There’s no denying the Broncos defense took its share of vicious, high helmet-to-helmet hits on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the regular season opener. As for the notion that all of those plays were intentional, or the Denver D is instructed that way, it’s a criticism that Wade Phillips sharply denies.
The Broncos have been under the microscope this week for their treatment of Newton, and the team’s defensive coordinator finally had enough on Friday, explaining to Jeff Legwold for ESPN.com exactly why such statements are “ridiculous.”
“I think it’s ridiculous, we’ve never taught that,” Phillips said. “It’s never happened before. We actually — if there’s penalties that should’ve been called in the game, we get on our players even if they weren’t called. We get on our players because we don’t want penalties. Nobody wants penalties. Penalties can cost you games, so whether it’s a holding penalty or illegal check or any of those things, you’ve got to play the game penalty-free if you can, because it gives you a better chance to win.”
There’s little doubt that Phillips and the Broncos coaches are stressing their defense should avoid penalties. He’s right, they can be back breakers. And in looking at the hits of Newton that are in question, some do appear to have been accidental, so just because a flag wasn’t thrown doesn’t mean it was a dirty play.
Then again, watching some Broncos players launch themselves at the quarterback, even leaving their feet, one has to wonder what was done simply in the heat of the moment, and what was an intentional dirty play. It’s almost impossible to judge, but there are no questions some of the attempted “tackles” were obviously illegal, the form so poor their nature deserves to be called into question.
One thing everybody should be able to agree on is one player or one game, especially when improperly officiated, shouldn’t be enough to create the perception an entire unit is dirty. If the Broncos continue to go head hunting this season, that might be another story. For the most part, all they seem to be guilty of his playing a physical, aggressive style of defense.