Denver offers Manning more than a ‘Play Ahead’ defense

The Denver Broncos’ showing against the prestigious Pittsburgh Steelers answered many offseason concerns and immediately marks this team as a Super Bowl contender.

The Broncos’ vicious front seven is led by 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller, who has improved greatly on the edge against the run. They are also anchored by unheralded stalwarts DT Ty Warren, DE/DT Derek Wolfe and DT Justin Bannan. We might also see more of Mitch Unrein, who has also been impressive on film, due to the tricep injury to Warren. They eat up blockers and were key on Miller’s two sacks as well as on Joe Mays’ takedown of Ben Roethlisberger. Wolfe picked up a sack of his own, too.

Denver also has a secondary that can play man comfortably while bringing pressure up front. All of the league’s top defenses have this in common; whether you look at San Francisco, Pittsburgh or Baltimore. Champ Bailey is as able as ever, but it is the addition of Tracy Porter that really solidifies the secondary. His lockdown coverage and an interception returned for a TD sealed the Broncos’ win on Sunday night. The Broncos played man-to-man coverage on 16 of the Steelers’ 45 drop backs; blitzing on 10 of those man-to-man concepts, recording a sack and Porter’s pick six.

The Denver offense is built around efficiency. It gained an average of 6.3 yards per play against the heralded Steelers defense, and Peyton Manning completed 73 percent of his passes. The Broncos have what might be the best all-around offensive line in football. Running backs Willis McGahee, Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno stabilize the offense and give the Broncos consistent positive yardage on first and second downs. The receiving corps also works efficiently, with Eric Decker‘s proficiency on underneath routes and the constant big-play threat that Demaryius Thomas provides.

Denver will be tested early, facing Atlanta and New England in the next two weeks. If Sunday night was any indication, this Broncos team is more than up for the challenge behind Manning and a well-rounded defense.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (NFC) and 9 p.m. ET (AFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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