ALL-PRO VOT­ING IRKS DEN­VER SEC­ONDARY

The Denver Post - - NFL SUNDAY - By Troy E. Renck, The Den­ver Post Troy E. Renck: trenck@ den­ver­post.com or @troyrenck

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.”

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