How ironic it is that the Denver Broncos defense never fully receives all the credit it deserves.
Last season, when Tim Tebow played atrociously through three quarters then pulled a miracle in the fourth quarter to grab a victory, it was Tebow who received all the praise for the victory.
This season, with Tebow gone and four-time MVP Peyton Manning under center, it's Manning who receives a lot of the credit for the Broncos victory.
Neither season has the Broncos defense actually been credited fully for playing great defense.
Sure, there are spurts of analysts who give the Broncos defense credit, especially when it comes to the play of defensive end Elvis Dumervil, outside linebacker Von Miller and future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey.
But it's more than just the play of a few players that has helped the Broncos to a 5-3 record and a game lead in the AFC West.
Manning and the offense have been sensational for the most part, and they deserve a lot of the praise that comes their way. Manning is a huge hit and a lightning rod for the media because of his returning from neck surgeries and now being in contention for his fifth—yes fifth—NFL MVP award.
And yes, in a couple of those games, especially New England, the defense wasn't that great. But if they are looked at now, after nine weeks of football, they are a much better unit.
Second-year cornerback Chris Harris has continued to develop, and he has come up huge as Tracy Porter—who is trying to get healthy—has missed the last three games.
Also, second-year man Rahim Moore has nailed down the safety position, as he looks like a complete different player from a year ago.
Not only has Moore stepped up, but Mike Adams, who was acquired during free agency over the summer, has also played great back beside Moore.
Adams is second on the team in tackles at 49—34 of which were solo tackles. Though teams don't want their safeties being the No. 2 and No. 3 tacklers on the team, at least the last line of defense has held strong.
Probably the biggest surprise comes from the team's leading tackler, Wesley Woodyard. Woodyard, who before the season was a standout special team player, has been allowed to see the field because of the D.J. Williams suspension.
When Williams' suspension was announced, there was a lot of doubt over whether Woodyard would be able to engage himself and serve as a bandage until Williams comes back.
But now, it appears that Williams won't be getting his starting spot back because of how well Woodyard has played. His team-high 75 tackles (46 of them solo), three sacks and two interceptions shows how well he's been playing and that he's not a liability on the field, no matter what down it is.
With Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson clogging the middle at the defensive tackle position, suddenly, what seemed like a glaring weakness prior to the season is no longer such.
And rookie defensive end Derek Wolfe has been exactly what everyone thought he'd be coming out of the University of Cincinnati. And that is a relentless, high motor guy who can stop the run and get after the quarterback. Wolfe has three sacks and 25 tackles thus far and each game, he continues to look even better.
But of course, it's the well-known guys of Miller, Dumervil and Bailey who have done a tremendous job.
Miller is developing into a more complete player and not just a sack artist. And even though he's still learning how to play in pass coverage, he is getting better so he doesn't have to leave the field like he did during his rookie campaign a year ago.
But Miller's strength as a pass-rusher has continued to grow, as he has made nine sacks through eight games. His counterpart, Dumervil, has been equally as impressive.
Dumervil is second on the team with six sacks, but after having a slow start, he has been looking more and more like the old Dumervil.
Though Bailey is 34 years old, he is still able to hold his own on the outside as an elite cover corner.
All of this has the Broncos ranked near the top 10 in yards given up and in points allowed. It's a huge step, especially for a team that is on its seventh defensive coordinator in seven years.
So yes, Manning has played excellently alongside his offense. But it's the defense of the Broncos that has put them in contention for what could be a special year in the Mile High City.
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