance Joseph bemoaned failing to finish in the first two meaningless games. The once-fired Broncos head coach spoke of being humbled in his coaching journey and how losing two games in a row in the last minute was unacceptable and grimaced about having to do better.

Broncos head coach Sean Payton grudgingly spoke of how the outcome of these games truly did matter. While it was fair to raise a significant Jack Black eyebrow at that somewhat ludicrous assertion, it’s fair to say that this snake-bit team was in desperate need of good news.

However, that element of joy has been in front of them all along. Whether it was the first team or the third stringers, in the FIRST HALF of all three contests, the Broncos defense stood tall. Even without all-world safety Justin Simmons who was put on ice with a groin issue early in training camp, the Broncos defense shined bright like a diamond.

“Preseason is preseason, we’re just getting ready for the regular season,” said Essang Bassey, who got his third interception in three preseason games on Sunday. “It was a great way to end the preseason for us and it was great for us to get a shutout.”

The good news on the Broncos defense is hard to miss. Zach Allen looks better than DreMont Jones. Randy Gregory has been healthy. Nik Bonnito gave the Broncos offensive lineman fits all camp. Patrick Surtain II is still PS2. Despite a terrible ACL injury ending Jonas Griffith’s year, Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton look rock solid at inside linebacker. Even Mike Purcell is back in the mix after missing virtually all of the pre-season. It’s truly hard to find a weak spot in this Broncos D that is likely to create chaos while limiting scoring.

The offense of the Broncos will likely struggle to score more than 20 per game, but that may be good enough for a defense that has all the talent to keep most teams well within reach.

Coach VJ should be proud of what he has put together up to this point. Allowing a total of three points in six meaningful first-half quarters is significant. Polishing off the entire pre-season with a home shutout in a stadium that was a house of horrors for VJ as a head coach was another gratifying moment and gives possible momentum as garbage time is done.

In two weeks, the Las Vegas Raiders come to town. It will be time to make life hell for the true most hated former head coach of all time Josh McDaniels.

Finishing the hated Raiders will be paramount and the Broncos defense has had the right warm-up to accomplish that task.

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Denver’s defensive success this preseason was a perfect warmup