The headlines from the Denver Broncos’ opening victory rightfully focused on Peyton Manning post-surgery, surgical performance on offense. The sub-headlines, at least in Denver, mentioned the defense’s tendency to let the Pittsburgh Steelers off the hook in third and long situations. With little to complain about on offense it’s no wonder the defense gained the spotlight when the, “could’ve been better” nitpicking began. To that I’d agree the defense has work to do, but I’d also say Sunday night showed the Denver secondary has already gotten better since we saw it last.
With Manning turning offensive football into high art, perhaps it makes the defensive performance seem all the more vulnerable. However, let’s be reasonable. This was a Pittsburgh Steelers offense that had a healthy Ben Roethlisberger and a variety of receiving weapons. It’s reasonable to expect that offense would get some things going, just as it should be expected on Monday in Atlanta. The Denver defense still managed to hold the Steelers to 19 points. If this defense can average 19 points surrendered per game, the Denver Broncos will win a lot of games.
More notably, while the Steelers didn’t make a habit of looking for home run plays down the field, they certainly took some shots. Impressively, the Broncos’ revamped secondary was fully up to the challenge. Overlooked among the mesmerizing offensive efficiency and the game-ending Tracy Porter pick were two notable plays. Free agent addition Mike Adams prevented a sure touchdown with a perfectly timed pass defense at the front of the end zone, and before his game-winning interception, Porter managed to fight off a pass to a streaking Mike Wallace along the sideline. Had Porter mistimed the play Wallace likely only stops after reaching the end zone as Porter was isolated in single coverage.
Sure, this defense’s ability to contain passing attacks will be tested this season, and will likely need to improve. Realistically, the Denver Broncos can likely get by with a good defense, not a great one. Sunday night was encouraging. Even Rahim Moore, while still somewhat of a non-factor, began showing signs of making the right reads. If the Broncos secondary can make its debut performance a building block instead of a high point, very good things await.
Also in the Broncos’ favor…many of the quarterbacks they’ll see this season don’t have the freelance abilities of Roethlisberger. To put it more bluntly: Phillip Rivers, Matt Cassel, and Carson Palmer aren’t exactly tearing it up when ruffled in the pocket.