The Denver Broncos had one of the best offenses in NFL history just a couple of seasons ago, but make no mistake: this year, they’re winning with defense.
Denver (4-0) leads the league in total defense (275.5 yards per game) and is second in scoring defense (17.3 points per game). The Broncos are also first in sacks (18) and fourth in turnover differential (+5).
What’s it like playing for such a talented unit?
“Man, it’s very exciting,” Broncos second-year linebacker Corey Nelson said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Being on that side of the ball with Hall of Famers like DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward – it’s an amazing feeling to play with those guys. It’s exciting. Every day in practice – and even in the games – it’s an exciting time and it’s an exciting moment when we’re all out there together.”
Denver’s defense is as deep as any in football. Twenty different Broncos took at least two defensive snaps against the Lions. Nineteen did so against Minnesota.
“Everybody helps one another out,” Nelson said. “We’re all just as good a the next person. I think that’s what makes a defense good – when you have backups that can come in and the defense (doesn’t) miss a beat. And we have that. We have guys that can come in at any time and make just as many plays as the starter does. I think that’s what makes us a great defense.”
Nelson got the first sack of his career against the Vikings, wrapping up Teddy Bridgewater en route to a 23-20 win this past Sunday.
“Honestly, I didn’t even think nothing of it,” the 23-year-old Nelson said, laughing. “I didn’t even think it was a sack, which is crazy. But afterward, I was like, ‘Wow, I came in and I contributed a big part to us winning that game by getting that sack.’ It just felt great. Being able to sit at home on that Monday night after the game, I just reflected and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s an amazing thing. Not many people can say they’ve gotten a sack in the NFL.’ It’s hard nowadays because everybody’s so good, especially the linemen and the way they do their schemes. So I was just honored and I was just blown away and amazed at how far I came as a player to be able to do that.”
While Denver’s defense got a lot of credit during the first month of the season – and deservedly so – the offense is still run by arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. For Nelson, a seventh-round pick in 2014, playing with Peyton Manning almost doesn’t seem real.
“It’s amazing,” said Nelson, a kid in a candy store. “It’s nothing like it. Being able to play with a Hall of Famer, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you know millions of people would dream of doing. It’s an honor. I actually feel honored to be able to play with someone as great as him.”
Nelson, who went to Oklahoma, said that he and Manning chatted about the Oklahoma/Tennessee game a couple of weeks back, which the Sooners won, 31-24, on Sept. 12.
Talking shop with a guy he grew up watching? Nelson couldn’t believe it.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “You never now what can happen. I can honestly say I’m humbled and honored to be a part of his team.”