Definitely not what we wanted to hear on the verge of a playoff run: Von Miller out with a torn ACL. However, I’m an optimist, a “glass half-full” type of Broncos fan. Like the team, this can’t be allowed to be a cause for fear, negativity, and depression as we are about to begin the playoffs. And it certainly can’t be an excuse; “Next man UP!”, as John Fox likes to say.
No team, regardless of sport, has gone through the season without injuries, controversies, ups and downs, and issues and problems to overcome. That’s why at the end of the season, the championship teams are seen hoisting their trophies and overcome with emotion, tears streaming down their faces, aware of all they had to endure to finally get to the point that every team sets out to do: be crowned the champions. It’s hard to accomplish! Tough teams figure out just how to still attain the ultimate goal.
No AFC contender we will face is without weaknesses or injuries of their own to deal with. The fact is, a championship team is built with a good roster, talented depth behind the starters for this very reason. To be real about the subject, Von Miller has not played up to his pro bowl level of the past 2 seasons. He has shown those flashes, but also disappeared at times during games. But the very fact that he is out there on the field is cause for concern for any opposing offense, and rightfully so. However, this defense has the psychological advantage of knowing how to play, and how to win, without him. He missed the first 6 games of the season, and save for the Dallas game, the defense actually averaged allowing nearly 5 points less per game then than they did after he returned. No blame on him, just stating a fact.
When a starter goes out, it can be a motivator for each and every player still on the field to pick up their own game, and being a team game, this is where chemistry and cohesion can come out. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, as the saying goes. A star goes out, the others get their chance to shine.
Von Miller is done, joining Kevin Vickerson on the sidelines for the duration of the season and post-season. Very unfortunate losses. The positive side is that there is still one game plus a bye-week before we really heat things up for the playoffs; time for the defense to once again adjust. The linebacking corps has done it before and it can do it again. Nate Irving showed himself very well in the 6 games Miller missed, and will be leaned upon again. Danny Trevathan is arguably having the best season of anyone on defense. Whether Wesley Woodyard is still nursing an injury, being “saved” for the playoffs, in Del Rio’s doghouse, or the defense is experimenting with various personnel packages is anyone’s guess, but needless to say, we will need him back and in his usual outstanding form for the playoffs. We have good depth, and a lot of players have come in during rotational packages. Plus, young guys have been making impacts elsewhere on the defense lately themselves: Rookie 1st-rounder Sylvester Williams has gotten sacks each of the last 2 weeks, and had 5 solo tackles including 3 TFL yesterday. Malik Jackson, and Mitch Unrein are making plays of impact as well. We need Derek Wolfe back on the D-line, but it was great to see Champ Bailey running with the 1′s and doing well, smiling on the field and making his presence known in the D-backfield. Big lift there for that leadership he provides!
Adversity has happened to this team a lot lately, but they keep responding. This is yet another obstacle, another motivator, but one that a true champion will be able to overcome. Let’s clink our half-full glasses of optimism together and cheer the Broncos onto the path to the Superbowl!