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The Broncos defense is for real, but not without flaws

The Broncos play very good defense, but there are a few things the Bengals can take advantage of.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There is a reason the Denver Broncos have defeated two playoff-caliber teams in the Los Angeles Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last two weeks. This Broncos defense is legit.

Led by defensive coordinator Joe Woods, the unit held the potent Los Angeles Rams to 23 points and the explosive Kansas City Chiefs to 27 and 30 points in two games.

This defense runs mostly cover 1 and gets pressure with a four-man rush thanks largely to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Their defense isn’t perfect, but they run to the ball and make tackles. Essentially, they are everything the Bengals are not on defense. Here are a few examples that show how good they are, a few that show how they can be exploited.

Too many defenses play tight man coverage without putting their hands on the receiver. The Broncos are not afraid to play up on the line of scrimmage. Here the Broncos line up tight on all three receivers. Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby is in man with the outside receiver and tightly covers his slant route, breaking up the pass.

The Broncos are mainly in Cover 1, but they will play some Cover 2 and blitz in key situations. When they blitz, they often show the blitz from one side and bring it from another. They clearly start in a two-high look and are crowding the line showing blitz, but in this case they are actually still in Cover 1. Disguising their intentions can force the opposing quarterback to make bad decisions.

Here they do bring a blitz. Miller is coming off the edge, but seeing Philip Rivers set up, he sits back and intercepts the intended screen. Even for an incredible player like Miller, this is an impressive play.

Now, how can the Bengals create opportunities against this defense? The Broncos have a strong run defense, but on this play the Chargers line up in a trips formation with three receivers on one side of the formation. This forces the Broncos to take a linebacker out of the box which creates a cutback opportunity for Melvin Gordon.

Here the Rams use motion to create a weak edge for the Broncos. Their adjustment to the motion leaves the Broncos with only a defensive back outside of the Rams’ bunch. Running back Todd Gurley only has to beat that defender around the edge to get the Rams to first and goal with a long run.

Here the Steelers use play action to hold linebacker Todd Davis. This allows tight end Vance McDonald to get open in the slant for a 9-yard gain.

While Cover 1 is a safer coverage compared straight man, the Broncos have been beaten deep on occasion. The key is to effect the deep safety. He can be effected by sending routes vertical on either side of him and the quarterback looking one direction and throwing the other.

Here is another example. The Chargers run a scissors concept on the bottom of the screen to help open the outside receiver up on the post route. They run an out route on the backside, but would be better off having that player run a vertical route to hold the safety on that side of the formation.

If you didn’t know before that Cover 2 man is the worst coverage you can run against a mobile quarterback before, Bengals Twitter told you enough to make the lesson sink in after they gave up a first down run to Lamar Jackson two weeks ago. The Broncos frequently run Cover 2 man in third-and-medium and third-and-long situations, and Rams quarterback Jared Goff makes them pay for it here. The Bengals are in a bad place, but this is an area where Jeff Driskel can have a notable impact.


The Broncos have an impressive defense that will challenge a battered Bengals offense. They are disciplined in their reads and tight in coverage. They do however do a few things that the Bengals can take advantage of. The Broncos defense has played well against some of the best offenses in the NFL. The Bengals will need to step up on offense if they have any chance of pulling off this win.