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Unheralded Corners Unyielding to QBs

Posted Dec 12, 2012

Despite going undrafted, Broncos cornerbacks Tony Carter and Chris Harris have emerged as complements opposite 11-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In 2009, 256 players were selected in the NFL Draft. Cornerback Tony Carter wasn’t one of them. In 2011, 254 players had their names called, but Chris Harris wasn’t one of them.

Cornerback Champ Bailey was drafted No. 7 overall in 1999.

In 2012, all three are playing major roles on a Broncos defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest points per game in the NFL through Week 14.

With an 11-time Pro Bowler anchoring one side of the field and an undrafted corner on the other side, the choice for opposing quarterbacks seems like it would be an easy one.

That hasn’t been the case this season as Harris and Carter have proven to be more than capable of holding their receivers in check.

Both Harris and Carter rank in the top five for fewest receiving yards allowed among players that have been targeted at least 50 times this season and all three players are in the top 20 for the lowest percentage of completions allowed.

Bailey and Harris have been the team’s starting corners with Carter entering the game in the team’s nickel package this season. When there are three cornerbacks in the game, Harris often moves inside to cover a slot receiver while Carter takes his outside spot.

All three players have a pair of interceptions apiece and have combined for 29 pass breakups. The trio has allowed completions on just 48.3 percent of passes thrown their way this season. The Broncos are one of just three teams, joining the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, as the only clubs not to allow a 300-yard passer this season.

While Bailey gets most of the attention from opponents' game plans, Harris and Carter have shown a knack for making game-changing plays this season.

Carter has scored twice on defense this year – a 65-yard fumble return that helped spark Denver’s historic comeback at San Diego that started the team’s current eight-game win streak – and a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown to help seal Denver’s Week 10 win at Carolina. Harris has added a touchdown as well with his 46-yard interception return score that culminated the comeback win against the Chargers.

In that Week 6 come-from-behind win at San Diego, Harris picked off two fourth-quarter passes and Carter added an interception of his own to go with the fumble returned for a touchdown.

Since facing a 24-point deficit at halftime of that game, the Broncos have rattled off eight-consecutive victories on their way to their second AFC West title in as many years. It served as a coming-out party for both young cornerbacks.

With dependable options alongside the future Hall-of-Famer in Bailey, the Broncos secondary has been difficult for opponents to crack this season.