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Von Miler, Broncos must pack defense to pull off upset

Posted at 1:45 PM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 15:59:36-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller makes everyone else invisible. He dominates tackles, wrangles quarterbacks and crushes teammates in Connect 4 games.

"He cheated," linebacker Todd Davis said after losing a locker room grudge match of Connect 4. "He had help."

Yeah, it's called genetics and, over the last four years, a relentless work ethic. Miller enters Sunday's game with an NFL-best four sacks. For fun, he projects to 32 sacks for the season. He won't reach that total. But 20 should not be out of the question given his ability to anticipate blocking schemes and move defenders with pure strength. 

Last Sunday, he shoved Donald Penn to the ground with a push, leaving Oakland's right tackle a wobbly mess as Miller raced around for a tackle. Miller netted one sack against Oakland, with another erased by penalty. Teams continue to chip Miller more than Doritos, but a stout inside rush from Derek Wolfe and Bradley Chubb's presence have created more open lanes for Miller. 

He has reached star status with his career on a Hall of Fame arc. In Week 1, Russell Wilson compared him to Kobe Bryant. Thursday, Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale name-dropped LeBron James.

"(Miller's) motor and athleticism are what stand out. He’s a very productive guy no matter what you do to try to stop him. It’s like playing LeBron, and that’s what I told the guys about A.J. Green. Every now and then, LeBron is going to clear the lane and go dunk. Those types of players do that," Martindale said. "I think that’s the same thing with Von on the defensive side of it. You always have to account for him, because he’s that special of a player.”

For the first time this season, the Broncos are not expected to win. They are 4.5-point underdogs, traced to Baltimore's history of home success and Denver's awful 1-7 mark in visiting parks last season. 

"We have a better offense, and our special teams are way better this year," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "But if we are going to win, we have to pack our defense."

For all of Miller's exploits -- and the resume is thicker than "The Iliad and The Odyssey" -- the Ravens represent an anomaly as one of three teams he has never registered a sack against, joining the Lions and Saints. It's a two-game sample size. But a bagel is not something Miller is used to. 

In Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, Miller has a standing target. Unlike Oakland's Derek Carr, whose quick release makes sacks difficult, Flacco will hold onto the ball.

"(Miller) is very disruptive, but that’s going to be taken care of by the guys up front, our backs, everybody. It’s all hands on deck," Flacco said.

Flacco has been sacked five times this season, and struggled with Cincinnati's pressure in a road loss. 

"We always have to know where 58 is. But it's not just 58 -- 55 (Bradley Chubb) is pretty good, too," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They have four legit pass rushers who are edge pass rushers, and they put them all out there at the same time, at times. All that being said, it comes back to ‘58.’ We’ll have a plan for him. Some of these teams are blocking him one-on-one, and they’re doing it, most of the time, with success, but then, all of a sudden he wrecks the play. So, that’s the problem. We’re not divulging the plan. We have a plan."

Harbaugh finished his explanation by crossing his fingers to laughter. Miller is capable of throwing Ragu on any blueprint. And for the Broncos to remain undefeated, they need their best player to leave an indelible footprint on Baltimore's chest.


Quarterback Case Keenum (sore knee) returned to practice Thursday, as expected. Right tackle Jared Veldheer (concussion) was at practice, a good sign that he is on the path to playing Sunday. Cornerback Adam Jones (quad) and inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (knee) were not at practice. Tramaine Brock replaces Jones in the secondary, and rookie Isaac Yiadom will be active if Jones can't go. Marshall's replacement is Josey Jewell. He played 13 snaps last week. ... It will be interesting to see if the Broncos put Lindsay on punt return if Jones is out. Lindsay sits second on the depth chart, but his special teams duties should begin to shrink given his involvement in the offense. He is the NFL's third-leading rusher. "Lindsay is a rocket! I think he runs 4.3, the kid from Colorado. You always have to be aware. Your antennae go up when he’s in the game," Martindale said. 

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