The lights were bright and the entire country was watching Sunday Night Football. With that pressure on, the Denver Broncos defense showed up and showed up. Specifically, the edge rushing of Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory and the sideline-to-sideline patrolling of the returning staring inside linebacker Josey Jewell. It wasn’t pretty, but the defense proved they were the reason for the Broncos Week 3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, 11-10.
Broncos Defense Pulls Through, Stifles the San Francisco 49ers
Josey Jewell Is Back and Better Than Ever
The returning Josey Jewell made his presence felt early and often in the game. It looks like the gamble the Broncos made during the offseason to re-sign an injured Jewell has paid off; even if it’s at least for his first game back. Jewell finished with nine total tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery. Those nine tackles already have vaulted Jewell into seventh on the team, after only one game. He’s relentless. But, even more than the stats, Jewell gives this calming presence for the linebackers that helps them settle down and creates from plays.
Jewell being back on the field also allowed linebacker Alex Singleton, who was covering for Jewell while he was out, to make some great plays on kickoffs and punts. That sort of impact on special teams goes to show the kind of depth the Broncos have and the depth that can carry them forward in a tough AFC West in 2022.
Gregory and Chubb Are All Elite
But it wasn’t just Jewell: the two defensive ends, Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory could very much be the best pass-rushing duo in the league. Gregory has earned every single penny he was paid in the off-season when he has stolen away from the Dallas Cowboys.
Much of what Gregory does for this defense doesn’t show up on the stat line. He was relentless in the backfield all night, as Garoppolo will no doubt have nightmares about the former Cornhusker. There was a specific play in the third quarter where Gregory nearly caused a safety as he was held just outside of the goal line. Gregory finished the game with three tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss.
Highest graded Broncos in Week 3 win vs 49ers:
🥇 Randy Gregory – 89.7
🥈 Mike Purcell – 88.6
🥉 Jonas Griffith – 82.4
4️⃣ Kareem Jackson – 77.0
5️⃣ Patrick Surtain II – 73.7 pic.twitter.com/3uqwqyNAs8
— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) September 26, 2022
Gregory was the highest-rated PFF player in the win versus the 49ers. Also, according to Nick Kosmider from The Athletic, Gregory is fifth in the league on quarterback pressures with 24.1%. He is also the pass rusher who has had the most snaps amongst eligible players with 58. Gregory is playing the best ball of his career.
Randy Gregory is now fifth in the NFL in pressure rate (24.1 percent, per TruMedia) among players with at least 15 pass-rush snaps. And his 58 pass-rush snaps are by far the most among that group. Has been a home run addition to this point.
— Nick Kosmider (@NickKosmider) September 26, 2022
Just when you think that it might be easier to target the other side, Chubb has also been playing the best football of his career. Chubb was a heel away from having a game-deciding pick-six of his own. Chubb leads the Broncos and is eight in the NFL with 3.0 sacks in three games. He’s on pace to break his personal best of 12.0 sacks he achieved in his rookie campaign back in 2018. Chubb had a huge sack at the end of the game with 1:36 left when the 49ers were looking to capitalize on stopping the Broncos at midfield.
It just seems as though Gregory and Chubb are always there when a big play is needed.
After the Sunday Night game, the Broncos defense has no doubt made an impression on the rest of the NFL. The Broncos allowed the 49ers to only gain 267 total yards. 179 of those through the air and 88 rushing. On an offense that has Deebo Samuel, consider that a win. Speaking of Samuel, after having a decent first half with a few chunk plays, Samuel was held in check in the second half of the game and was held to 73 yards on eight targets. The next leading receiver was Brandon Aiyuk for 39 yards on eight targets and a very sketchy touchdown that opened up the game.
As a whole, the defense finished the game with four sacks, an interception, two fumble recoveries, and a safety. The best defensive stat of the night is that the Broncos didn’t allow the 49ers to convert on a third down until the end of the game. They went 1/10, a crisp 10% conversation rate.
Denver has now only allowed one down in 10 quarters, and only three all season. Entering Monday, the Broncos are tied for secind with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in points allowed with 36. Unless the Cowboys and Giants pitch shutouts, the Broncos will hold that position entering Week 3.
No matter how you cut it, the Broncos have a dominant defense. And, speaking of dominant defenders…
Patrick Surtain did not allow a single completion while targeting him. He is now only allowed 45 yards on 14 targets. That’s 3.2 yards a reception. The definition of a shutdown corner.
Not a single pass was caught on Patrick Surtain tonight.
— Denver Broncos 365 (@DailyBroncos) September 26, 2022
The talent and production for the offense have shown glimpses of being there, no matter how small that glimpse is. The way the defense has been playing will give the Broncos offense time to figure it out. While not an ideal system and not one that can be sustained for very long, if the pieces can pop together like many believe they can, the defense’s job will become easier and still be just as effective. An emotional win like this against the 49ers can be the turning point for the offense. The Denver defense will continue to pull through as long as they stay healthy.
While the season has been a test in cardiac conditioning for many Broncos fans, the defense has given Broncos Country a reason to believe in the playoffs. While there have not been many 11-10 games in NFL history (only two to be exact), the only other team who won an 11-10 game went on to win the Super Bowl. Denver fans, do what you want to with this stat.