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Defense looks to set tone in home opener

Posted Sep 3, 2014

The revamped Broncos defense is looking to make a statement in their first game of the season.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — T.J. Ward’s athletic tights, a classic army camouflage design, said it all with the regular season’s Sunday night commencement coming further into focus.

The message is not a particularly difficult one to decipher: This team’s intent is to be ready to go to battle come Sunday at home.

“We’re going to make you work for everything you get and you’re going to have to beat us. We’re definitely going to play physical and aggressive,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.

“The first game of the season sets the tone,” fellow cornerback Bradley Roby said. “It being the first game of the season, we want to set the tone off on the right foot.”

Von Miller, who will be making his regular season return after his ACL injury last December, knows the defensewill find its identity: “You can only work on it in practice, but you find it in game time. You find it third quarter, you’re up by three points, you need a stop. Or you’re down by six points, you need a stop or a sack to get off the field, big play. You find your niche in games, and this is a great week to do it against a great opponent.”

“Everybody has that same goal that first week to come out and set the tone. Everybody’s saying the same thing,” cornerback Aqib Talib said. “We’re tired of talking about it and we’re ready to go out there and do it.”

For the defensive line, that starts with a good push from the front four, Terrance Knighton said. “First and foremost, we want to stop the run game. That’s our job, to stop the run. Once we stop the run, that will make it easier on everybody else on defense. The safeties won’t have to come up in the box. As long as we do a good job up front of stopping the run, and our offense is putting points on the board, then that allows us to pass rush. It’s just complementary football,” he said.

The foundation has already been set with training camp and preseason laying the mortar between the bricks, and now is the time for finishing touches of weekly adjustments and gameplanning. The defensive base looks to be stronger this season after big additions in free agency as the Broncos signed Talib,safety T.J. Ward and defensive end DeMarcus Ware.

The Broncos and the Colts played last season, ending in a 39-33 loss for Denver, but the defense played admirably, holding Indianapolis’ offense to an average gain per offensive play of 4.7 yards, and forcing them into a 29 percent third-down conversion rate.

However, last year’s matchup between these two teams is difficult to base any conclusions off of in regards to the upcoming game, considering the offseason additions for both teams.

The new additions on defense aim to improve their standing from last year. They were a squad that did admirably in stopping the run, holding opponents to the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game, but they struggled in passing defense and with stopping teams in the red zone, both ranking in the bottom third of the league in their respective measurements.

The four exhibition games has given us a taste of what we might see with a completed new unit out there, but the regular season is a different beast in comparison to the past few weeks and some of the defensive starters have been holding out to return until after preseason to get all the rest they can.

With a restructured defense that’s healthier than it’s been in a long time, the Broncos look to be ready for its primetime opener.

Opening up the season in prime time is nothing unusual for the Broncos. Last year they kicked off the NFL season with the league’s first game of the year, a Thursday night 49-27 win over the Ravens on NBC. And in 2012, the Broncos opened up the season with a Sunday night NBC game against the Steelers, a 31-19 win.

With the excitement of the first game of the regular season and being on a bigger stage, players were already hyped up for the premier matchup.

“There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” Miller said. “That’s what you want in this league, two good teams going at it on Sunday Night Football.”