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Facing Cowboys, Denver's Miller says he’s not worried about sackless streak

Profile image for Arnie Stapleton
Arnie Stapleton, AP

DENVER -- Von Miller can't wait to bust out some of his new sack dances like the "Sexy T-Rex" he introduced after dumping Aaron Rodgers in the preseason.

Trouble is, Miller has now gone without a sack for a career-long five consecutive regular-season games.

So, like Miller, you'll just have to imagine his new moves.

The Chargers chose to double- and triple-team Miller in their 24-21 loss to the Broncos in the opener, keeping him from getting to Philip Rivers but severely limiting their offensive options. They didn't top 100 yards passing until the fourth quarter.

Miller's task gets no easier against the Cowboys (1-0) and terrific tackles Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, part of what Miller calls "an all-star offensive line" protecting Dak Prescott, who led them to a 19-3 win over the Giants in their opener.

"They're really the tone-setters on our football team," said Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. "They're the hardest-working group on the team ... They just fight. They're always last shoving. They're playing to the whistle."

Miller's an All-Pro himself, and despite his sackless streak he still ranks fourth in NFL history with .83 sacks per game. He's also become one of the best outside linebackers playing the run.

So he's the fulcrum of any defensive coordinator's blueprints.

"He's one of the best players in the league," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "He is just fantastic in every aspect of the game. He's quick, he's fast, he's explosive. He's got great instincts for rushing the passer. He's so disruptive and he makes play after play after play each week. And he's getting a lot of attention from opposing offenses, so we have a real respect for him."

Broncos coach Vance Joseph said Miller is putting his imprint on games even without getting his hands on the quarterbacks. He noted the Chargers converted just 25 percent on third downs: "They were 3 of 12 ... so who cares? It's team football. So, if they're going to take Von away, we've got ways to win third downs and win second downs. That's what's important, not sacks."

Miller isn't worried about his dearth of sacks, figuring they'll come in bunches, like his mentor, Elvis Dumervil, used to say. Plus, he knows he can wreck an offensive game plan in other ways. So, no, he isn't pressing.

"I've been playing great," Miller said. "We've been playing great as a defense. ... I'm on it. The sacks are going to come."

Other subplots as the Cowboys seek their first win over Denver since 1995:

Elliott's exploits

Ezekiel Elliott has 100 or more scrimmage yards in 12 of 16 career games, including 140 against the Giants in the opener. The Broncos allowed Melvin Gordon to gain just 33 yards on 17 tries after he scampered for 21 yards on his first carry.

In Elliott, whose six-game suspension in a domestic violence case is on hold, the Broncos get a litmus test for their offseason makeover of their defensive line featuring the additions of nose tackles Domata Peko and Zack Kerr, who returned this week from a sprained knee.

Record breaker

Witten is set to break Ed "Too Tall" Jones' club record by playing in his 225th game Sunday. That's a week after topping Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin's franchise mark in yards receiving with 11,947, 43 yards more than Irvin.

"I don't think I've ever been around a guy who is as dedicated to getting every aspect of his job done the right way every day," Garrett said.

Leary sidelined

The Broncos' big offseason addition was right guard Ron Leary, who left the Cowboys for Denver's four-year, $36 million contract. But he left his first game with a concussion, leaving the Broncos scrambling to plug in Connor McGovern and Billy Turner.

They might end up using both men, just like they rotated Max Garcia and Allen Barbre at left guard last week.

Suspect secondary?

Emmanuel Sanders had just three catches for 26 yards in Week 1, but the Cowboys' secondary could be the setup for a big bounce-back. The Cowboys lost cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency, along with safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick started alongside newcomer Nolan Carroll against the Giants. Scandrick got hurt, leading to significant snaps for Chidobe Awuzie, a rookie from Colorado. The safeties are holdovers Jeff Heath and Byron Jones.

Go-to guys

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has an NFL-high 61 career TDs since entering the league in 2010.

"He's a baller," said Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, who has 52 career TDs.

Each has 11 TD catches since signing similar five-year, $70 million deals two summers ago, but Bryant has missed 10 games. So his 83 receptions for 1,540 yards pale in comparison to Thomas' 200 receptions for 2,454 yards.