When it comes to playing defense in 2015, there's the Denver Broncos and then there's everyone else.
The Broncos rank first in the NFL in points per game allowed (16.0), yards per game allowed (261.1), passing yards per game allowed (171.9), and sacks (29), ranks second in third down percentage (31%) and opposing passer rating (69.6), and also ranks fourth in rushing yards per game (89.3). In short, this defense has been absolutely fantastic this year, and their finest performance came just one week ago, when they held Aaron Rodgers to the worst performance of his career as he threw for just 77 yards and no touchdowns.
Next up? The 3-5 Indianapolis Colts and their struggling offense, led by their struggling quarterback, Andrew Luck. That matchup rightly scares the Colts when they study the Broncos' defense.
"When you put the tape on it's a scary movie," head coach Chuck Pagano said on Wednesday. "We've seen some really good defenses and this one is as good or better than any of the ones we've faced up to this point, front to back, they're unbelievable. Wade Phillips does a great job and they've got great talent and they've got a couple of edge rushers that are phenomenal. You look up and down the statistics and they're ranked it looks like number one up and down the sheet in a bunch of categories. Number one in total defense, leading the league in sacks with 29. They get after you and they bring it. I think we all saw, most recently, that defense against Green Bay. They're suffocating.
"Next to the '85 Bears and the 2000 Ravens I don't know if I've seen a defense quite like this. They're playing at a high level and they're going to challenge you. Run game, they're going to challenge your protections. They're going [to] challenge you on the outside, they're going to get in your face, they're going to play tight man coverage down after down after down. They're just going to dare you to drop back and throw the football."
Andrew Luck also realizes the challenge that this defense faces, noting to Denver media that "you have to really fight for every yard" and explaining during his Wednesday press conference why the Broncos are tough to face.
"They're playing fast," Luck said. "They're covering guys up. They do a great job of creating one-on-one matchups whether it's in pass rush or make the quarterback uncomfortable in a sense. They present different schemes. They'll play base personnel to three wide receivers on the field and vice versa. There's sub stuff to big people on the field. They certainly have a plan, and they know what they're doing."
Luck has not had a good year, and the Colts just changed offensive coordinators this week because of the offensive failures and shortcomings. It's not an easy task for Luck, new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, and the rest of the unit, however, as they're making the change on a short week while also preparing for the league's number one overall defense and the league's number one passing defense - one that just held the best quarterback in the game to 77 yards. They can do it all: blanket receivers in coverage, stop the run, pressure the quarterback, etc. They're a scary opponent for any team to face - but especially a team still trying to find its offensive rhythm and identity.