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BMW Ultimate Performance: Brandon Marshall sets tone as defense delivers

Posted Dec 11, 2017

The Broncos' first shutout in 12 years was also one of the NFL's most dominant defensive performances in recent memory.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Sunday's game was indeed an ultimate performance for Denver's defense.

Consider the following superlatives:

... It was the Broncos' first shutout in 12 years, allowing Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods to achieve something the Broncos' seven previous defensive coordinators did not.

... It marked the first time since Sept. 19, 2010 that a team held an opponent to fewer than two passing first downs in a game, according to pro-football-reference.com. That day, the Titans held the Steelers without a first down through the air. Thirteen teams held opponents to two passing first downs in the seven years that followed -- including the Broncos against the Chiefs on Dec. 30, 2012 -- but none had limited a team to a single first down.

... It was the first time in 46 years -- since a 27-0 win at Cleveland on Oct. 24, 1971 -- that the Broncos shut out an opponent while holding them to 100 or fewer yards. Denver is the first team to hold a foe to 100 or fewer yards in a shutout since the San Diego Chargers stifled the Chiefs in a Dec. 12, 2010 game, limiting them to 67 yards in a 31-0 win. Thirty-eight shutouts passed without a team holding its opponent to as few yards as the Broncos did to the Jets Sunday.

... It was the first time since Jan. 3, 2015 that any defense had held an opponent to 100 or fewer yards. The last team to do that was Carolina against Arizona in the 2014 wild-card round, making this the first time in 744 regular-season or postseason games that a defense held a team to such a meager output.

... It was also the first time since Jan. 3, 2015 that any team had held an opposing offense to fewer than 60 yards rushing and passing. This game was also the first time the Broncos accomplished the twin sub-60 trick since Nov. 16, 2003 against the Chargers -- which was also the last time the Broncos held anyone to 100 or fewer yards.

Such numbers are the product of a team effort. Denver's defense has enjoyed plenty of superlative performances, but Sunday's work was coupled with the offense and special teams playing mistake-free football, limiting turnovers and ensuring the defense never had to deal with any short fields.

Denver came into the game with the league's worst average drive-start position for its opponents -- at their own 34.7-yard line, 4.1 yards worse than the No. 31 team in that statistic (Green Bay). But with no turnovers and a solid 41.6-yard net average for punter Riley Dixon, the Jets never began a drive any closer to Denver territory than at their own 25-yard line.

"It makes a huge difference," outside linebacker Shane Ray said. "Football is a game of inches. Field position always matters. If you're starting off at the 50-yard line, the offense doesn't have to do anything but get 20 yards and they're in field-goal range.

"Battling that instead of a team having to drive from the 25, you've got to go the whole field on us. And there's not many teams in the league that can do that."

With long fields and the offense playing efficiently, the defense was free to attack, and it did so from the outset, playing with a lead from its first snap to the final gun.

Leading the way was inside linebacker Brandon Marshall, whose aggressiveness paid off on the first defensive snap, when he read the flow of the play on a pitch to Elijah McGuire and shot into the backfield behind right tackle Brandon Shell and fullback Lawrence Thomas to arrive at McGuire just as he began making his turn upfield behind Shell.

The result was the first of three tackles behind the line of scrimmage that Marshall recorded on Jets running plays Sunday.

Two plays later, an unblocked Marshall stripped the football from Jets quarterback Josh McCown, setting up Adam Gotsis' fumble recovery and a touchdown two plays later.

Marshall's play was the result of increased scrutiny he placed on himself last week.

"I did some self-study this week to see how I could improve my game," Marshall said. "I felt like I just haven't been as aggressive this year in coverage and in the run game. So I just decided that I would shoot my shot more. I would take more chances, more calculated risks.

"It obviously paid off."

The fast start set the tone, and with the offense doing its job, the defense attacked at will, prevented the Jets from finding any rhythm and earned the one prize it had been missing from its dominant run of recent years: a shutout.

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