DENVER (CBS4) – Yeah, sure it was against the Oakland Raiders. But the notable defensive effort in the Denver Broncos’ 41-17 win on Sunday ranks among the team’s best in recent years — if you ignore the Raiders’ final scoring drive.

Apart from that 97-yard touchdown drive in garbage time against substitutes, Oakland managed 125 yards the rest of the game. Here are some defensive highlights:

– Oakland gained 30 yards on 15 carries, and 192 yards on 47 pass attempts.

– Receiver James Jones grabbed eight passes for 20 yards. Just 2.5 yards per catch is paltry, but take away his 10-yard catch, and 1.4 yards a catch seems inconceivable.

– Leading rusher Darren McFadden collected 14 yards on seven carries.

– Of Oakland’s 15 drives, 11 were three-and-outs. On the four that weren’t, two halted with Derek Carr interceptions, one ended in a field goal (they drove 26 yards on nine plays, by the way), and one featured the garbage-time touchdown.

Still, 17 points allowed is 17 points allowed. So, we dove deeper into the Broncos’ record book to unearth more impressive defensive performances.

Jan. 9, 1999: Broncos Stifle Dolphins On Road To Super Bowl Victory

The Broncos lost twice that season, once to the Miami Dolphins, 31-21, in the penultimate regular season game. Revenge came in the game that mattered a few weeks later.

Not only did the Broncos tally their largest winning margin in team postseason history, they set postseason defensive records for rushing yards (14), rushing average (1.1 ypc) and points allowed in a 38-3 triumph.

The Broncos limited Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino to 243 yards and picked him off twice. Defensive lineman Neil Smith iced the victory with a 79-yard fumble return for a touchdown. (Yeah, he could run that far without stopping.)

Nov. 9, 1997: Broncos Declaw Panthers’ Offense In Shutout

The Broncos have shut out opponents in 17 games, most recently in 2005.

But perhaps one of the most impressive was a 34-0 lesson they handed the Carolina Panthers in 1997.

The Panthers registered zero rushing first downs (seven total) and managed only 34 yards on 14 carries. The passing game wasn’t much better (or worse). Kerry Collins completed just 13 passes for 141 and three interceptions. The Broncos’ defense had four sacks and fumble, and allowed two plays longer than 10 yards.

(As an aside, the Broncos’ offense only scored one touchdown and not until the third quarter. The rest of their scoring came on two Darrien Gordon punt returns for touchdowns in the first quarter, two field goals and an interception return for a score in the fourth quarter.)

Sept. 25, 1977: Orange Crush Bounces Bills

In 1977, during the heart of the Broncos’ Orange Crush years, the defense curbed opponents to fewer than 10 points per game in half their regular-season games en route to the team’s first Super Bowl.

Against Buffalo in the second game of the season, the Broncos kept the Bills to 129 yards — just 63 passing and 66 rushing. O.J. Simpson gained 43 yards on 15 carries. The Broncos also grabbed three interceptions. The Bills collected eight first downs in the Broncos’ 26-6 win.

The Bills’ only scoring came on a 22-yard fumble return for a touchdown. (They missed the extra point.)

Oct. 24, 1971: Broncos Bully Browns For Fewest Yards Ever

Four Broncos sacks resulted in the defense giving up the fewest total yards in franchise history — just 60 — to the Cleveland Browns. Browns quarterback Bill Nelsen completed six passes for 69 yards and threw one interception, and Cleveland’s running backs totaled merely 24 yards in the Broncos 27-0 shutout.

The Browns threw half as many interceptions (three) as they had first downs (six). Nelsen wasn’t really the problem. Mike Phipps threw two picks on 1-of-8 passing for 12 yards.

How good was the Broncos’ defense? They gained more yards on interception returns — 70 — than the Browns’ offense had all day.

Honorable (and odd) mentions:

Here are cases when the Broncos defense didn’t shine across the board. But they’re worth mentioning as bizarre instances in which part of the defense remained stout while other areas of the team floundered.

Lopsided effort: The Broncos kept the Cincinnati Bengals to two passing completions on Oct. 22, 2000. You think they’d win, right? Nope. Despite restricting Bengals quarterback Akili Smith to 2-of-9 passing and 34 yards, running back Corey Dillon rampaged through the Broncos defense for 278 yards (they collected 407 rushing yards and four touchdowns) in a 31-21 win.

Sloppy play all around: The San Diego Chargers managed just three first downs against the Broncos on Nov. 30, 1975, and lost 13-10 in overtime. The Broncos kept the Chargers in the game by throwing six interceptions and completing only eight passes.

The weirdest one: The Broncos surrendered 45 points to the Kansas City Chiefs in a 45-35 loss on Dec. 19, 1965. But they gave up zero yards on the ground. The Chiefs ran the ball 22 times and scored three touchdowns, but didn’t gain any yards. How? Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson had a negative rush of 31 yards that negated the team’s 31 positive rushing yards. On the play, he was tackled for a 16-yard loss but fumbled and the ball went backward another 15 yards. Kansas City won on 412 yards through the air and two passing touchdowns.

– Written by Tim Skillern for CBSDenver.com

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