clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Von Miller and the Broncos defense delivered one of the most thorough beatdowns ever seen

And the unit as a whole earned Stephen White's coveted Hoss of the Week award for their effort.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2016 NFL Playoff Guide

Not to brag or anything, but evidently I was one of the few national analysts who picked the Denver Broncos to beat the New England Patriots last Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl, nbd.

My reasoning was simple and two-fold. After watching his film against the Pittsburgh Steelers the previous weekend, I really didn't think most people were giving Peyton Manning his due for that performance. True, he wasn't awesome, but he made some really nice throws and the ducks weren't as prevalent as they were earlier. He also avoided the disaster plays that made him somewhat of a liability the first half of the season. Overall, he played winning football and really didn't look that far off from previous playoff performances outside on his prime. I'm actually going to dive into this a little more as we get closer to the big game, but for now what I saw on film from Manning was enough to partially influence my decision to pick Denver.

The other major factor was the Broncos pass rush. A pass rush that was a bit muted against the Steelers because of the threat Ben Roethlisberger posed with his legs. With a relative statue in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady coming to town, combined with the ever-evolving cast of characters on the Patriots offensive line set to try to protect him, I felt it reasonable to assume that Broncos pass rushers were going to have a fucking field day on Sunday.

Did they ever!

Just as I envisioned it, the Broncos pass rush was so effective that even a team as stacked as the Patriots at the skill positions just couldn't find a way to get Brady time to push the ball down field. Hell, most plays they couldn't find a way to allow him enough time to get through more than his first or second progression. That level of disruption was ultimately the deciding factor in the game.

I was pretty sure after the game ended that I would be naming Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller as my Hoss Of The Week. I couldn't even imagine a Panthers defensive lineman having more of an impact than he had against the Patriots. This cat was all over the fucking place, making big plays all game. From repeatedly smoking Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon out wide, to making one of the more ridiculous breaks on a football I have ever seen from an edge rusher appear utterly routine on his interception, to making a crucial tackle on a double screen on third down, Miller was playing out of his damn mind.

But then I started watching the film and so many other guys up front for the Broncos also kept showing up and making big plays. Not necessarily plays that show up in the stat sheet, mind you, but impactful plays all the same. Hell, between the front four and their backups, the Broncos got 17 pressures on Brady, by my count.

DeMarcus Ware may only have gotten credit for half a sack, but if you watched the game you know he had a much bigger impact on the outcome of that game. He lead the team in pressures with six out of those 17. More impressive than just that raw number was the timing of those pressures; they kept coming at crucial moments for the Broncos defense.

Then you had the dynamic duo of Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson just absolutely wrecking shop inside. That's another reason why I didn't feel comfortable crowning Miller as the lone Hoss; so many of the plays he made were helped by his defensive tackles not giving Brady anywhere to step up to avoid him. Matter of fact, Wolfe had a sack of his own and was able to knock a pass down at the line of scrimmage. Jackson had four pressures of his own, including one that led to an interception. Most importantly, everybody worked together in a coordinated fashion so well that Brady had to be feeling like the Broncos had extra players on the field.

One of the smarter things the Broncos did was run a ton of those Ex games -- end penetrates inside B gap, defensive tackle loops outside for contain -- between the edge rushers and the inside guys. Miller and Ware worked their speed rushes early, which got both Cannon and left tackle Sebastian Vollmer to start bailing out of their stances on the snap to try to catch up to them.

Third-and-5 NE 46-yard line, 4:15, second quarter (Shotgun) -- T.Brady pass deep left intended for J.White INTERCEPTED by D.Stewart [M.Jackson] at DEN 36. D.Stewart to DEN 44 for 8 yards.

First-and-10, NE 29-yard line, 4:35, fourth quarter, (Shotgun) -- T.Brady pass incomplete short left to J.White

That eventually left them vulnerable to inside moves. When Miller, Ware and their backups Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray came inside, Wolfe, Jackson or backup five-technique Antonio Smith would fake inside and then come outside, and the Patriots offensive line did a shitty job of stopping it. That meant Brady had immediate pressure a lot and he couldn't step up in the pocket to avoid it because of the inside moves. Trying to sidestep it also put him in harm's way several times.

Even when they weren't running pass rush games, those guys still beat the Patriots offensive line on a regular basis. Miller and Ware were getting up field before those tackles could get out of their stances. Wolfe kept winning with jab oles both inside and outside of right guard Shaquille Mason, and Jackson's bullrush had their left guard, Josh Kline, looking like he was on skates for most of the day. When you have four guys winning consistently like that up front, it's likely going to be a bad day for any offense.

I don't even know what the Patriots were trying to do switching Mason and Kline in the fourth quarter, but it didn't seem to make much of a difference.

Brady has been around the block a time or two, so I'd never say he was shook on Sunday. After all, he still almost helped his team pull it out at the end. I will say that he damn sure started rushing some throws that he normally completes in his sleep. Getting blasted over and over tends to have that effect on people. Hard to blame him when his offensive line would have given sieves a bad name on Sunday.

Furthermore, it's a little hard for me to blame that offensive line either. There just aren't many teams that have the kind of talent that the Broncos possess up front and even fewer who can rush together the way they did against New England. This was one of the worst ass whuppins I've ever seen a defensive front hand out in the playoffs, when presumably everybody is pretty good. And don't get it twisted, they all kicked ass against the run as well.

Having said all that it's only fair that the Hoss Of The Week go to the entire Denver Broncos defensive front. Those guys took up the challenge of getting to Brady, and it took every single sack, hit and pressure to get their team that win.

Rushing against the Carolina Panthers with Cam Newton is a whole other animal unto itself, and we will also get into that as the Super Bowl approaches as well. For now, the Broncos' defensive front deserves all the praise because they damn sure went out there and earned it against New England.

* * *

Tough day in Denver: One Bronco wanted to desecrate Tom Brady's face

Be sure to subscribe to SB Nation's YouTube channel for highlight videos, features, analysis and more