ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --It says a lot about nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. that he stepped into a defense that had a clearly established culture, hierarchy and mentality and fit in as though he'd been around for years.
"It was perfect," said cornerback Aqib Talib. "He came in, he never complained about nothing and he hopped right in. He fit in perfect, man. It was kind of a perfect fit."
That has been as true on the field as it has been in the locker room. Peko has been everything the Broncos hoped he would be in their first five games, playing 45.9 percent of the team's defensive snaps. He's often occupied the attention of multiple blockers, becoming the massive core of a defense that is the league's leader in total yardage allowed through six weeks.
"He's probably our newcomer of the year," Talib said. "He's definitely in the running for it. He's played a huge role in the defense and in our locker room, too."
Nose tackles don't usually rack up statistics to measure their impact, but Peko's work can be measured in opponents' production -- or lack thereof -- when he's on the field.
|STATISTIC||WITH PEKO||WITHOUT PEKO|
|RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED||226||125|
|YARDS PER CARRY ALLOWED||2.79||3.57|
|NET PASSING YARDS||265||693|
|AVG. YARDS PER PASS PLAY||5.0||5.63|
|FIRST-DOWN RATE||1 per 5.15 plays||1 per 4.05 plays|
In particular, the base 3-4 alignment -- Peko flanked by Adam Gotsis and Derek Wolfe, with Todd Davis, Brandon Marshall, Von Miller and Shaquil Barrett at the linebacker spots and Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Justin Simmons and Darian Stewart in the secondary -- has allowed just 42 yards on 36 plays this season, an incredible 1.17-yards-per-play average. That personnel grouping has allowed just 1.17 yards per rush and 1.15 yards per pass play.
Gotsis' second-quarter sack Sunday night came with Peko on the field. With Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib handling their responsibilities in man-to-man coverage as Eli Manning looked left, Peko slid away from two Giants offensive linemen and forced Manning to step to his left -- right into the area where Gotsis and Miller were engaged in one-on-one matchups. Gotsis then completed the task, corralling Manning for the sack.
That is a typical Peko play. He did not get the sack or tackle for loss on the stat sheet. But without him, it might never have happened at all. He has become the intense, energetic eye wall of the Broncos' front-seven hurricane.
"[Nose tackle] was a spot that we were kind of lacking, and to get it done like that, it's a huge upgrade for us," Talib said.