MERILATT MONDAY

The Broncos are going to make the playoffs thanks to their defense

Dec 10, 2023, 7:09 PM


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Well, that was easy. The Broncos beat the Chargers on Sunday by a 24-7 count, in a game that never felt close.

As a result, the Broncos are right in the thick of the playoff race. Heck, they’re only a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.

Many will downplay the win. They’ll say that the Chargers were without Justin Herbert for the second half.

While that’s true, the quarterback’s absence hardly determined the outcome. It certainly doesn’t warrant an asterisk.

When Herbert was in the game, the Chargers scored zero points. To suggest that he’d have made the difference if he’d played the whole game is nonsense.

That’s because the Broncos defense was going to stifle Los Angeles no matter who was behind center. They did all day.

And that’s why Denver is a playoff team. It’s a remarkable development.

Two months ago, Vance Joseph was getting run out of town. And for good reason. His defense was awful.

They gave up 32 unanswered points against Washington, squandering a 21-3 lead. Then, they gave up 70 points to the Dolphins, posting one of the worst performances the NFL has seen in the last six decades.

Fast forward to mid-December and the Broncos are winning because of their defense. Go figure.

And it’s not a mirage. Denver’s D is legit.

Why? Because they fly around. They make plays. They dictate the action.

On Sunday, the Broncos sacked the Chargers quarterbacks six times. They forced two turnovers. They nearly scored twice on defense.

It’s a smothering attack. It’s the strength of the team.

It’s a group that sets the offense up in point blank range. They did on the Broncos first scoring drive, which came after a Jonathon Cooper interception at the three-yard line.

It’s a unit that doesn’t give the other team a chance. The Chargers never seemed to have any hope, no matter who was in at quarterback.

It’s a phase of the game that sets the tone. Denver’s defense gives the team an identity, one that is physical and opportunistic.

So while the conversation this week will once again be all about Russell Wilson (he was fine), the focus should be on the other side of the ball. That’s the real story.

The Broncos are going to make the playoffs. After a 1-5 start, they’re going to win 10 games.

And it’s not because of Russ. It’s not even due to Sean Payton, the head coach who was brought in to right a wayward ship.

It’ll be because of VJ. It’ll be because of the Broncos defense.

That’s hard to believe. But it’s the case.

Denver is going to end their playoff drought. And they’re going to do it because of their defense.

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