‘This defense has the ability to just change games’: Broncos smother Zach Wilson and Jets, turn takeaways and sacks into shutout


DENVER — In between possessions, Teddy Bridgewater is no different than any other quarterback.

He heads to the sideline to review the previous series on a tablet and perhaps chat with his quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator.

During the Broncos' shutout win over the Jets, though, Bridgewater couldn't help but let his eyes stray to the action on the field.

"I'm on the sideline, and I'm looking up at the scoreboard and every time the quarterback draws back, I'm yelling 'pick' because this defense has the ability to just change games," Bridgewater said after a 26-0 win that pushed Denver to 3-0 on the season.

The Broncos' defense again illustrated its ability to smother an opposing offense, as the unit harassed rookie Zach Wilson all afternoon.

In the Broncos' home opener, Wilson managed just one completion in the opening quarter and was held to 56 passing yards at halftime. He was sacked four times — by four different players — in the opening two quarters, and the barrage didn't stop after the break. Denver added another sack and picked off Wilson twice in the fourth quarter.

Through three weeks, the Broncos have recorded four interceptions and a fumble recovery. After posting just 16 takeaways in all of 2020, Denver has increased its production by a substantial margin.

"You saw them today creating turnovers, getting to the quarterback, stuffing the run, playing tight coverage in the pass game," Bridgewater said. "That's what we expect from them. We're honestly not surprised by it. But we also know the sky's still the limit for those guys and they understand that too. Like, man, there's so much still out there for us. We've just got to keep that mindset as a team."

The Broncos' defense has been particularly stout against opposing quarterbacks. Through three games, Daniel Jones, Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson have averaged 181.7 passing yards, 0.67 touchdown passes, 1.3 interceptions, 2.67 sacks and 57.8 passer rating while completing just 52.4 percent of their passes.

Safety Justin Simmons knows the defense cannot let up as Lamar Jackson and the Ravens prepare to head to Denver in Week 4.

"Takeaways are such momentum shifters," Simmons said. "That's what we need to focus on and continue to focus on. Just because it's been happening the first three weeks doesn't mean you've found your formula and it's going to carry over for the rest of the year. You've got to continually attack it. That's going to be our mindset, and we've just got to keep stacking the weeks."

This week, though, was worth celebrating. There were individual efforts — sacks by Von Miller, Alexander Johnson, Shelby Harris and Malik Reed and interceptions by Simmons and Caden Sterns — and collective successes. New York finished with just 162 total yards and lost nearly as many yards on sacks (41) as it gained in the running game (43).

"It's fun," Miller said. "We've just got to continue to stay in the moment. It's fun when you win, it's fun when you make plays. It's fun when everybody makes plays. You don't want just one guy making plays. It's fun when everybody gets sacks. It's when when everybody catches the ball and scores touchdowns and all of that stuff. … It's fun when everybody gets a turn to help out the team, and that's what everybody did today."

Perhaps most encouraging, the Broncos turned in the effort from the start. In Week 1, the Broncos allowed a 42-yard pass to Darius Slayton before Von Miller helped knock the Giants out of field-goal range. A week later, Trevor Lawrence went 5-of-7 on an opening drive for a touchdown. In Denver, Wilson found no such luck. The Broncos forced a quick punt and then held the Jets to three-and-outs on two of their next three possessions.

The Jets didn't have a play longer than 14 yards through the first two quarters, and they had just two plays longer than 20 yards the entire game. Those 22- and 23-yard gains came with the game well out of hand.

We just played good football, which is what we like to do," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "We're where we're supposed to be, and we're there doing it the right way and we've got 11 guys playing together. … And then you've got to make some great individual plays along the way."


The Broncos' task will soon get more difficult, as they welcome Jackson and a Ravens offense that averages north of 27 points and hung 37 on the Chiefs in Week 2.

On Sunday evening, though, the Broncos were left to celebrate their largest shutout win since they blanked the Jets 27-0 in 2005. And while the result was no longer in doubt when Sterns recorded his interception to seal the shutout, Simmons believes there's value in sending the Jets back to New York without a point.

"I feel like [shutouts] says a lot about your character as a defense," Simmons said. "Obviously, there is a certain point where — probability wise — the game is over. As a defense you [have to] go out there and … [say], 'Hey, this counts. Let's prep for when they go out there and need a field goal to win the game.' That's the mindset. That's what guys are preaching on the sideline. It's important. It's hard to get into that mindset, and that's why it's so important to think about because when it actually matters, that's going to kick in. That's going to win us some football games this year."

It certainly did on Sunday.