SEATTLE — **The Broncos defense had Seahawks quarterbacks on the run from Russell Wilson's first pass attempt dropping back in the shotgun to R.J. Archer's last attempt on the final play Friday night at CenturyLink Field.
It began when Von Miller launched off the line of scrimmage from the edge, flying past Seahawks right tackle Justin Britt before meeting Wilson with open arms. With a downward swipe, Miller knocked the ball out and linebacker Todd Davis recovered.
On the next series with Seattle driving deep into Broncos territory, rookie outside linebacker Shane Ray forced Wilson to take a step out in the pocket, but as outside pressure forced him to scramble, defensive end Malik Jackson closed in for the sack.
That's just how the day went for the Broncos' pass rushers and defensive linemen, who totaled seven sacks against Seattle in a 22-20 victory. Sure, it was the first game of the preseason—a time in which any conclusion or analysis must come with a grain of salt—but the aggression that Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips said he wanted to unleash was unmistakeable.
"That's definitely what Wade loves," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "Wade loves to get sacks. He loves to pressure the quarterback, so that's exactly what you're going to get from this defense. I think the talent is widespread throughout this whole team. I think that this team is probably one of the most talented teams as far as just raw athletes, that I've been around."
The depth was on full display in the pass-rushing ranks. Miller, Jackson, DE Kenny Anunike, NT Darius Kilgo, OLB Shaq Barrett, S Josh Furman and OLB Gerald Rivers each had a sack. The first three sacks came in the first quarter, one came in the third quarter and the final three came in the fourth quarter.
"We really were just going out there flying around," Anunike said. " [We're] just using all the techniques that Coach Kollar taught us, you know, and Coach Wade Phillips. Just using it to get after that quarterback and be a menace in the backfield. [...] If you get after that quarterback and make sure that he doesn't have any time to throw that ball, he's frazzled back there [and] it's going to derail all of their plans. So, it helps out the back end, it helps out the front end, it helps out everybody."
The complementary effect of putting opposing quarterbacks under control of the pass rushers and secondary allowed the Broncos defense to excel in each aspect, and that was a theme for each level of the Broncos' defense that played on Friday.
"I think it's the first step to show the team's depth and identity. The ones did pretty good, the twos came in and held them off, the threes came in and held them off so I think this is a testament to our depth," Jackson said. "[...] I think that shows great coaching by Bill Kollar, Coach Wade and his staff and gaming for the players strengths and things like that. I just think the players are going out there and doing big things and the coaches make it easy on us and we just go out there and play football."
The coaches, meanwhile, enjoyed the impact the defense had and the urgency the defensive line and pass rushers had in pursuing quarterbacks and ball-carriers.
"We were pretty simple in what we were doing: just letting them come off the ball," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "I thought that across the board defensively, we played well. Shaq really jumped and made a lot of plays, but he's been doing it throughout camp, too."
Although it's easy to overlook the outcome of a win in August in the first game of the preseason, the tone the Broncos set in the game is one thing to remember. From the first series, Von Miller and the defense aimed to show what kind of team they want to be and they proved with with the night they had.
"I wanted to make a statement when we came out there," Miller said. "I think as a defense as a whole we did that today. We've got to still keep building but for a first day, for a first game, I like where we're at."
Part of it can be attributed to the new scheme of the defense and, more specifically, what it allows defensive players to do.
"Schematically, Coach Wade teaches us and Coach Kollar teaches us, as long as you play within the scheme that we give you, which is just simple rule, if you have to rush the B gap, stay in the B gap," DE Kenny Anunike said. "Then as the play develops, you can come under late and go into the A gap, things like that. As long we play within the scheme, he just lets us cut loose. Coach Wade doesn't want us out there thinking, like you said. Coach Kollar doesn't want us thinking out there. Coach Kubiak doesn't want us thinking. [He] just wants us to do the thinking out here on the practice field and then when we get to the game, just cut loose and playmakers are going to make plays."