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Defense Bringing the Heat

Posted Dec 1, 2011

During the Broncos four-game winning streak, the defense has stood tall, allowing just 15 points-per-game.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- During Denver's four-game win streak, a lot of focus has been on the offensive side of the ball. However, the defense has clamped down and done its part, too, in keeping opposing teams out of the end zone.

The defense has allowed just one touchdown in each of the last three games and is giving up an average of 15 points-per-game during the four-game winning streak.

Linebacker Joe Mays said the players have gotten more accustomed to Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen's style.

"Guys are just more comfortable within the system," Mays said. "Early in the season, everybody was just trying to make plays. When you're trying to force it to make plays, you kind of make more mistakes than anything, so guys are just more comfortable and just make everything happen."

The defense has also been bolstered by having a relatively steady lineup in the last month. Earlier in the season, multiple starters -- including cornerback Champ Bailey, defensive end Elvis Dumervil, linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive tackle Marcus Thomas -- all missed at least one game with injuries.

With the same starting lineup trotting out on the field for the Broncos defense in the last three games, players have started to not only comprehend their position, but their teammates' positions as well.

"I think (one reason for improvement is that we've) been able to get a consistent group out there that stays together and understands where everybody is going to be on each particular play," Allen said.

That streak of three consecutive games without a change in the starting lineup could change this week if linebacker Von Miller doesn't play due to a thumb injury. However, if that's the case, linebacker Mario Haggan, who started all 16 games in both 2009 and 2010, is more than confident he could step in as he prepares every week as if he's going to start.

"I've been doing it all year," Haggan said. "I don't prepare any other way, and I think that's helped me throughout my career. I play this game to be ready … If my number's called this weekend, I'll be out there and be ready."

Haggan and the rest of his teammates will have the task of stopping three speedy playmakers this weekend on Minnesota in quarterback Christian Ponder, wide receiver Percy Harvin and possibly running back Adrian Peterson -- who didn't play last week and hasn't practiced this week due to an ankle injury.

If Peterson can't go, the Broncos could see the ball more in Harvin's hands, and bringing him down is a task that safety Brian Dawkins believes is easier said than done.

"When he's a running back, he runs like a running back," Dawkins said. "You can see him running through tackles, breaking tackles, and he's a tough guy to bring down. When they get the ball to him in space, he can make people miss in space. Then, he has the speed to run down the field. Everybody's not like that. It's definitely a test in itself for us to figure out where he is and make sure that we have not just one guy around him but as many guys as possible to bring him down."

Even though the Vikings record at 2-9 doesn't stand out, the Broncos know they can't take Minnesota lightly.

"We've just got to continue to get better and practice hard this week," Dumervil said. "They're a good team; they've got a lot of talented players, so you can't really look at their record in the NFL. They're a very talented group, so we've got to make sure we come in prepared and focused."