Broncos defense shines in Tebow's shadow

Lost in all the hoopla over Tim Tebow and his recent success is the performance of the suddenly dominant defense of the Denver Broncos over the last month.

The Broncos have been able to keep it close so that their unconventional quarterback can orchestrate all those comebacks.

Led by relentless rookie pass rusher Von Miller, the Broncos stymied Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets in a 17-13 win Thursday to climb to within a half-game of the Oakland Raiders in the middling AFC West race. The defense sacked Sanchez three times, held the Jets to 83 yards rushing and even provided some scoring help to a stagnant Broncos offense when cornerback Andre' Goodman picked off a Sanchez pass and darted 26 yards into the end zone.

Miller recorded a team-high 10 tackles, including nine solo and three for a loss. In addition to his 1.5 sacks, he forced a fumble near his goal line. 

But all of that, of course, was largely overshadowed by Tebow's late-game heroics as he led the Broncos on a 95-yard drive that culminated with his 20-yard TD run in the final minute.

"It's a good feeling, because I know if we're close, we've got a chance," Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey said. "He's going to keep grinding."

Not that long ago, the Broncos defense was as maligned as Tebow's mechanics. And now, the squad is steadily starting to gain a measure of respect -- just like Tebow. They're hardly paying attention.

"People are going to say what they're going to say. They're going to doubt our quarterback, doubt our defense, doubt everybody," Bailey said. "It doesn't matter. Whether they pat us on the back or kick us, it doesn't matter."

The Broncos took their lumps early on, especially in a loss to the Green Bay Packers, who piled up 49 points and more than 500 yards. Complicating matters were injuries to Bailey, Dumervil and linebacker D.J. Williams that sidelined them over much of the first month. Their return to health has helped Denver's defense improve.

With Dumervil full speed again after contending with nagging shoulder and ankle ailments, he and Miller are finally able to unleash a potent 1-2 punch that Miller has dubbed "Batman and Robin." The dynamic duo each had 1.5 sacks against the Jets.

That gives Miller 9.5 sacks this season, two shy of the Broncos rookie record set by Rulon Jones in 1980.

"(Miller) is very explosive. He does have long arms, does have great change of direction," Fox said. "He's got a lot of the God-given abilities that it takes to do what he does."

Notes: Broncos TE Daniel Fells (concussion) will go through tests next week in order to be cleared to play at San Diego a week from Sunday. ... Unwilling to risk a possible fine, Fox elected not to weigh in on safety Brian Dawkins' hit that drew a 15-yard flag Thursday night. Replays appeared to show Dawkins hitting Jets WR Plaxico Burress in the shoulder, not the head. "We have certain calls every week that we review. We look at the tape and we send them to the officiating department in New York," Fox said. Dawkins' hit, he said, "might be in our clump."

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