ENGELWOOD—Head coach Gary Kubiak said the Denver defense has not been changing its pass coverages late in games.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said his unit has not been dropping into the dreaded “prevent’’ defense late in games.
So why all the sudden is the vaunted Denver defense unable to cover anybody late in the past two games?
“We’ve been in that situation countless times,’’ said Broncos’ star outside linebacker Von Miller. “I’ve been in that situations countless times and I’ve been able to make a play.’’
Yes, there was his strip sack of Andrew Luck to finish off the Indianapolis Colts in week 2.
“I was always able to make a play,’’ Miller said. “I had my opportunities in that game (Sunday against Kansas City). You always have your opportunities, you have to take advantage of the moment and make it happen. We had a great game, we just didn’t make it at the end. I like our chances nine times out of 10 in that situation. It was just unfortunate that we weren’t able to close from a pass rush perspective, from a big play point a view from my end.’’
The Denver D has finished poorly in its last two games. Overlooked in the blocked extra point heroics of Justin Simmons and runback for a 2-point conversion by Will Parks against the New Orleans Saints is the Broncos gave up a 32-yard touchdown pass with 1:22 remaining.
The Broncos were up, 23-16 with 2:50 left when Drew Brees and the Saints drove the field. Brees’ touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks was an extra point kick away from sending the Broncos home with a likely defeat.
Remember those slow starts by the Denver defense earlier this season? It’s always something. The Denver defense had played almost flawless for most of the first half of that game at New Orleans.
“This is a 60-minute game and the guys have to play 60 minutes,’’ said the Broncos’ other star linebacker DeMarcus Ware. “All 11 guys, not just nine or two or four. All 11 guys have to play for 60 minutes. We talked about that throughout the meetings. Sometimes you can’t take your foot off of the pedal in those types of games and think that you have the game won. You have to play the whole game.”
On Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver’s D allowed just 49 yards and zero points at halftime (the Chiefs had scored 9 points on a safety and kickoff return).
But in the final 3 minutes, with the Broncos up 24-16, Denver’s D was picked apart by Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith on completions of 10 yards to Travis Kelce, 13 yards to Chris Conley, 8 yards to Tyreek Hill, 9 yards to Kelce, 6 yards to Conley, 11 yards to Hill and 3 yards to Hill for a touchdown. The 2-yard, 2-point conversion pass to Demetrius Hill was good.
“Last year we had two games where they scored at the end of the game, but we still stopped them on the 2-point play in Chicago and New England,’’ said Phillips, the Broncos’ defensive coordinator. “We just didn’t stop them on the 2-point play. … You can say what you want but the worst passers in the league average over five yards on an attempt. They get to throw it four downs so it’s not easy to stop people any time when they throw it every down in the two-minute period. We’ve done better in the past and I think we’ll do better in the future. We didn’t play any prevent defense. … We played the same defenses, we just didn’t play them as well.”
It may be a challenge for the Denver defense to finish off Jacksonville on Sunday. Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles has a horrendous 42.8 passer rating in the first quarter on two touchdown passes against six touchdowns, but his best quarter is the fourth, when he has a 92.8 rating thanks to 10 touchdown passes against four picks.