Broncos need to make teams pay for selling out to stop Von Miller

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos' opponents have figured out how to stop Von Miller.

Since his three-sack performance in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Miller has one sack in four games combined and none in the past three contests. Those are numbers neither the Broncos nor Miller expected to see five weeks into the season.

"So Von's been, obviously, being chipped, being bumped the entire football game," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "He's obviously frustrated; when there's double chip, there's not much we can do to help Von, other than play coverage and win the down and make them pay for doing that. When they're chipping Von, that's tough ... you have to make them pay by winning coverage."

The only ones paying right now are the Broncos. In Sunday's defensive cave-in, a 34-16 loss at the New York Jets, Miller finished with five tackles and one tackle for loss. But he didn't have a sack or create a turnover -- and that's minimizing his impact.

No play may better illustrate the difference between the current reality and how the Broncos had hoped things would go better than Sam Darnold's 76-yard touchdown throw on third-and-9 in the second quarter. The Broncos were in their favorite pass-rush package -- a six-defensive back look, with Miller across from the opposing right tackle (Brandon Shell).

It was once a formation that devastated offenses, allowing players to swarm for sacks and force punts. Instead, in this instance, Jets tight end Eric Tomlinson, a 263-pounder, was lined up just off the line of scrimmage on Shell's side, and the Jets had another tight end across from Bradley Chubb.

Tomlinson engaged Miller at the snap, and as Miller began to push Tomlinson into Darnold's personal space, Shell essentially launched himself to then hit Miller from the side. Miller was locked out from Darnold, and nobody else got close. Then Darnold threw to one of three receivers in routes against five defensive backs.

"They had three guys out on that third-down pass, so they're blocking us up pretty good, we've got ... a three-man route against five DBs," Joseph said. "You have to make them pay by winning the down in coverage."

That's not the kind of afternoon Miller wants or anyone in and around the Broncos wants.

"I feels like it doesn't matter what scheme you put me in, I'll be able to be successful," Miller said. "These last couple of weeks, I just haven't been able to do it. I have got to play better. I have to make plays for my teammates. I have to rush the passer better. I have to play the run better. I'm not doing anything too good right now."

Overall, the Jets shoved around the Broncos to the tune of 323 rushing yards -- "that should never happen, ever," said Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. -- an enormous red flag for the Broncos.

But Miller being largely muted in three consecutive losses is the biggest symptom of an ailing defense.

Darnold, a rookie, came into Sunday's game as the 29th-rated passer in the league. He completed just 10 passes against the Broncos, but three of those were for touchdowns. Darnold was rarely inconvenienced and wasn't sacked until nose tackle Domata Peko and defensive end Derek Wolfe split one in the fourth quarter of a game that had long been decided.

The Broncos' secondary didn't hold up in coverage, even though the Jets repeatedly used most of their resources in pass protection. Until that changes, especially in five- and six-defensive back looks, the Broncos will continue to see max protection.

The arrival of Chubb in the draft, Shane Ray's return to the lineup after last season's wrist troubles and a commitment from defensive coordinator Joe Woods were supposed to help matters.

Yet, here are the Broncos still trying to figure out how to get Miller free. This week, they've got the 5-0 Los Angeles Rams, who have an offense that has scored a league-best 173 points and two of the most consistent offensive tackles in the league.

"I have to do more," Miller said. "Right now, I'm not doing enough for us to win. ... I've got to be better, and I've got to bring some guys with me."