ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –After having seven different defensive coordinators in seven consecutive seasons, the Broncos' defense has enjoyed back-to-back years with the same defensive coordinator for the first time since the 2005-06 seasons.
That trend will continue as reports indicate the Broncos have agreed to terms on an extension with Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio, who will enter his third year in that position with the team in 2014.
In addition to his duties as the team's defensive coordinator, Del Rio stepped in as the Broncos' interim head coach when Head Coach John Fox was sidelined after his heart surgery.
"Aside from doing a terrific job and to stay here as the defensive coordinator, he stepped in to be the interim head coach for four games in the third quarter of our season," Head Coach John Fox said during the Broncos' playoff run. "I think it says a lot about him, how he approached that, how he dealt with it, how the players responded to him, and the rest of the assistants responded. I think all those things put together, I'd say he's pretty high up on the meter."
The Broncos went 3-1 in those four games, which included wins at San Diego, vs. Kansas City, at Kansas City and an overtime loss at New England.
"It was a sad time, but you have to give credit to Jack Del Rio and all the veteran leaders on the team that kept it going," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He really kept our mind on football. He gave us updates here and there but he really kept our mind of football."
"He wasn't just filling in, in my opinion," quarterback Peyton Manning added. "He was as respectful to Coach Fox as anyone should be. At the same time, for those four weeks, he was going to be the head coach the way he coached. He ran a little bit of a different team meeting and added things to practice, some situations that we actually have continued to do since Coach Fox returned. Maybe a, 'Here's the score of the game, offense, you've got the ball, you need a first down to win it, let's go.' Kind of on your toes. He wasn't just coaching the defense at that point. We should've gone 4-0 in that stretch, we went 3-1. Probably the toughest stretch of our season. We were real lucky to have Jack leading us through that time."
Despite dealing with injuries to key starters on defense, Del Rio's group stiffened as the season progressed and was playing its best football down the stretch.
Denver's defense ranked fourth in yards allowed per game in the postseason. In the team's Divisional-Round and AFC Championship Game wins, the defense surrendered just 16.5 points per game. While Seattle scored 43 in Super Bowl XLVIII, 16 of those came from the Seahawks' defense or special-teams.
In 2012, Denver's defense finished as the NFL's No. 2 unit (290.8 ypg), ranking third against the pass (199.6 ypg) and the rush (91.1 ypg). The unit also tied for the league lead with 52 sacks and allowed the lowest opponent third-down percentage (30.6), while tying for the largest scoring improvement (6.3 ppg) from the previous season.
Now, for the first time since 2004-06, the Broncos will have the same defensive leader for three straight years.
"In arguably the ultimate of team games, football, continuity is important, whether it's offense, defense, special teams, head coaches," Head Coach John Fox said during the 2013 offseason. "You look at a lot of successful programs, they're able to keep that continuity. That's obviously a real benefit."