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Miller's Loss Latest Adversity to Overcome

Posted Dec 23, 2013

The Broncos have dealt with plenty of adversity this season. The locker room expects the team to handle the loss of Von Miller just as well.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Head Coach John Fox returned to the sideline at practice in December after missing a month to heart surgery, quarterback Peyton Manning was asked if everything felt "back to normal."

“There hasn’t been a lot normal about this season by any means I don’t think," he said at the time.

That trend continued Monday, when the results of linebacker Von Miller's MRI came back with bad news -- he has a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.

He will likely join two other defensive starters on injured reserve -- defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson and safety Rahim Moore -- though Moore has a designation to return, and could be back for the AFC Championship Game, if the Broncos reach it.

All-Pro tackle Ryan Clady is on injured reserve as well, and that's not to mention the array of players who have missed time due to injury, from cornerback Champ Bailey to defensive end Derek Wolfe, wide receiver Wes Welker, tight end Julius Thomas and cornerback Kayvon Webster.

“It’s definitely been a lot," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "I think through adversity you learn a lot about yourself – the character of guys in this locker room and this organization. We’ve done a good job of really not letting the adversity get to us. We’ve handled it correctly. We’ve kind of made it through some hard times. I think, again, that is just a testament to everybody.”

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. pointed to specific examples of players taking the team's "next man up" philosophy to heart.

"Vick (Kevin Vickerson) was a key guy too but T-Knight (Terrance Knighton) stepped his game up," Harris said. "When Rahim went out, we needed Mike (Adams) to step his game up. So that’s something that he’s done and that’s what Nate (Irving) is going to have to do to replace (Miller). Ultimately, everybody, we’re going to have to play well as a unit.”

Head Coach John Fox said he was pleased with the way Irving stepped up in Sunday's win in Houston when Miller left the game midway through the first quarter. Irving, who has started three games this season in played in all but one, notched five tackles and a tackle for loss against the Texans.

One advantage -- though Fox said he didn't think that was the right word to describe it -- for the defense could be the fact that the unit had success in the first six weeks of the season without Miller.

"When he was out, we were still undefeated," Harris said. "We were able to still win as a team. Guys just have to step up and pick up the slack.”

Miller's suspension early in the season gave the group time to adjust to playing without the two-time Pro Bowler, just like working in Clady's place throughout training camp helped Chris Clark step in right away when Clady was lost to injured reserve.

"I think you just make adjustments," Fox said. "Anytime you take any of those caliber of players, it’s a blow. But ‘next-men-up’ kind of approach. Our guys will deal with it and we have to."

Fox, Harris and Decker all acknowledged that the team will miss Miller and the type of production he brings to the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller's overall grade was nearly twice that of the next-best 4-3 outside linebacker, and his pass-rush grade was nearly four times that of the second-place player.

But all agreed that especially at this time of the year, the team will need to rally around the loss and find a way to be successful regardless.

“I mean that’s just part of the journey," Harris said. "Every team goes through adversity, but for us to go through everything that we’ve been through starting in the offseason up until this point and be 12-3 shows the character of this team. The goal is to win a Super Bowl, so regardless of who’s out there on the field, we all have the same Bronco helmet and we expect greatness from everybody.”