DENVER- ** When asked why the Broncos defense is so good at stopping the run, Chris Harris Jr. didn't hesitate in his answer.
"Shoot, we got Pot Roast, 98!"
While Terrance Knighton is the glue in the middle of the Broncos' deep, stifling defensive line, Harris noted that those that stand beside Knighton are also key in keeping opponents behind the line.
"Then we got everybody else following his lead and shutting it down," Harris said. "They're stuffing it and that's the key that we need on defense every week: Stop the run, then we're going to lean back on our secondary and we're going to make the plays to get the turnovers."
Coming into this game, the Broncos ranked third in the NFL in rush defense, allowing an average of 74.3 on the ground per game. But the members of the Broncos defense outdid themselves on Thursday as they held the Chargers to a mere 61 yards on the ground.
The Chargers could not get any momentum going in their run game and starter Branden Oliver only accounted for 13 attempts for 36 yards, 23 of which came on the meaningless final play of the game. He was constantly met by Broncos at the line of scrimmage and four of his carries resulted in a loss. A Philip Rivers scramble in the fourth quarter accounted for 17 of those 61 yards.
Knighton calls the defensive line "hungry."
"We want to be stout, we stay in our gaps, we're disciplined and we just have a chip on our shoulder and nobody's going to run the ball against us," Knighton said. "It doesn't matter what quarterback we're going against, you have to stop the run and we take it personal when teams feel like they can run the ball on us and especially when you have somebody like me and Derek [Wolfe] who consider ourselves the leaders of the front, especially when it comes to running the ball.
"Me and him hold everybody accountable, including ourselves."
The two combined for a sack in the second quarter as Rivers stepped up into the pocket. The two linemen forced their way past the offensive line and wrapped up Rivers for a 2-yard loss to force the Chargers into a third-and-20.
When the Broncos played the Chargers last season, the Bolts racked up 131 yards on the ground in their first matchup and 177 during their 27-20 win over the Broncos. The defense that played on Thursday night looked vastly different than the one that took the field in those games last season.
The Chargers were forced to become one-dimensional Thursday and they had just 15 rushing plays to go with 41 passing attempts.
"We know what they want to do: They want to run the ball, throw the ball," Malik Jackson said "We know if we can keep them one-dimensional and just sock them in the mouth, stop the run and get them past it, we've got some great pass rushers and if we can make them one-dimensional, that'll be great for us. That's how we try to do every team."
As the Chargers couldn't gain any momentum on the ground and continued to fall further behind the Broncos, Rivers was forced to throw the ball. He finished the game 30-of-41 for 252 yards and an average of 6.15 yards per attempt, his lowest of the season.
As the Chargers were limited to their passing attack, the Broncos' secondary was able to take advantage of mistakes in the air as Harris and Aqib Talib both had picks. Von Miller said when the defensive line holds teams to less than 100 yards on the ground it allows him and DeMarcus Ware to "do what [they] do best."
Ware said when an offense becomes one dimensional, it is "50 percent less potent."
"That was big and like I said we stopped the run so we forced them to be one-dimensional, that allowed our DBs to play their coverage and not worry about the running back and we just played complimentary football, stop the run, DBs cover," Knighton said. "I've said it over and over, we have the best secondary in the league. This is a great quarterback that we're going against and we executed better than anyone else executed against him."
The members of the Broncos' defense appeared to be having a lot of fun on Thursday night. Knighton's interpretation of the "shmoney" dance followed immediately after his sack. When Miller got to Rivers in the first half, he had a unique dance move for the crowd and as Peyton Manning and the offense were on the field for their final drive, Talib fired up the crowd as "Jump Around" blared on the speakers.
Once the run is stifled, everyone's job becomes easier. When that happens, dancing follows.