In this pass-happy NFL game of explosive offenses and aerial mastery, it’s still the defense that wins championships. As we head into Week 2 of the NFL season, here’s how the top five defenses in the league stack up.
1. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos welcomed the return of Von Miller but were without the services of his edge rush partner Bradley Chubb. That didn’t stop the Broncos from making life miserable for the New York Giants on Sunday.
They held Saquon Barkley to a measly 2.6 yards per carry, and Daniel Jones posted a 49.1 QBR. Miller looked like the most dominant edge rusher in the league that he’s been in the last decade with (two sacks and three tackles for loss).
Calling it opening Sunday for the NFL. The Denver Broncos will go 11-6 this season.
— Diogenes of Sinope (@ZASterk) September 12, 2021
It was a full-squad defensive effort from the Broncos. They will be looking to feast on rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Many supposed football experts gave the Pittsburgh Steelers slim odds against Buffalo. After falling behind 13-0 it looked as if the analysts were right. TJ Watt (fresh off his big $112 million extension) displayed leadership as he rallied the offensively-inept Steelers back for a come-from-behind road win. He led a ferocious D that sacked Bills signal caller Josh Allen three times and hit him eight times.
The @steelers defense was absolutely ferocious on Sunday.
Most pressures by a pass rusher in Week 1:
1. CAMERON HEYWARD 12
2. Arik Armstead 9
3. T.J. WATT 8
3. MELVIN INGRAM 8
3. Myles Garrett 8 pic.twitter.com/OPt1sRSlww
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) September 13, 2021
The secondary was sensational, holding Stefon Diggs to just (7.7) yards per catch. He never got behind them for a big one, which he did a few times in last year’s Bills win over the Steelers. Let’s face it, Mike Tomlin always rises in the face of adversity as a “Leader of Men.”
3. Tampa Bay Bucs
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers completely shut down the Dallas Cowboys running game, holding star tailback Zeke Elliott to just 33 yards on 11 carries. On the flip side, they looked extremely susceptible on the backend.
Tampa Bay Rush Defense – Last 2 Seasons
77.2 Rush Yds/Gm 1st
21 Rush TD 2nd
3.4 Yds/Rush 1st pic.twitter.com/2FEPev30xx
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) September 9, 2021
Dak Prescott had a field day and passed for 403 yards and three touchdowns. To the Bucs’ credit, they were missing starters. Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles will need to shore that up on Sunday against an Atlanta Falcons team that has explosive potential.
4. L.A. Rams
Led by Aaron Donald, the Los Angeles Rams came out and handled Andy Dalton’s Chicago Bears with ease on “Sunday Night Football.” Donald finished with just one sack, but his presence allowed for others to make plays. The Rams contained the passing attack of the Bears but allowed some ground and pound (134 yards rushing yards).
Andy Dalton did not complete a pass over 10 air yards tonight (0 for 2, INT).
Since the start of 2020, the #Rams defense has allowed the fewest TDs against passes traveling over 10 air yards (4), six fewer than any other defense in that span.#CHIvsLAR | #DaBears pic.twitter.com/eeARoqBVBs
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 13, 2021
There’s always room for improvement, and they can start on Sunday against the Colts, who are sure to keep it on the ground.
5. Washington Football Team
If the Washington Football Team couldn’t play defense they’d be awful. But even that side of the ball is subject to struggles so far this season. On opening day in D.C., in a very winnable 20-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, their third-down defense failed them.
The Washington Football Team’s defense the last two weeks pic.twitter.com/NXavt3UfKg
— Blake Garman (@FrostedBlakes34) September 17, 2021
They forced Chargers QB Herbert into two turnovers, but allowed his wideouts (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams) to combine for 182 receiving yards. On “Thursday Night Football” the WFT gave up 29 points to the listless Giants but made some key plays down the stretch to snatch a 30-29 win. Washington’s vaunted “fearsome four” frontline has to cause more havoc on offenses moving forward.