ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – ** October has been an outstanding month for the Broncos' defense.
The team has held opponents to a league-low 258.8 yards per game, compared to the first three games of the season when opponents averaged 390.7 yards. In addition, in this four-game stretch, opponents are averaging just 47.75 rushing yards per game.
A major component of the defense's leap forward is Von Miller's dominant play, for which he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month.
While Miller's October stat line is striking, he acknowledged that his efforts are just one component of the defense's performance.
"I think it's a testament to the type of defense we've been playing over the month," he said. "T-Knight [Terrance Knighton] has been clogging it up in the middle, we've been playing great run defense, and it allows us to have a great pass defense.
"I think it's just a testament to the type of defense that we've been playing."
During October of last season, the Broncos allowed opponents to average 371 yards per game, eclipsing this October's average by more than 100 yards.
While Miller took little credit for the award when he was speaking with the media on Thursday, his October has been truly impressive. He has totaled 14 tackles (nine solo), seven sacks and one pass defensed during the Broncos' 4-0 October stretch.
The Broncos were hard at work on Thursday preparing for Sunday's road game against the Patriots.
With the recognition, he joined former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey as the only Bronco to earn the honor twice in his career. Miller was the recipient of the award in November of 2012, when he had eight sacks, 20 tackles and three forced fumbles.
That season, he was the runner-up for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.
After a 2013 season where he only played in nine games due to suspension and a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the progress he's made in his rehabilitation to get back to this point is impressive. Coming into this season, his performance in training camp and his obvious increase in quickness made it seem like he was poised for a comeback year. It took a little time as he finished September with eight total tackles and two sacks, albeit in only three games.
Once Week 5 hit, he looked like the old Von Miller.
But he doesn't get any personal satisfaction with the honor. That comes in February.
"That's when satisfaction for me will come," Miller said of the desire to win a Super Bowl. "I'm just here doing my job. It does feel great though to do your job and make everybody else's job a whole bit easier. That's where my minds at."
When he was rehabilitating in March, he knew that getting back to this level of productivity was plausible.
"I already had my mind set on that stuff," Miller said. "I knew the type of work that I was going to put in that I was going to get some success from it. Our type of defense that we've been playing is more gratifying to me. It's great when you go out there and guys can't run the ball and then when they try to pass the ball, you stop the pass too. You have Aqib [Talib] and Chris [Harris Jr.] and third-and-long, you have them knocking down passes. That's a great feeling as well."
With the return of multiple injured defenders and the additions of T.J. Ward and Talib, finding chemistry on every level of the defense took a few weeks but as we hit the midpoint of the season, the Broncos' defense now seems to be firing on all cylinders. While Talib and Ward have made their impact on the defense, the offseason acquisition that benefits Miller the most is DeMarcus Ware.
Ware sits behind Miller in sacks with seven but his veteran leadership and knowledge of the game is invaluable for Miller. While the duo's play has been dominant and kept quarterbacks on their toes, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio says Ware's presence has incited competition in Miller. This has pushed Miller "to greater heights."
"I think also with DeMarcus being here in the offseason and the work they spent -- DeMarcus is kind of like the wise old guy that's done it for quite a while – so you see Von," Del Rio said. "They interact, they exchange ideas, they work some games together, some games apart, and they're thinking about it a lot. They're talking about ball a lot. So I think it's been great from an experience standpoint and then a guy opposite you with that kind of production is also very beneficial."
Ware, a seven-time Pro Bowler, noted that while the defense is full of good players, the Broncos put "egos aside" and play for each other. He echoed Miller's sentiments in saying the members of the defense play for each other and when people do their jobs, "everybody reaps the benefits."
He knows firsthand the amount of work that Miller has put in to get back to a top-tier linebacker.
"That's awesome, knowing just how much hard work he's put in, but also there are guys out there like [Derek] Wolfe and Knighton and Malik [Jackson] and those type of guys that hold the pocket together for us and let us rush the passer, and Von capitalized on that and, you know, he's been playing really well this month and that's a great accomplishment for him," Ware said. "That's what it's about. It's not about the individual guy getting it.
"We feel like it's a team win as a defense and we're playing well right now. And now we're just trying to keep it going."