DENVER (CBS4) – Don’t look now, but Mark Schlereth is making comparisons between the Broncos defense and some of the all-time great NFL defensive squads.
“I was on the team in 2000 that played the Baltimore Ravens, and the Denver Broncos got throttled in that game by one of the greatest defenses I’ve ever witnessed,” said the former Broncos offensive lineman on All Access Sunday night. “And then we saw a couple years ago the Broncos play Seattle in that Super Bowl with that great defense.”
Schlereth watched Sunday’s AFC Championship game in person and couldn’t help but be reminded of the Seahawks and Ravens.
“The Broncos defense was on par with those two defenses,” said Schlereth, who is an analyst for ESPN. “It was absolutely incredible what they were able to do today.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had most of his offensive weapons healthy again (Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola), but the defense still held New England to under 20 points.
How did they do it?
“Absolute unrelenting pressure on Tom Brady,” Schlereth said.
Von Miller, who led the team with 2 1/2 sacks, was “unbelievable,” according to Schlereth.
“The crowd also helped create opportunities for that defense to get a jump on the edge.”
But Schlereth says a large amount of credit should go to the secondary.
“The defensive secondary basically took away Tom Brady’s first target all day long from the standpoint of pressing guys, punching guys off the line of scrimmage and disrupting those routes to let that pass rush get to him,” said Schlereth.
The secondary suffered two key injuries when starting safeties Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward left the game in the second half, but the backups came in and shined. And don’t look past what cornerback Chris Harris Jr. did, said Schlereth.
“When you have the opportunity to say ‘Hey listen, Chris, we know you’re our starting corner, but can you come in here and play some safety for us?’ and a guy that hasn’t practiced that position has the football acumen to be able to step up and do a great job at the safety position, you’ve got to tip your hat to him.”
Even more incredible is that Harris has been playing through pain with a shoulder injury in the playoffs.
“They gave up some plays late in the game, but the bottom line is (Harris) was called upon and he responded favorably. The kid played a great game today,” Schlereth said.
“It was one of the great defensive performances we have ever witnessed,” Schlereth said.