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How the Broncos defense wants to prove that Philly was an aberration


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **A game such as Sunday's 51-23 loss to the Eagles happens to every great defense that sustains a run for several years -- one in which all the averages get blown to smithereens, and everything that worked so well for so long comes apart.

The turn-of-the-century Buccaneers defenses that featured multiple Hall of Famers had a few days during their dominant run that they'd rather forget, including a 1999 game at Oakland when the Raiders hit them with a 45-0 walloping.

The "Steel Curtain" defenses in Pittsburgh in the 1970s had the occasional game where an opponent racked up well over 400 yards and 30 or more points -- a standard that meant more back in those days than it does today, as teams break 30 points once every four times they take the field in the 2010s, compared with once every six times in the 1970s.

Even the famed 1980s Bears had a few letdowns -- a 38-24 loss to Miami in 1985, a 41-0 pasting at the hands of the 49ers in 1987, and a Monday night loss in Denver that same year in which the Broncos racked up 439 yards, the most Chicago allowed in a 72-game stretch from September 1985 through October 1989.

For any defense, allowing 51 points and seven touchdowns is a statistical outlier. But the key for the Broncos is to get back to their previous form, one that saw their defense allow just 1.4 touchdowns per game from Week 3-8, keeping the Broncos in games despite struggles in the other two phases.

"I want to go out there and prove that last week was just a fluke," outside linebacker Von Miller said. "We have the same exact team this week and we have an opportunity to go out here and get a win."

The first step is ensuring that the loss to the Eagles did not rob the defense of its confidence and swagger.

"It didn't go anywhere," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said. "It's there. The swag is always there. I think the guys are frustrated. They've been playing hard. We've been doing good things at times.

"But at the end of the day, it's about did you win or lose. It's a bottom-line business in the NFL. Did you win the game? Did you lose? And we're losing, so they're frustrated. But the swagger is there."

This week, you can add a dash of anger to the emotional cocktail.

"We were embarrassed on national television. They [CBS] changed the game. They took us off the air," outside linebacker Shane Ray said, referring to how CBS pulled the broadcast of the game from all but a few markets in the third quarter because of the lopsided margin.

"That's embarrassing, to lose like that. Don't think any of us are taking it lightly. We're all just as [ticked] as the fan base and everybody else. But we're trying to figure it out."

And that brings the defense to a key step -- its preparation, which starts on the practice field and extends to hours of meetings, with and without coaches.

"We were trying to get that competitive nature back going at practice," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "Everybody's working. Everybody was pushing each other harder [during Thursday's practice].

"We're still going to do our extra film meetings to try to get on the same page as a defense."

Those meetings go beyond what the defense has with coaches; they are players-only sessions designed to foster accountability and fine-tune details and communication.

"When we meet, we meet as a defense on Thursdays and Fridays, and we all just sit in there as players and we look at the film, look at our play-call sheets. We call out the plays, like, basically trying to have the communication on point," Ray said.

"We're all in the room together. It's not like we're separated, like, maybe the linebackers should have done this, maybe the safeties should have done this. We're all there to talk about it. And that's been the big emphasis the last couple of weeks, because we all need to communicate. We all need to be on the same page. Whatever the call is, we all need to run it, we all need to execute it."

At these meetings, words aren't minced in the name of getting concepts down and making sure that mistakes are not repeated.

"It's a very blunt meeting. If I miss an assignment, I'm getting called out on my assignment in front of my defense. If I was supposed to do this and that cost us a big play, that's seen," Ray said. "So it keeps the truth, it keeps the realness, because what happens is when you start losing and things start getting bad, you get guys that point fingers at everybody, or this guy could have done this or this guy could have done this.

"But if you're in a room with everybody, you can't just disguise yourself. No. You were supposed to do this. We were supposed to do this. Now everybody knows. This is the communication. It's not a single thing anymore. That's what makes a difference."

After allowing 51 points, the defense knows it needs that kind of communication and accountability more than ever.

"We're just being real, we're being pros, and we're putting it in your face, because the way the record is, we can't sugarcoat stuff," Ray said. "Things have to change and be fixed now. That's the thing."

Fixing them would ensure that last Sunday's game was just an aberration, a blip for a defense that has set the league's standard the last three years.

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