Fresh off a five-sack day in Cincinnati, the Denver Broncos are now tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks with 24.
Broncos linebacker Von Miller, after three sacks Sunday, is tied for second in the league with nine. Elvis Dumervil is among several players tied for 16th with six sacks.
Miller and Dumvervil are hard-chargers — they have 62.5 percent of the Broncos' sacks this season.
"That's my job, it's what I do," Dumervil said. "It's a big part of the defense and with Von we can come at a quarterback a lot of different ways in this scheme. We like to get the quarterback."
Sunday in Carolina, however, they can't like it too much.
The Broncos will face Panthers' second-year quarterback Cam Newton, who
is second among all QBs in rushing behind Washington rookie Robert Griffin III.
Newton is big — 6-foot-5, 245 pounds — as in bigger than Miller (6-3, 237) or any of the other Broncos linebacker.
The Broncos also have a history with Newton. Denver had the No. 2 pick in hand for the 2011 draft, and Newton was one of the top players on the board. So the Broncos gave him the full work-up, including a pro day visit.
But the Panthers took Newton with the No. 1 pick that year, so the Broncos took Miller at No. 2 and both players went on to win rookie of the year honors, Newton on offense, Miller on defense.
On Newton, Broncos coach John Fox said:
"He's a terrific talent. He's big, strong, fast, he's got a very strong arm. I think that was indicative of the kind of rookie season he had a year ago."
The Panthers have cocooned Newton in a playbook tailored for his ability to both run and throw on the run, including the kind of read-option attack the Broncos used last season with The Golden Calf of Bristol behind center.
But it is the Panthers' variation on the read-option that is the rub for Miller and Dumervil.
The Broncos' option attack with The Golden Calf of Bristol last season concentrated the bulk of the
work right over the center — the Broncos ran 50 percent of their rushing attempts last season over center.
But the Panthers are more willing to attack the edges.Carolina has averaged more than 7.0 yards per carry around both the left and right ends this season.
And the Panthers haven't averaged more than 4.04 yards per carry over any other spot across the offensive front, including just 1.78 yards per carry over the left tackle and 2.6 yards per carry over the right tackle.
That puts Dumervil, and often Miller, in the position of containment on both early downs as well as in passing situations. On early downs, they'll have to play with discipline, especially when Newton attacks out of the option.
The Broncos last season took advantage of opposing defenses that simply didn't play sound assignment football against an option attack. Defenses often had multiple players attack The Golden Calf of Bristol and leave the pitch man free, or they got too far upfield and let The Golden Calf of Bristol have an escape lane to the inside.
Teams did improve as the season went on and there was more and more video to watch, but the lesson is the same for the Broncos this time around.
In his rookie year, offenses often lured Miller up the field and worked plays to the space left behind. So much so, the Broncos pulled Miller from the lineup at times.
This season has been far different. Miller has shown himself to be a far more well-rounded player, who is consistently messing with offensive gameplans.
But if Miller and Dumervil lose the edge too often Sunday, the Broncos will lose the game.
ATTENTION JORDAN GROSS AND THE O LINEMAN. These guys are going to look to play big for their guy Foxy on Sunday. Will we keep them off our QB?