CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Broncos remain a prideful, confident group. They don't traffic in excuses -- "Don't make them, just be great," bellowed defensive end Derek Wolfe this week -- or massage numbers to relay a hollow message.
The Broncos sit at the intersection of Hope and Panic because of a glaring concern: their rush defense. Everybody but Forrest Gump, it seems, has run on the Broncos. What makes the slump so alarming is that nobody was better than Denver at stuffing ball-carriers last season.
"We just need to shut up and start stepping up and making plays," nose tackle Sylvester Williams said. "That's all that it is. We have been in the right spot, and then not make the tackle. We get out of our gap, it's simple stuff. We can fix it."
The Broncos held opposing runners to 3.28 yards per carry last season, best in football. This season? A jarring 4.4 per attempt. Denver permits 128.6 yards on the ground per game. Only the 49ers, Browns and Dolphins are worse.
It's just not good enough, especially with the offense ranking near the bottom in multiple categories.
"I look at myself," said defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is expected to coach from the sideline this week with his broken rib feeling better. "I have to do better."
His accountability remains refreshing, but this is a matter of execution. The Broncos blitzed more against Oakland than any game this season, but couldn't slow down the Raiders. They have faced six linemen in multiple games -- Carolina, Indianapolis, San Diego and Oakland -- and have struggled to adjust.
"It's a pride thing. It's a personal thing. It's grit," outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "We know we have to get better."
The Saints are known as a passing team. Any team with Drew Brees carries that reputation. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said Brees can "throw to spots with his eyes closed." But New Orleans has shown more balance in recent wins. The Saints have averaged 158 yards per game over the past three weeks, including a season-high 248 in last week's win over San Francisco. Williams, Adam Gotsis, Darius Kilgo and Jared Crick must step up.
"Their running backs have run for more than 100 yards the last to weeks," Phillips said. "It's going to be a challenge for our defense again."
Run to the Hills
The Broncos continue to shut down opposing quarterbacks. But they have struggled against the run. A look at the numbers.
Yards per game 128.6 83.6
Yards per carry 4.40 3.28
Carries per game 29.2 25.5
TDs allowed 9 10
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