DENVER --When a swarm of Broncos defenders chased Michael Vick to the sidelines on third down of the game's opening series, they forced the Eagles' high-octane offense into just its second three-and-out of the season.
They also set the tone for a tenacious defensive effort that withstood Philadelphia's potent attack and ultimately wore their opposition thin – slowing down the rapid-pace Eagles in the Broncos' 52-20 win.
And – as they have in each of the Broncos' four victories this season – players from all over the defense pitched in on Sunday in subduing the Eagles.
"Again, football is a team sport. It's not one guy that's going to beat you – it has to be 11 guys playing at the same time," linebacker Shaun Phillips said. "That's why football is the greatest sport in the world, because it takes 11 guys to be on the same page at the same time."
While the Eagles offense got its shots in early in the game, rolling up 450 total yards – including 271 yards in the first half – the defense stiffened when it mattered most, holding the Eagles to a pair of field goals at the conclusion of two lengthy drives.
Vick guided the Eagles on a 11-play, 65-yard drive midway through the first quarter, but the Broncos defense turned Vick away in the red zone and Philadelphia had to settle for a 35-yard Alex Henery field goal.
And while Trindon Holliday's return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff extended the Broncos' lead to 14-3, it also forced a tired Broncos defense immediately back onto the field.
With their backs against the wall, the defense endured another stiff challenge – and came through in a big way.
While Vick navigated the Eagles on another 15-play, 73-yard drive, the Broncos again tightened in the red zone. Safety Duke Ihenacho tackled Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper at the 7-yard line, shy of a first down on third-and-14, forcing another short Henery field goal and ensuring that Philadelphia's offense walked away again.
"They're explosive, they're high-powered, they're fast, so we just had to hang in there and get those stops in the red zone and make them kick field goals," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "That kind of stuff adds up in the end."
And although the Eagles would strike once more on the ensuing possession – this time finding the end zone to cut the lead to 14-13 with 11:06 remaining in the first half – it was the final time Philadelphia's offense would spark until long after the game's outcome was no longer in doubt.
The Broncos bottled up Vick and the Eagles for the remainder of the first half, then cranked up the pressure in slowing Philadelphia's fast-tempo to a halt in the third quarter.
"Coach (Defensive Coordinator) Jack (Del Rio) put the gameplan in, we just stuck with it, cleaned up some stuff on some formations and that was that," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "Other than that, I don't even know what the offense did. I don't think they did anything at all. It was just adjustments for us, because we had to get off the field."
The defense turned up the pressure on Vick, sacking the elusive quarterback three times and holding him to just 41 rushing yards.
And their unrelenting effort – even after absorbing some early blows – ultimately exhausted the Eagles offense.
"Yeah, they were getting tired, too," Phillips said. "It's tough in this altitude, especially with a high-flying offense like theirs. They go up and down the field. They may get an explosive play, but again, they've got to come back and play that very next play, as well."
Part of their success derived from keeping the Eagles' stars in check – as Vick was neutralized in the second half, running back LeSean McCoy finished with a modest 73 rushing yards, and explosive wide receiver DeSean Jackson was held to just two catches for 34 yards, with no catches in the second half.
"It was one that I was looking forward to," Rodgers-Cromartie said regarding his matchup with Jackson, his former teammate in Philadelphia. "Just going against him a lot last year, knowing that any time he gets the ball in his hands he can do some explosive things."
Rodgers-Cromartie was quick to point out that the tenacity of his defensive line helped with coverage.
"But for the most part our d-linemen got after it today," he added.
That credit was reciprocated by his defensive linemen.
"Yeah, we were able to apply a little pressure," Phillips said. "Again, when we get to apply pressure, it's because those guys do a good job in the secondary. That's what it's about. That's why football – again – it's a team sport."
Ultimately, it was a gritty defensive effort across the board that worked together in suppressing a vaunted offensive attack – one that members of the Broncos defense had heard about all week long.
"Well, I mean, they're an explosive offense, so I can see where people — I could understand that," Wolfe said. "Obviously our defense isn't getting a lot of respect, but that's good. That's fine. That gives us something to get us through the week every week." But are they satisfied with this showing?
"Well, in my mind, we have let up a little bit," Phillips said. "We've given up way too many fourth quarter points. In order to be a great defense, you've got to shut the door all the time. Are we playing good? Yes. But can we play better? Yes. We've got so much more room for improvement."