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Broncos’ defense is still legit despite shaky 4th quarter against the Chargers

Denver nearly had a total collapse, but came through in the end to preserve the victory over the Chargers.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos missed the playoffs last season thanks to an anemic offense, and nearly started the 2017 season with a massive defensive collapse. But they still got a pretty strong performance from the “No Fly Zone” pass defense, which should continue to be one of the best in football.

Denver stifled Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers in a 24-21 victory, with stingy pass defense being the main factor in the win. Denver held Rivers to just 192 yards and did a fine job locking down his favorite weapons. Rivers didn’t even reach the 100-yard mark until well into the fourth quarter. Antonio Gates was limited to two catches for 17 yards, while Keenan Allen had a stat line (five catches on 10 targets, 35 yards) that was only saved by a fourth-quarter touchdown catch.

One of the game’s top highlights was this interception by Bradley Roby, which killed the Chargers’ momentum at the start of the third quarter.

It was largely a dominant win, but things got tight in the fourth quarter. Starting safety Darian Stewart left the game with a groin injury, and not coincidentally, Rivers came to life and started rallying his team back from a 24-7 deficit. The Broncos’ defense was burnt like toast on a Travis Benjamin 38-yard touchdown and the Chargers nearly forced overtime, but Denver blocked the game-ending field goal to save the win.

Most of the No Fly Zone gang — Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Roby — is back together this season, but there was a bit of turnover on the defense. T.J. Ward was surprisingly released a week before the regular season started, linebacker DeMarcus Ware retired, and linebacker Shane Ray is on injured reserve with a wrist injury. There will clearly be some adjustments to make, especially with longtime coordinator Wade Phillips gone.

Yet the despite the personnel turnover, and a concerning fourth-quarter slump, the Broncos still have pass-rush superstar Von Miller, and their pass defense largely looks like the same suffocating unit it was last season. That’s something they can hang their hat on as they settle into the 2017 season with a tense win.