In his heyday, the late Al Davis would often expound on the virtues of the vertical passing game, the idea that the deep ball could consistently demoralize and defeat defenses.
After all, it was Davis who once said, "Speed is an integral part of fear."
It comes to light because the Broncos are considered to have one of the NFL's fastest defenses — maybe even the fastest. It is a swirling, cycling mass of quarterback-chasing humanity with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio using almost every player in uniform at times.
The Broncos are also strong at the foundation positions of big-time defenses through the decades — edge rusher. They have perhaps the league's best vertical defense, one that finished the
The Broncos had two players — Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil — finished with at least 11 sacks, and four players (Miller, Dumervil, Wesley Woodyard and Derek Wolfe) finished with at least five sacks. It was just the 11th time the team has had four players finish with at least five sacks in the same season, and the first time since 2002.
Miller has been one of the NFL leaders in tackles for loss all season, and the Broncos held Chiefs' running back Jamaal Charles to seven carries of 2 or fewer yards this past Sunday, two for negative yardage.
In short, the Broncos attack the line of scrimmage and have won the majority of battles there.
"We get in there, we feel like up front if we take on those blockers, those guys behind us can get in there and make the plays," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "But we go in on every play looking to beat blocks and get in the backfield."
And there is now 16 games' worth of video evidence for whoever lines up against the Broncos a week from Saturday. They'll know the speed; they'll know the mentality.
So, after looking at the video, it wouldn't be a
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Not many have tried, particularly in the run game, because that simply isn't the first thought, the smart play, to challenge a fast defense on the perimeter where speed is necessary to make a play.
But this season, even as the Broncos finished with the No. 3 run defense in the NFL — they allowed 91.1 yards per game and allowed just one team to top 100 yards in the current 11-game win streak — some found some success to the outside.
The Broncos were burly in the middle of the field against opposing run games. They allowed just 3.2 yards per carry on runs over the center, 2.8 yards per carry on runs over the right guard and 3.8 yards per carry on runs over the left guard.
Those are all totals a defense can live with, especially over the center, where most quality run teams have most of their carries by season's end.
But the totals climbed some as the runs moved outside. So much so that the Broncos allowed 4.9 yards on runs around the offense's left end and 5.5 yards per carry on runs around the offense's right end.
However, not many teams were willing or able to try. Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense keep the pressure on and don't allow many teams to settle into any kind of run-first affair, unless losing by four touchdowns is the goal.
As a result, the teams that have run against the Broncos simply haven't consistently pushed the ball toward the edges. Just 8.7 percent of the opponents' carries have gone around the offense's right end and 16 percent around the left end.
The Chiefs had some success doing it early last weekend before the rout became a rout, but Charles is also one of the fastest backs in the league, even post-knee surgery.
But somebody in a win-or-go-home game will try in the coming weeks.