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Nolan and McDaniels stress situational football and attention to detail. They review particular situations so regularly in practice that defenders feel they can see a play developing before it happens. The second of Dumervil's two sacks on Sunday is an example. The coaches had preached during the week that whenever Romo comes off his primary read, he usually checks down to the running back. So the Broncos decided to take away the back by dedicating a linebacker to cover him. Midway through the third quarter, Dallas had first-and-10 on its own 31. Romo dropped back, looked for his first option, then checked to running back Rashard Choice, who wasn't open. That gave Dumervil the time to swoop in for the sack.
A similar scenario played out when the Cowboys had the ball at the Broncos' two-yard line, trailing by seven with nine seconds to play. Nolan had emphasized during the week that if there were more defenders than blockers on the side of the formation that featured multiple receivers, Romo would look to the other side of the field, where he had a single receiver. That's exactly how it played out on each of the final two snaps: Denver overloaded to the left side of the Cowboys' formation, where Dallas had multiple receivers, and Romo predictably threw to the right (single wide out) side—even though fourth receiver Sam Hurd was matched against an All-Pro in Bailey.
"Champ didn't even need to go to the huddle to get the call," McDaniels says. "He knew what it was based on the situation and the formation. We had gone over it all week."
As good as the Broncos feel about their start, there is enough veteran leadership to keep everyone from getting overconfident. Dallas was a good test, but Denver's previous two wins were against the feeble offenses of Cleveland and Oakland. Plus, there is the memory of 2006, when Denver won five in a row after an opening loss and held opponents to seven or fewer points in each of those wins. Then the wheels came off. In Week 8 the Broncos surrendered 34 to Indianapolis; in two divisional games against San Diego they allowed 83 points. This year the team is focused on working hard and staying humble.
"This coaching staff has done a tremendous job of coming in, implementing this 3--4 defense and getting these guys comfortable in playing in it—playing the technique, putting your hands on guys, locking out and extending, two-gapping, all those things that you have to do, especially against the run," says Holliday, who had one of Denver's five sacks against the Cowboys. "Nobody gave us a chance. But when you get guys in a locker room who believe in each other and lay it on the line for each other and hold each other accountable, good things happen."
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