It's easier to pass a kidney stone than pass on the No Fly Zone. The Broncos' secondary led the league in fewest yards allowed for the past two seasons. They hit, they cover and make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. What's left to prove?
"We're all ready to work and be legendary," safety Darian Stewart said.
Only one team has led the league in pass defense in three consecutive seasons: Pittsburgh 2011-13. The Broncos believe they can match it, while improving. It marks the third straight year with the same starters. Familiarity breeds comfort. The game becomes nuanced with players knowing where each other will be. They have become the voices inside their own heads.
"We've worked together, and we just now the ins and outs of each other," safety T.J. Ward said. "We know how each other like to play. We know what guys don't like to do in certain situations. You can't get that [on other teams]. You don't have to have a guy out there telling you what to do on this play or that play. Everybody is locked in."
For Ward, this represents a crossroads season. He has been a terrific performer for three seasons. He is entering the final year of his contract. When the Broncos want a player, they typically extend him before he reaches free agency and lets the market set his value. Ward loves Denver, loves playing for the Broncos. He remains optimistic a new deal will work out.
"I'm aware of it. I am definitely aware of it. You know what, if I do the things I have to do and do them the right way, everything will handle itself," Ward said. "I let my agent handle it. But if I put my A-plus effort in, then everything will happen the right way."
With the No Fly Zone, strength comes from numbers and versatility. Ward and Stewart light up opponents like the Las Vegas strip. Chris Harris can cover all types of receivers whether they line up wide or in the slot. And Aqib Talib matches up against long-armed threats and turns an acoustic guitar electric.
"You can't replace him. He's a hell of a player," Steward said. "If you want some honesty, go to Talib. That's the one thing I respect about him. He's not going to sugar coat anything or beat around the bush. That's all you can ask for."