ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Throughout the 2012 season, linebacker Von Miller has insisted that victories are more important than individual recognition.
With Thursday's news that Miller was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Month, the second-year linebacker once again responded to questions about his own play by crediting his teammates.
"We've been playing good defense here," Miller said of the recognition. "Anybody on the defense could have gotten it. It was just a sign of the type of defense we've been playing over here on the Denver Broncos."
Miller earned the monthly honor thanks to two of the best performances of his young career, a three-sack performance in a win over Cincinnati and another three-sack effort against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 18, when he also forced a pair of fumbles. He finished November with eight sacks, 10 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in helping the team to a 4-0 record in the month. So far, Miller has followed a Pro Bowl rookie season with the opposite of a sophomore slump, and he said he owes much of that success to Linebackers Coach Richard Smith.
"It's because I have a great coach in Coach Smith and he won't let it happen just like I won't let it happen," Miller said. "We're just taking it one day at a time continuing to get better every day. If you're doing that you're constantly making progress and you'll be alright."
"He's just great," Miller continued. "He's one of the best coaches I've ever had. Not just in the National Football League or in college – just period. That's just the type of guy that he is. Even when you're doing it right, you're doing it wrong. He can always coach you on something. I really appreciate his coaching and I appreciate him as a person. I'm grateful to have Coach Smith."
With four games remaining in the regular season, Miller is tied for the league lead in tackles for loss with 24 and ranks third in the NFL with 14 sacks. He's enjoying the friendly competition with fellow 2011 first-round selections Aldon Smith, a linebacker for the 49ers, and J.J. Watt, a defensive end for the Texans.
"It's great," Miller said. "Aldon Smith is great guy. He is one of my close friends, not just in the football world but outside of football. J.J. Watt is great from his whole foundation and everything – dream big and work hard. All of those guys are deserving of everything that they're doing right now and I'm happy that they're seeing some success. I just want to keep on playing the type of football that we're playing with the Broncos and everything else to come."
PREPARING FOR A FAMILIAR FOE
Cornerback Champ Bailey got to know Tampa Bay wide receiver Vincent Jackson quite well during Jackson's first seven seasons in the NFL, which he spent with AFC West rival San Diego.
With the Broncos and Chargers meeting twice a year, Bailey had seen so much of Jackson that when he became a free agent during the offseason, he encouraged the wideout to find a new division.
"I saw him last year at the Pro Bowl and told him to get out of our division," Bailey said. "He did, thank God, but here we go again."
This year, in Jackson's eighth season and first as a Buc, he has been as good as ever through his first 11 games, tallying 47 receptions for 959 yards and seven touchdowns. At 6-5, 230, Jackson is one of the most imposing deep threats in the game. Coming off back-to-back performances with at least 90 yards receiving, Jackson has the full attention of Bailey and the Denver secondary.
"The guy—he's a great player, and he's proved it," Bailey said. "You can look at him this year—he looks different, looks more motivated, like reenergized. He's playing at a higher level."
Jackson will be taking on a secondary that has helped the Broncos allow the fifth-fewest yards passing in the NFL. The unit's success has linebacker Wesley Woodyard convinced that it will be capable of preventing Jackson from having a big game.
"I'm not worried about it," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "I'm not worried about our back end. They've been doing some great jobs this year. It's going to be exciting to see the matchups and who gets to match up with him. I've always been on my guys, but it's exciting to get a chance to play against him. He's a good player."
*BRUTON, BAILEY TALK SEC TITLE *
The Broncos' Week 13 tilt with the Buccaneers isn't the only important football game to the players in the Denver locker room.
On Saturday night in the Georgia Dome, Alabama will take on Georgia for the SEC Championship and the right to take on Notre Dame in the NCAA Championship. Regardless of the outcome, the upcoming game between the alma maters of Bailey, a former Bulldog, and safety David Bruton, a former member of the Fighting Irish, will be a topic of conversation from Saturday night until the BCS Championship game on Monday, Jan. 7.
Bailey said he's eager to see Georgia play in a game he has been hoping to see for a long time, and added that he hopes to deliver that message to the players between now and the game's kickoff.
"I'm excited," Bailey said. "I'm actually kind of prepping myself to call and give them a pep talk because we can't let this one slide. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because I'm tired of everybody talking about (former Georgia running back) Herschel Walker and that was 30-something years ago. There's a lot of things (that have) happened between that but no championships and that's why they still talk about it."
Bruton, a Notre Dame alum waiting to see who the Irish will take on for the national title, wants a battle between the Irish and the Bulldogs.
"I'm rooting for Georgia," Bruton said. "Just so I can talk (trash) to him (cornerback Champ Bailey) all week until that game, and then gloat. And then put a Georgia rug under here," Bruton added, indicating the Notre Dame mat in front of his locker.
Bailey said Bruton should be careful what he wishes for.
"I've got one guy in the locker room (to trash talk), because there's no 'Bama guys in the locker room, so David Bruton is rooting for Georgia because he thinks that Notre Dame can beat Georgia in the BCS Championship," Bailey said. "The guy has no idea."
The undefeated regular season by the Irish isn't the only thing that has made Bruton smile lately. Sunday against Kansas City, the fourth-year safety recorded the first interception of his career.
"I kept it," Bruton said of the ball he intercepted. "I'm getting it painted. It's the first one. It felt great. It (was unfortunate) that it had to be on one of my fellow ND guys (Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn). But things happen, it's the NFL. Hopefully he understands. It was a great feeling to finally get that one. I had more blocked punts than I had interceptions."
In addition to the recent interception, Bruton has also remained not only one of the top special teamers for the Broncos, but one of the best in the league. He's currently third in the league in the AFC voting for its Pro Bowl special teamer.
"I'm excited about that chance," Bruton said. "It would be a great honor, a huge step in my career. It would be great to just go out there and interact with all the greats, all the All-Pros of the season. Go out there, hang out with Champ another time, or Von. It would just be a great atmosphere and a great opportunity, that's if we're not playing in the game the week after."