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Broncos' defense could make some history with a big finish

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have conducted their professional football business since 1960.

The franchise has been to seven Super Bowls and sold every seat in its various stadiums since 1970. And Sunday, every person in Sports Authority Field at Mile High has a chance to see a little bit of history in living color.

After the previous 55 seasons of football, the Broncos have never, as in ever, not once, finished as the league’s No. 1 defense (fewest yards allowed per game) or No. 1 scoring defense. And the Broncos enter the regular-season finale against the San Diego Chargers No. 1 in total defense and No. 4 in scoring defense -- at 18.4 points allowed per game, with Cincinnati at No. 1 at 17.5 points allowed per game.

“When we went into the year, we set all our goals to be in the top five, but our goal when I talked to them first was we wanted to be the best,’’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “We want to be the best in the league and those guys have followed through with it.’’

But 15 games in, the Broncos already have had a rare season on defense. Entering Sunday’s game, they are No. 1 in the NFL in pass defense, No. 1 in sacks and No. 2 in run defense (just 0.3 yards per game behind the New York Jets).

The league keeps 17 major statistical categories on defense and the Broncos currently are No. 1 in seven of those categories, No. 2 in one category, No. 3 in three of them and No. 4 in three more.

“They could set some all-time records,’’ Phillips said. “It could be an amazing season for us -- it is anyway -- but if we finish it up strong like we can, we could accomplish a lot of statistical goals that no other team here, or a lot of places, have ever finished. It’s a pretty neat deal.’’

The Broncos also have scored five touchdowns on defense, tied for third in the league.

“We’re arrogant, to be honest with you,’’ outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. “We want to be the best and lead the team, actually the NFL, in sacks, to lead them in yards per rush -- we want to have it all. At the end of the day, that’s where greatness is bred. We take that tenacity out wherever we play and that’s what we want. We want to be the best.’’

In their Dec. 6 meeting with the Chargers, the Broncos held San Diego to three points -- the lowest total against the Broncos this season -- and 272 total yards in a 17-3 victory.

“I told our defense, and I really believe this, when the pressure gets on, they really play their best,’’ Phillips said. “Unfortunately sometimes it’s pressure you get behind by 14 points, but those we’ve really played well.

“They have great resolve, they really do. We’ve seen it happen time after time after time. The New England game, Tom Brady and them were celebrating when they won the toss [to start overtime] … and we sack him and knock them backward. They’ve played that way all year, I’m really proud of them.’’