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Miller leads Denver's defensive 180
Forget Tim Tebow. We tell you the real story in Denver.
Plus, we check out the dictionary to define “Norved,” look at the muddy AFC playoff picture, rip diva receivers and bag it, Del Rio!
Time for our Schein 9:
1. The monologue
The Denver Broncos are absolutely remarkable. The play has been remarkable. The finishes are epic. It’s all so incredibly impressive and stunning.
And none of the above is a reference to Tim Tebow.
Coach John Fox has turned the Broncos' defense totally around. Denver is suddenly a legit playoff contender. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Tebow. I campaigned for him to start in Denver. I am wowed by Tebow defying logic and football sense.
He looks like a third grader for three quarters and has the Midas touch late in games. Tebow’s magic late in games is special and, frankly, unprecedented, based upon his lack of success during the games as a whole. But make no mistake. The reason he is in position for these classic moments is the play of the Denver defense. As a result, Fox has emerged as a legit candidate for Coach of the Year.
Fox inherited a mess, a Denver team that Josh McDaniels ran into the ground with foolish and haphazard personnel decisions. McDaniels foolishly shooed off defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after the 2009 season. The Broncos' defense was an embarrassment last year. Plus, in addition to the lack of players, McDaniels solely picked guys to play in the 3-4 defense. Fox and new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen strictly run an aggressive 4-3.
Especially in a year in which offseason programs were truncated because of the work stoppage, I never thought the Broncos would turn it around on defense this quickly.
Since Tebow became the starter, the Broncos are 5-1. In those five victories, the Denver defense has played excellent ball.
On Sunday, Elvis Dumervil pressured Philip Rivers constantly and sacked him twice. Dumervil’s emergence is noteworthy. He has been dealing with a plethora of nagging injuries all year long. Dumervil’s entire season last year was stunted by a pectoral injury. And he was an outside linebacker in the 3-4 under McDaniels. He’s healthy now and thriving at end, a position he excelled at in college at Louisville.
And then there’s Von Miller.
Broncos general manager Brian Xanders explained to me after the draft that with all due respect to Marcell Dareus or anyone else, drafting Miller was a no-brainer. The pass rush was anemic last season. Miller is an absolute beast. He has surpassed Aldon Smith or anyone else for the No. 1 spot on my ballot for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Miller spooked the heck out of Mark Sanchez two weeks ago. He rattled Rivers on Sunday. Fox and Allen deserve a ton of credit for coaching up this rookie. Miller has a whopping 10.5 sacks this year, to go along with three forced fumbles. He’s beyond Rookie of the Year. We are talking about a candidate for first team All-Pro.
The venerable Champ Bailey might not be playing at his Hall of Fame level, but he remains a great player. Brian Dawkins isn’t the safety he was in Philadelphia, but there’s plenty of gas left in the tank.
And with the way Tebow plays quarterback, with his highly inaccurate ways before the end-of-the-game genius, this defense has a slim margin for error. Yet it responds to every challenge with physically dominant play. And just like the quarterback who thrives during “Tebow Time,” the Broncos' defense has been incredibly clutch late in games, too.
You know who really appreciates the effort of the Denver defense? That would be one Mr. Tim Tebow.
Tebow joined us on the SiriusXM Blitz on Monday and told us: “We have great players and leaders like Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins. We care a lot about each other. We are not going to be the first to flinch.”
Tebow deserves a lot of credit for giving this team, including the defense, confidence and believability.
The Broncos defy logic. They shouldn’t be winning these games if you watch Tebow for four quarters. Tebow, who acknowledged he must improve his footwork and throwing the ball, looks horrible for 3-1/2 quarters before he takes over.
The Tebow haters are flabbergasted. I swear I thought Merril Hoge was going to literally explode on live TV the other day. The naysayers are frustrated. They can’t figure how Tebow, Willis McGahee and this option, college attack are 5-1 since Tebow took over.
Here’s a suggestion. Look at the defense.
2. Amateur hour
Here’s what it would read in the dictionary:
Norved: (verb) To coach so cluelessly as to spoil dreams and seasons. Frequently used in sentences such as, “The 2010 San Diego Chargers got Norved in Cincinnati last year and failed to make the playoffs.” Also, “I got Norved in Week 1 of my survivor pool on Sept. 7, 2008, when Dante Rosario won the game for Carolina.”
On the flip side of the Broncos' defensive effort and Tebow leading Denver to another win, the Chargers, once again got Norved. How the heck does Norv Turner play so conservatively? How does he hold for a 53-yard field-goal attempt, which was, predictably, missed?
I firmly believe, as I wrote a few weeks ago, that you start the blame game in San Diego with personality challenged, overmatched general manager A.J. Smith. But Turner cost his team on Sunday. His team started 4-1. The Chargers are now losers of six straight and 4-7. It’s a total embarrassment, and it is time for a total makeover in San Diego. The fans deserve better.
3. Can’t make it up
Stevie Johnson scores a touchdown and decides to mock Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg, with an elaborate, classless, clueless, selfish celebration. Mimicking gun use is in poor taste and certainly a fineable offense. And the premeditated act cost the Bills 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, which kicker Dave Rayner botched, giving the Jets a short field to score, which they did.
And in the fourth quarter, Johnson dropped what would have been the go-ahead touchdown, with plenty of room to run. It’s not the first time Johnson dropped a pass to win the game. Remember the Pittsburgh debacle last year? What an absolute clown. He needs to grow up.
4. Backseat coaching
There’s a reason we were so irate last week when Jack Del Rio publicly blamed his offensive coordinator for calling plays. It’s like Del Rio has been trying to get fired.
Well, that’s the first successful thing he has done in years in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars, rightly, pulled the plug on Tuesday morning and fired their overmatched head coach.
Another week produced more garbage from Del Rio. Owner Wayne Weaver, rightly, had seen enough. He didn't use a timeout at the end because he asked offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter whether he needed one and the OC declined. Um, Jack? You are the head coach. Game management is under your job description. And throwing Koetter under the bus for the second straight week is inappropriate.
It, rightly, got Del Rio fired. Oh, and his inexplicable game of musical chairs with the quarterbacks through the years. And the Jaguars' consistent underachievement.
5. Crystal ball
I feel awful for the Houston Texans and my guy Matt Leinart. It is crazy that the Texans have now lost Leinart and Matt Schaub for the season. I still love the Texans' run game and their incredible defense, but the drop-off to T.J .Yates or Kellen Clemens at quarterback is significant. I can’t call the Texans the favorites in the AFC any more.
The New England Patriots drubbed the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. And New England’s defense showed improvement yet again. The Pittsburgh Steelers slept through a win against the Kansas City Chiefs. And the Baltimore Ravens' defense dominated the San Francisco 49ers.
I don’t trust Joe Flacco. And the Ravens have to prove they can beat the bad team, like the Cleveland Browns this weekend. Baltimore has lost to the Seahawks, Titans and Jaguars on the road this year. But this Baltimore defense is intense. Ray Rice is a star. If the Ravens can get the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the AFC, they are the Super Bowl favorites in the conference.
They are unbeatable at home. They swept Pittsburgh this year to get over that hurdle. And the Ravens would have confidence playing in New England.
6. I’m a genius/moron
On the flip side, picking Alex Smith on the road in Baltimore on Thanksgiving night was not one of my finer moments.
7. My Guys
• Shane Lechler: The Oakland Raiders' special teams were incredible and difference-making against the Chicago Bears. How about Lechler’s 80-yard bomb of a punt that still has Devin Hester backpedaling? I never saw Ray Guy. But I am a firm believer that special teamers have a place in the Hall of Fame. Lechler is the best I’ve ever seen.
• Drew Brees: It was as if he were playing against air on Monday night.
• Patrick Peterson: The rookie tied an NFL record with his fourth punt return for a touchdown this season. Cardinals running back Beanie Wells told us on SiriusXM NFL Radio: “He’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything so natural on the football field.”
• Andy Dalton/A.J. Green: It wasn't always pretty for the Bengals in the battle of Ohio, but the Cincy rookie combination hooked up on the biggest play of the game to give the Bengals their seventh win of the year.
• Titans offensive line: Chris Johnson had the best game of his 2011 season, with 190 rush yards. Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris told us on the SiriusXM blitz that he was very impressed by how the Titans' line blocked for Johnson.
8. My goats
• Ndamukong Suh: His stomp was classless. His half-hearted apology on Thursday was clueless. His suspension was deserved.
• Steve Spagnuolo: When your team changes owners, it isn't good to be the head coach of the most underachieving team in the NFL. Back-to-back home losses to the Cardinals and Seahawks will seal Spags' fate.
• Raheem Morris: Another brutal loss for the Bucs, who are 4-7, placing Morris squarely and fairly on the hot seat.
• DeSean Jackson: He quit on the Eagles on Sunday.
• Dwayne Bowe: It would have been nice for the Chiefs receiver to put forth an effort on his team's final offensive play.
9. Three nuggets of wisdom
• Forget about what New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez did for your fantasy team. Disregard the four touchdowns when assessing his day. He was highly inaccurate and could have had five passes intercepted. Heck, on the go-ahead drive, Burress bailed him out with a sensational, one-handed grab on a third down to keep hope alive. Sanchez must play better.
• Out of respect to “Coughlin time,” we will start the “Coughlin watch” five minutes ahead of schedule.
• The Washington Redskins have had a miserable season. They can't even win correctly. Text from my old friend Lou: "Can't believe we beat Seattle. We lost the Matt Barkley bowl!!"
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