Much attention was given to the hits that Denver Broncos defenders were leveling on Carolina Panthers’ star Cam Newton after the NFL’s opening game.
Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall objects the idea that his team is dirty.
“We’re not dirty,” Marshall said, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post. “When I think of dirty, I think of stepping on somebody’s ankle at the bottom of a pile (or) twisting somebody around. Stuff like that. We just play hard, man. We hit hard. We play fast. We play faster than any defense in the league. Just because we hit Cam in the head a couple of times, that doesn’t make us dirty. Look at some of the dirty plays in the league. There are a lot of dirty players, and that’s not our M.O.”
Unless it’s Ric Flair doing the talking, no player is going to willingly call himself or his team dirty. So, this kind of talk is to be expected from Marshall and the Broncos.
Indeed, Marshall is partially right. The Denver does have a fast and the faster you move, the harder you’re going to hit. The Broncos are the NFL’s hard-hitting defense. In fact, Denver has the NFL’s best defense, and until proven otherwise we can say it’s the best by a sizable margin.
It’s also the NFL’s dirtiest defense.
For Marshall to characterize what happened Thursday as a couple of plays is a gross understatement. The Broncos spent much of the second half repeatedly launching themselves at the head of Newton. It’s on the tape. When someone sees that stuff, it’s hard to not come away with the idea that Denver simply had that in its game plan.
Newton’s agent, Bus Cook, compared it to Brett Favre and the Saints’ Boutygate game (more on that here).
It would also be making a mistake to label the Broncos as “dirty” based solely on Thursday’s game against Carolina — they have a history.
Aqib Talib once engaged in a fight with Steve Smith that was centered around Talib locking on to Smith’s ankles well after the play was over. Just last season — while with the Broncos — Talib got in the middle of an altercation between Dwayne Allen and teammate Von Miller by poking Allen in the eye.
If jumping into an altercation between two other people to poke someone in the eye isn’t dirty, then what is?
Another member of the Denver secondary was also ejected from a game last season. As the Kansas City Chiefs were scoring a late touchdown against the Broncos, T.J. Ward responded to a Jeremy Maclin block by throwing a punch at the receiver. That sure seems pretty dirty.
This is something that goes well beyond Denver just hitting a few players hard, or even just after the whistle. The Broncos repeatedly step over the line separating hard play and dirty play.
Maybe Marshall is right, though. Maybe Denver doesn’t have a dirty defense. If that’s the case, it sure does a good job playing one on TV.