ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' second-half defense was stifling.
In Denver's Week 1 matchup with Seattle, the unit forced a pair of fumbles, limited the Seahawks to 34 total yards and allowed just five first downs. In the fourth quarter, the Broncos were particularly effective, as they forced a pair of punts and allowed 9 total yards in the frame.
"I was very impressed, but we're very confident in our ability to play high-level defense," Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero said Thursday. "We've got to just coach well, we've got to play well and play up to our ability and coach up to our ability. If we do that, the sky's the limit."
It was a drastic shift from the first half, when the Broncos allowed 14 first downs and 17 points on four drives.
"Maybe a big part of it is probably just the game speed, getting used to playing football again at full speed and tackling and all that stuff," Evero said. "Things happen a lot faster. I always think there's a big jump in terms of the speed of the game. Even if you play in preseason games, it goes so much faster in regular-season games. Same thing when you get to the playoffs. The game just gets faster and faster. I think the guys did a good job in the second half of just reacting better, they got their feet under them, felt more comfortable. We didn't really do a lot adjustment-wise, I just think we cleaned up some things and the guys did a good job of executing."
Now, as the Broncos look ahead to a Week 2 matchup with the Houston Texans, their aim will be to play that kind of defense from the start.
"I'm very confident in that," safety Kareem Jackson said Wednesday of playing at a high level early in the game. "I know the group of guys that we have. We have a ton of leaders all the way across the board, so I'm very confident in that. I think that we'll have a great day [on Wednesday], and we'll continue to build into Sunday."
For the Broncos to find that success, they'll need to limit Houston's most potent weapon in wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
"He's got a lot of juice," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "We all know what he's done in his past, at all the teams that he's been with. He's an unbelievable vertical threat. We're going to have to know where he is at all time, because we know they're going to try to throw the ball down the field."
Cooks caught seven passes for 82 yards in the Texans' Week 1 tie against the Colts, and he's topped the 1,000-yard mark in six of his last seven seasons. He'll work alongside second-year quarterback Davis Mills, who completed 23-of-37 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns and a 98.9 rating.
The Broncos, though, are determined to find defensive success — and to sustain it for an entire 60 minutes.
BACK TO RETURN
After a successful preseason, rookie Montrell Washington was unable to return the ball to the 25-yard line on any of his three kickoff returns.
On the first, Washington fielded the kick in the end zone as his momentum carried him backwards a couple of yards. He then took the kick out of the end zone, but he was tackled at the 11-yard line.
"Me and Montrell had a conversation," Special Teams Coordinator Dwayne Stukes said Thursday. "Obviously, whenever you're moving backwards, you don't want to bring the ball out, because it takes more speed to generate to get going forward. As far as the depth, he knows where the depth is, etc. We've had a conversation. It's been corrected. Also with that, if he does decide to bring it out, we still have to execute and block. There's no way that he signaled we were taking a knee, etc. The other 10 guys have got to do their job and execute at a high level to at least get him to the 25-yard line."
Washington averaged 17 yards on his three kick returns and three yards on one punt return.