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Opposing offenses try to keep Von Miller, Broncos defense in check

Four of Von Miller's five sacks this season have come in the fourth quarter. Rich Gabrielson/Icon Sportswire

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Not that he could change it, but just about the only time Von Miller’s social media game is not next-level is when he’s actually going about the business of what enabled him to reel in fame and fortune in the first place.

But if Miller were to stop, at any point, in any of his attempts to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, to take one of his ubiquitous selfies, there would be plenty of blockers in the frame with him.

Because so far this season, Miller has gotten a lot of attention. As in, repeated double- and triple-teams by offenses designed to go away from him whenever possible.

“That’s OK, it’s part of it,’’ Miller said. “My thing is, rush the passer, and I have to find a way to do it no matter how many blockers are in front of me. Steph Curry doesn’t complain about double teams, he finds a way to get the shot off. So I’ll just keep rushing and let them try to deal with everybody else and make some opportunities too.’’

Despite attention on the level of a full-scale tax audit, Miller leads the league in sacks with five and the Denver Broncos are second in the league with 12 sacks. And just three games in, a pattern has developed.

In an attempt to keep Miller in check, offenses keep plenty of blockers in and send fewer receivers into patterns. They then find it a tough go against the Broncos’ accomplished secondary and eventually, especially if the Broncos get the lead, decide to open things up to try to kickstart things. And then the mayhem really starts.

“That’s the way we look at it,’’ cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “We get the lead or the offense thinks it’s time to throw the ball down the field, then we think it’s sack and interception time. It’s over for them, that’s how we look at it.’’

As a result, the fourth-quarter carnage the Broncos have inflicted, when offenses have been forced to open it up a bit, is substantial. Four of Miller’s five sacks and six of the Broncos' 12 overall have come in the fourth quarter, as have all three of the Broncos’ interceptions.

And the Broncos’ two defensive touchdowns? Yes, both in the fourth quarter.

“That’s it,’’ Miller said. “We keep coming. The whole game matters. Sometimes plays or series or whatever don’t go how you want, but it’s the whole game. We keep coming, they have to make choices if we do what we’re supposed to do.’’

This past Sunday, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton came into the game leading the league in passing yards. But faced with the Broncos defense, the Bengals threw the ball eight times in the first half, compared with 18 run plays.

The Bengals even had a 17-16 lead early in the fourth quarter, but when the Broncos put together a 13-play, 82-yard touchdown drive on their first possession of the quarter, the Bengals had to try to open things up. Their first possession after the Broncos took the lead was a three-and-out. Their next possession ended with an interception, and then Dalton was sacked twice in their final possession of the game.

“I think it was obvious that they were trying to keep Von off of their quarterback,’’ Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “... They were committed to the run, chipping us and those types of things. At the end of the day, we get four sacks out of our two outside guys between Shane [Ray] and Von. I think that was their plan going into it, but we hung in there. They key was us coming back in the second half and stopping the run. If we don’t stop it, we’re probably in for a long day.’’

“Eventually, we got them in a position where we could start rushing,’’ said Ray, who had three sacks in the game, “and we were able to capitalize on it.’’

Miller says he isn’t frustrated, and doesn’t plan to be, with what he has seen from opposing offenses. Because the Broncos’ defense knows the questions an offense faces, and they like the answers.

“Even if you have a scheme, you still have to beat us one-on-one,’’ said safety T.J. Ward. “You have to block Von, you have to get open on Chris and Aqib [Talib]. You have to get open on me. You have to stop the blitz and you have to protect. There is a lot of things. It’s tough, but that’s why we pride ourselves.’’