The Broncos defense tightropes and often crosses the line between dirty and clean. The season opener Thursday night against Carolina was the perfect example as Broncos’ defensive players initiated helmet-to-helmet contact with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on at least four occasions, Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post reports.
Broncos defenders said Friday they take pride in their 1-0 record and don’t really care who is judging their style of play. Denver coach Gary Kubiak takes pride in the fire and intensity his defense brings.
“We play hard. We talk about playing hard all the time,” Kubiak said. “That was a challenge – when you play that guy and he is such a great player. I mean, he’s a top player in football – they are designed runs for him. You better tackle him like a back. You better treat him that way or you’re going to have a long night as a defensive football team.”
The most egregious hit, and the only one that drew a personal foul penalty, was delivered by Broncos safety Darian Stewart with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter. Stewart saw a sack in sight and launched at Newton, who braced inward for contact, lowering his body position slightly. Stewart landed a hard helmet-to-helmet head shot that left Newton sprawling on the ground, dazed.
“It was just me being aggressive. He lowered his head at the last moment. It was nothing I could really do about that at that point,” Stewart said. “I’ve been getting a lot of hell for that. I’m not going to stop being aggressive. I wasn’t sure if he was running it or what he was doing? I’m always thinking he’s running it with a player like that. So I was just trying to be aggressive and make him feel me.”
Stewart said he expects to be fined for the hit because nearly every player who delivers a helmet-to-helmet hit on a quarterback is fined, but he won’t change his style of play except to try to avoid the helmet. Neither will linebacker Brandon Marshall, who delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit to Newton in the third quarter. His hit wasn’t called a penalty, but USA Today reported that the league office determined it a missed call.
“It’s tough, man. The guy is a big defensive end playing quarterback. What are we supposed to do? We can hit him in the legs sometimes, but his legs are strong,” Marshall said. “We’re going to treat him like a running back. You have to hit him.”
“Everybody knows what type of player Cam is – he’s the league MVP. There’s only one way to stop him, it’s being physical with him and the physicality you bring to him will affect everything,” Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray said. “In the second half, he didn’t run as much because we were hitting him. You don’t do that – he’s going to run all over teams and be Superman the whole game. That’s how you gotta play. That’s what we do here.”
“We hear (what) everybody says about us being dirty, but we’re not going to stop being aggressive,” Stewart said. “That’s what we try to bring every week to make everybody fear us. That’s why we were No.1 last year. We were physical and that’s what we want to do this year.”
Kubiak said it was a physical game by both teams.
“How much there was (illegal contact to the head), I disagree with that. I saw two plays where he left the pocket where there were big collisions. There were a lot of collisions in the game,” Kubiak said. “We were playing hard. They were playing hard. They knocked the heck out of us a lot too. So we’ll see what the league says.”
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