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Linebackers Light Up Chargers

Posted Nov 18, 2012

The Broncos linebacking corps wreaked havoc on Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense in Denver's 30-23 win.

DENVER -- In the center of a Denver defense that has disturbed, disrupted and dismantled opposing offenses this season is a linebacking corps that just keeps making plays.

For Wesley Woodyard, Von Miller and company, Sports Authority Field at Mile High was their playground on Sunday.

"Not a lot of teams have four good linebackers like us," cornerback Chris Harris said. "For those guys to continue to make an impact in the game, forcing fumbles and getting interceptions, that's huge."

Veterans Keith Brooking and D.J. Williams round out a group that has been a crucial contributor in the Broncos five-game winning streak, creating chaos and momentum at pivotal moments.

In Sunday's 30-23 defeat of the San Diego Chargers, the four linebackers amassed four tackles for loss, an interception, three forced fumbles, a pass deflection, a fumble recovery and three sacks.

Miller had all three sacks, vaulting him into the NFL lead in that category with 13. The second-year linebacker also leads the league in tackles for loss. In the last three games, he has recorded nine tackles in the backfield -- including seven quarterback sacks -- and forced three fumbles.

Because of the talent around him, teams have attempted to block him with just one person -- a bad situation for the opponent to be in.

"The way we have it, teams are going one-on-one with him," Harris said. "You cannot block him one-on-one. You cannot block him."

But Miller and the unit refuse to allow the recent success to affect the way they prepare.

"Guys in the position room, Wesley Woodyard, Keith Brooking, we don't even think about it," said Miller, the leading Pro Bowl vote-getter among all linebackers in the AFC. "We're taking it one play at a time, one game at a time. We're starting to play technique-sound defense, and that's what's working for us."

Behind Miller, Woodyard is second in Pro Bowl votes among AFC linebackers. With his second-quarter interception, the fifth-year linebacker is the only player in the NFL with at least three interceptions and three sacks in 2012. He is also just the fifth player in Broncos history to accomplish that feat in a single season.

In addition to the interception, which was returned 25 yards to the San Diego 8-yard line, Woodyard tied for the team lead with eight tackles and pounced on one of Miller's two forced fumbles.

"Three picks this year, a couple fumbles and interceptions, he's balling," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said of the team's leading tackler.

While his teammates notice Woodyard's production -- Miller called him a "superstar" after a 13-tackle performance against New Orleans - cornerback Champ Bailey thinks he needs more recognition for the work he has put in.

"He doesn't get a lot of praise for what he does, but I think he should," Bailey said. "The guy is a tremendous team player."

Most importantly, the efforts of Miller and Woodyard often go hand-in-hand to yield production and turnovers at key spots.

In the third quarter of Sunday' game, the Chargers had cut the lead to one possession after a safety. Near midfield, with San Diego driving to tie the game, Miller sacked Rivers and knocked the ball loose. Right there for the scoop was Woodyard, who returned it to the San Diego 25-yard line. Three plays later, Denver made it 24-9 with a touchdown.

It was a crucial play in determining the outcome -- a season sweep of the Chargers and a three-game lead in the AFC West. That's the only tally worth keeping track of for Miller, who said he wasn't even sure of what his league-leading sack total was.

"I know we're three games ahead in the division," Miller said. "That's all that really matters to me."

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