While the Broncos did not get the result they wanted against the Ravens, the defense accomplished one of its primary goals for the game: improving the pass rush.
In Weeks 10-12, Denver's defense totaled just two sacks and 10 quarterback hits as a group. This was a significant decline from the first half of the season, during which the Broncos averaged three sacks and almost six QB hits per game, and increasing pressure on the quarterback was a major focus for Week 13.
"We've got to pick up the pressure," Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero said Thursday as the Broncos prepared to face Baltimore. "I think, first of all, we've got to get more opportunities. [It's difficult] if you don't get those third-and-longs or those second-and-longs, so we've got to do a better job on early downs. I think that'll help [the recent lack of sacks] and give us those opportunities, and then we've got to be more creative and we've got to win one-on-ones."
Matching up against Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson — and, after Jackson left the game with an injury, Tyler Huntley — the Broncos' pass rushers consistently forced their way into the Ravens' backfield. They totaled four sacks and five QB hits, with defensive lineman DeShawn Williams recording two sacks and outside linebackers Jonathon Cooper and Baron Browning recording one each. They put immense pressure on Baltimore's quarterbacks, which helped to keep the score close throughout the game.
"We wanted to get them out of their comfort zone, obviously," inside linebacker Alex Singleton said after the game. "They're a run-first team, so if you stop the run, then you know, [the goal is] continuing to reset the line of scrimmage, and we did really well with that. Our D-line does that week in and week out."
While the defense saw improvement in a key area, the unit understands that the most important goal is to find a way to close out tight games.
"If we're priding ourselves to be this defense that we know that we can be and we've shown, we've got to end games like that," Williams said. "[There's] no sugarcoating that — you've just got to finish the game."
Below the Fold
Maintaining confidence and optimism is difficult after falling to 3-9, but Russell Wilson noted after the game that he believes in the team's ability to get through the tough times.
"We talked about in the locker room," Wilson said. "I think the thing for us [is], this is the reality of being a professional. I've had a lot of highs and a few lows. But I think in the midst of the highs and the lows, your mindset, your character, your integrity, how you play the game and how you respect the game should never change. You just continue to try and elevate in the midst of it all. There are going to be tough times. There's going to be a lot more good times that come and soon. I believe that — I really do — and that's what I'm going to focus on."