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BMW Ultimate Performance: Broncos' overpowering run defense

Posted Oct 4, 2017

Not only is the Broncos' run defense the best in the league this year. By one measurement, it's the best in modern NFL history through four games.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The numbers are staggering for the Broncos' run defense.

Yes, the 203 yards they've allowed to this point in the season is the fewest through four games in club history. The average of 2.42 yards per carry is also the lowest permitted by the Broncos in the first four weeks of any season in club annals, just beating out the 1977 "Orange Crush" defense, which allowed its first four foes to average just 2.63 yards per attempt.

But what they've accomplished actually goes beyond just team history.

Since the Broncos broke into the league in 1960, no team has ever opened its season by allowing fewer than 60 rushing yards per game, 2.4 yards per carry and no rushing touchdowns in the first four games of the regular season, as the Broncos have so far this year, according to pro-football-reference.com.

Now that's an ultimate performance.

"It's team defense. Team run defense," said nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. "Everyone is being gap sound and our linebackers are doing a great job of coming downhill. Todd Davis is playing great for us. Brandon Marshall, [as well]. And everyone in the front seven is playing great."

If you've followed the team closely through this site or listened to the myriad disseminations via programming on Broncos TV or Orange and Blue 760, you know some of the reasons why the Broncos have been so effective at stopping the run after struggling last year. The returning defensive linemen hit the weight room and got bigger and stronger. The arrival of Domata Peko Sr. brought a disruptive force to the interior. Newcomer Shelby Harris has been a revelation against the run and in the pass rush.

But when did this start coming together?

"I think it was probably when we went out to [San Francisco]," Peko said, referring to the joint practices with the 49ers during the second week of the preseason. "That's when I saw it. We had maybe five dudes, and we went out to practice against those guys and every day in practice, we were really stout. That's when I noticed that we were clicking, and the chemistry was being built.

"Then after that, we had our first couple of games, and it's just been there. We have some tough dudes."

Those players up front occupy multiple blockers, allowing the linebackers to shoot through gaps and attack.

"They make it really easy," Davis said. "I feel like if you don't double-team him or [Derek] Wolfe, they're going to make the play. So as soon as you stick your double-team [on Wolfe or Peko], that's when me and B-Marsh try and shoot the gaps.

"They make my job really easy. I feel like linebackers are nothing without their D-line, and this year I feel like we've got the best D-line in football."

Too often last year, Davis and Brandon Marshall had to fend off guards at the second level. Instead of attacking the gaps, they had to cope with blockers and play on their heels.

This year, they operate in space, and it's "100 percent" different, as Davis noted Wednesday.

"I feel like a lot of the games, I've been able to shoot gaps really untouched at times," he said. "That's a huge difference at times, and I feel like that's why we've been so successful up to this point."

It's a perfect example of a collective effort, and the Broncos have the league's best run defense as a result.

"It's all about team and everyone doing their job," Peko said, "and we've been doing it."

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