ALL-PRO VOTING IRKS DENVER SECONDARY
Safety T.J. Ward is tired of the lack of respect, tired of the omissions. Cornerback Aqib Talib is tired of arguing the Denver defense’s merits — OK, when he’s on a roll, he never grows weary of making a point — tired of lacking recognition.
Friday, the Broncos’ secondary began debating the topic, and wondering aloud about its allpro snubs, echoing defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ complaints moments earlier. How is it a team that leads the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed per game, intercepts 14 passes and has three pick-six plays continues to escape praise?
Cornerback Chris Harris made the all-pro second team. No one else in the secondary made allpro. With respect to the voters, that is ridiculous. Or “very suspect,” as Harris put it.
Josh Norman deserves praise. The Carolina cornerback locks down receivers and practically makes opponents sob openly. Yet, he benefits from playing primarily cover-two zone.
Arizona’s Patrick Peterson is an athletic wonder. He embraces the challenge of playing against No. 1 receivers. Terrific season? Yes. All-pro first team? Nope.
Talib was better. He made plays that won games and his biggest mistake of the season — vs. San Diego last week — wasn’t his fault as the Broncos were in zone. Talib posted three interceptions. He took two, in his words, “to the crib.” His first pick-six play established the identity of this Denver defense, securing the season-opening win over the Ravens. Without his second pick-six play, the Broncos never make it to overtime and beat the Browns. And his other interception proved the catalytic moment in Denver’s improbable Week 2 win at Kansas City.
Last season, miscast in zone-heavy coverage, Talib was inconsistent. Playing almost exclusively man-to-man coverage this season, he stares into the face of stars and cackles. He made so few mistakes, they are easy to remember. His aggression brings risks. But the reward is far greater — huge plays in big moments.
No other cornerback is more versatile than Harris. He can play slot receivers, and cover top guys on the outside. Every defense is made better by Harris’ unique skill set. He should have made the all-pro first team. He allowed only two touchdowns this season, both at Pittsburgh. Want it done well? Point him in the direction, and he gets it done.
Talib deserved to be on the all-pro second team.
Denver players were on boil over the all-pro voting. So was Phillips. “They take it personal,” Phillips said.
But the snub can serve a greater purpose. The Broncos have played their best when they have been slighted the most. Going into the Green Bay game, they were the worst 6-0 team in NFL history. They earboxed Green Bay. When the undefeated Patriots arrived, the Broncos were viewed as pushovers. The Broncos won in overtime.
Denver’s offensive inconsistency makes it capable of losing to anyone. But its defense gives it a realistic chance of beating any AFC team. And that’s why the all-pro omissions can only help. The Broncos want to be mentioned in the conversation with great defenses of recent memory, such as the 2000 Ravens and 2013 Seahawks. Stats can only go so far. A title ring wins every argument.
“It’s a shock we didn’t have more all-pros,” safety Darian Stewart said. “But if we win the ’chip, that’s all that matters.”