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'I think we're the best in the league': Broncos defense makes a statement in win over 49ers


DENVER — Over the course of Sunday night, the Broncos' defense seemed to only get stronger as the game went on.

Against a team that reached the NFC Championship a year ago behind an offense that ranked seventh in the league, Denver managed to hold San Francisco to just seven points and zero third-down conversions in the first half. In the second, it put points on the board with a safety, posted three sacks, recorded three takeaways and closed the game out with an interception and forced fumble to secure the 11-10 win.

Under the bright lights of "Sunday Night Football," Denver's defense stood tall against one of the league's best units and did its best to announce that it, too, should be considered in that conversation.

"I mean, I don't want to get too brash in saying this, but I think we're the best in the league, man," outside linebacker Bradley Chubb said. "I think we put it on film, we put it on tape, we've just got to keep building off of it."

The foundation appears to be sturdy. On Sunday, the Broncos' defense allowed just 10 points and only one third-down conversion on 10 attempts; held San Francisco to 88 rushing yards, which was less than half of their average heading into the game; and recorded four sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries.

Under head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers have been known as one of the more innovative offensive teams in the league in recent years. With star tight end George Kittle back in the fold along with do-it-all receiver Deebo Samuel, Shanahan's offense certainly provided a tough test on Sunday night.

"He does some things that have your eyes looking one way and they do something else," defensive end Dre'Mont Jones said. "I think he'll go down as a Hall of Fame head coach, for sure. With those players, too, it makes it real easy for him because they're so doggone talented. Regardless of what their record says right now — thanks to us winning — they're still a Super Bowl-caliber team."

Added defensive lineman Mike Purcell: "I think one of the biggest things that we kind of wanted was to get a statement win. I think that's one of the biggest ones, against a team like that. A statement win like that is huge."

But the biggest statement may have been in simply what the defense was able to do on the final two 49ers possessions, when San Francisco looked to put together the necessary scoring drives to pull out a win. Instead, Denver's defense forced turnovers on each drive.

On the first, safety Kareem Jackson deflected a pass, which inside linebacker Jonas Griffith intercepted. On the second, Chubb sacked 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on first down, and then safety P.J. Locke knocked the ball out of Jeff Wilson Jr.'s hands for a fumble that Jackson recovered.

"We had to finish it," Chubb said. "We had to make sure we finished it. We had to be the ones to go out there and get the ball back. Then you see Jonas' pick. We were just talking to each other, believing in each other, putting that faith in each other. We came back out; P.J. and K-Jack went crazy.

"You just see the leadership that this team has. The grit. The willingness to win that this defense has. And I feel like honestly it hasn't been here for a while. I feel like we're just getting our swagger back."

The Broncos' defense has had that vibe essentially since halftime of Week 1, after a half in which Seattle scored 17 points. But even with that included, Denver is currently allowing 12 points and 251 yards per game.

"That's what we pride ourselves on," Jackson said. "That's what we work for every day. It's coming out and being a dominant defense. All 11 guys, whichever personnel we have on the field. It's all about going out and practicing with a purpose and being able to translate the things we do in practice [and] the film study to the game. I think we did a great job of that tonight. We knew they was going to come out and give us a bunch of different personnels, a lot of motions, a bunch of different looks. I thought we handled it well early, and we was able to make some plays and pulled a win out."

View exclusive photos of the Broncos' game vs. the 49ers by team photographers.

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