Denver's dominant defense could make QB choice moot
DENVER (AP) The way Von Miller sees it, it shouldn't matter who's under center for the Denver Broncos because this defense has what it takes to lead the Denver Broncos on a ticker tape parade next month.
As Brock Osweiler was on the other side of the locker room talking about getting benched for Peyton Manning for the playoffs, Denver's star pass rusher and resident jokester said he was disappointed in the decision Thursday.
In his mind, he was the best option.
''I thought I had a chance to play quarterback,'' Miller said.
Spotting receiver Demaryius Thomas heading to the shower, Miller reeled him in.
''Hey, D.T., how have my passes been looking, bro?''
A thumbs-up from a deadpanning Thomas.
''There's a couple of read-options plays I can run. I can do whatever, pistol, shotgun, under center. I work on the pump-fake. I work on all the pass-action throws,'' Miller said.
''I'm a defensive end, so this is how I look at it: I rush the passer, so I have to know everything about the passer. And to do that, I've got to become a passer, kind of.''
See the quarterback, be the quarterback.
''In my own mind, I'm the passer as I'm rushing the passer,'' Miller continued. ''I thought this was my opportunity. I've got to keep grinding. Maybe I'll get my opportunity in the Super Bowl.''
In all seriousness, Miller is counting on a return to the big game after serving as a sideline spectator against Seattle two years ago because of a knee injury.
''It doesn't matter who's the quarterback,'' Miller said, finally finished with his riff. ''We've won games with both of them.''
Seven with Manning, five with Osweiler.
Good enough to earn the AFC's top seed.
''We feel comfortable with both of them,'' Miller said. ''Peyton's going to start us off. Brock's going to be right behind him. It's really not a big deal. We're going to go out there and do what we do as a defense.''
For the first time in franchise history, Denver led the league in total defense.
The Broncos also topped the NFL with 52 sacks and finished first in passing yards. They were 33 rushing yards shy of leading the league in that category, too.
The Broncos also had 29 takeaways.
''It just shows you what kind of team we have. We spent so much time together, it's like a college vibe, an esprit de corps that you have in college,'' Miller said as he reached out to do a one-handed hug on Ware. ''That's the same feeling that we have here and that's the reason why we're successful on defense.''
For that, he credited two men: defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and head coach Gary Kubiak.
Kubiak turned Phillips loose on defense, and the 68-year-old veteran of 38 NFL seasons switched from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 look, simplified assignments and turbo-charged the pass rush.
With all due respect to the likes of Ron Rivera and Andy Reid, Kubiak deserves Coach of the Year honors, Miller said, for the way he kept the Broncos from unravelling while dealing with major issues at the game's most important positions : quarterback, edge rusher, blindside protector.
After being lured back to Denver following John Fox's ouster, Kubiak lost two left tackles to IR, one in May and the other in September. Manning's left foot injury sidelined him for six games and parts of two others and Osweiler led Denver to comebacks from two-touchdown deficits against the Patriots and Bengals, the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds in the AFC.
Ware missed five full games and parts of three others, but rookie Shane Ray and practice squad grad Shaq Barrett combined for 9 1-2 sacks.
The Broncos won nine games by seven points or fewer and beat five of seven fellow playoff teams while facing the league's toughest schedule.
Miller said he knew Kubiak, his fellow Texas A&M alum, could deftly steer the Broncos through their drama-filled season.
''I'm biased. I'm an Aggie, but that really just shows you he really was dealing with a whole lot his first year here with the organization, came out and only lost four games. It's great,'' Miller said.
''And with all the personalities we have, it's not a normal team. We've got Peyton and Aqib and DeMarcus and T.J. Ward and all of these different personalities and he's still able to keep everybody together and keep everybody's energy up at this time of the year.''
And on Thursday, he didn't hesitate to go back to Manning as his starting QB even after declaring that Osweiler had done nothing to deserve a demotion.
He kept his word in doing so.
On the day Manning hobbled to the sideline and gave way to his longtime understudy following his fourth interception against Kansas City on Nov. 15, Kubiak said, ''If he's healthy and ready to go, Peyton's our quarterback.''
Two months later, Manning is healthy and ready to go.
So is Denver's dominant defense.
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