Dal­las-Den­ver

Bron­cos’ Von Miller matches up against great Cow­boys line

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY ARNIE STA­PLE­TON

DEN­VER — Von Miller can’t wait to bust out some of his new sack dances like the “Sexy T-Rex” he in­tro­duced af­ter dump­ing Aaron Rodgers in the pre­sea­son.

Trou­ble is, Miller has now gone with­out a sack for a ca­reer-long five con­sec­u­tive reg­u­lar-sea­son games.

So, like Miller, you’ll just have to imag­ine his new moves.

The Charg­ers chose to dou­ble­and triple-team Miller in their 24-21 loss to the Bron­cos in the opener, keep­ing him from get­ting to Philip Rivers but se­verely lim­it­ing their of­fen­sive op­tions. They didn’t top 100 yards pass­ing un­til the fourth quar­ter.

Miller’s task gets no eas­ier against the Cow­boys (1-0) and ter­rific tack­les Ty­ron Smith and La’el Collins, part of what Miller calls “an all-star of­fen­sive line” pro­tect­ing Dak Prescott, who led Dal­las to a 19-3 win over the Gi­ants in their opener.

“They’re re­ally the tone-set­ters on our foot­ball team,” said Dal­las tight end Ja­son Wit­ten. “They’re the hard­est-work­ing group on the team … They just fight. They’re al­ways last shov­ing. They’re play­ing to the whis­tle.”

Miller’s an All-Pro him­self, and de­spite his sack­less streak he still ranks fourth in NFL his­tory with .83 sacks per game. He’s also become one of the best out­side lineback­ers play­ing the run.

So he’s the ful­crum of any de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor’s

blueprints.

“He’s one of the best play­ers in the league,” said Cow­boys coach Ja­son Garrett. “He is just fan­tas­tic in ev­ery as­pect of the game. He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s ex­plo­sive. He’s got great in­stincts for rush­ing the passer. He’s so dis­rup­tive and he makes play af­ter play af­ter play each week. And he’s get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion from op­pos­ing of­fenses, so we have a real re­spect for him.”

Bron­cos coach Vance Joseph said Miller is putting his im­print on games even with­out get­ting his hands on the quar­ter­back. He noted the Charg­ers con­verted just 25 per­cent on third downs: “They were 3 of 12 … so who cares? It’s team foot­ball. So, if they’re go­ing to take Von away, we’ve got ways to win third downs and win se­cond downs. That’s what’s im­por­tant, not sacks.”

Miller isn’t wor­ried about his dearth of sacks, fig­ur­ing they’ll come in bunches, like his men­tor, Elvis Dumervil, used to say. Plus, he knows he can wreck an of­fen­sive game plan in other ways. So, no, he isn’t press­ing.

“I’ve been play­ing great,” Miller said. “We’ve been play­ing great as a de­fense. … I’m on it. The sacks are go­ing to come.”

Other sub­plots as the Cow­boys

seek their first win over Den­ver since 1995:

EL­LIOTT’S EX­PLOITS: Ezekiel El­liott has 100 or more scrimmage yards in 12 of 16 ca­reer games, in­clud­ing 140 against the Gi­ants in the opener. The Bron­cos al­lowed Melvin Gor­don to gain just 33 yards on 17 tries af­ter he scam­pered for 21 yards on his first carry.

RECORD BREAKER: Wit­ten is set to break Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ club record by play­ing in his 225th game to­day. SUS­PECT SEC­ONDARY?

Em­manuel San­ders had just three catches for 26 yards in Week 1, but the Cow­boys’ sec­ondary could be the setup for a big bounce-back. The Cow­boys lost cor­ner­backs Bran­don Carr and Mor­ris Clai­borne in free agency, along with safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wil­cox.

CB Or­lando Scan­drick started along­side new­comer Nolan Car­roll against the Gi­ants. Scan­drick got hurt, lead­ing to sig­nif­i­cant snaps for Chi­dobe Awuzie, a rookie from Colorado.

GO-TO GUYS: Cow­boys re­ceiver Dez Bryant has an NFLhigh 61 ca­reer TDs since en­ter­ing the league in 2010. Bron­cos re­ceiver De­mary­ius Thomas has 52 ca­reer TDs.

Each has 11 TD catches since sign­ing sim­i­lar five-year, $70 mil­lion deals two sum­mers ago.

Von Miller La’el Collins Ty­ron Smith

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