ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos began the season without strongside linebacker Von Miller, and they’ll end it without him, too.
Miller is done for the year after tests Monday revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, which he injured in the first quarter of Denver’s 37-13 win at Houston over the weekend.
“It’s definitely going to be a blow,” executive vice president John Elway said on his weekly podcast on the team’s website. “But I think that we’ve done a good job of handling adversity throughout the year. This is another bump in the road for us.”
The Broncos (12-3) have hit so many potholes this season it’s a wonder they’re not broken down on the side of the Super Bowl Expressway.
Instead, they can wrap up the AFC’s top seed with a win at Oakland (4-11) on Sunday.
With 30 sacks in his first two NFL seasons, Miller won the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2011 and was runner-up for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honor last season. He set a team record in 2012 with 18½ sacks to go with 28 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles.
In the offseason, Elway called Miller the best football player on the planet. But Miller ran afoul of the NFL’s drug program, was suspended for the first month and a half of the season and never really returned to form in 2013.
Miller worked out at the team’s Dove Valley complex during his banishment, and he bulked up to 270 pounds — 24 pounds more than when he was selected second overall in the 2011 draft out of Texas A&M.
Miller was rusty upon his return. Although his bulkier body enhanced his bull rush, it seemed to sap some of his athleticism that made him such a special pass rusher. He had moments where he’d flash his old form, and last week he spoke about peaking for the playoffs.
Although the Broncos went 6-0 during his suspension, that was before they also lost safety Rahim Moore (leg) and linemen Kevin Vickerson (hip) and Derek Wolfe (illness).
The Broncos find themselves once again scrambling to make up for the loss of a dynamic playmaker teams had to account for even though he wasn’t having his typically disruptive season.
“It’s like losing a guy like Ryan Clady earlier in the season or (wide receiver Wes) Welker,” coach John Fox said via a teleconference with reporters after being sent home Monday because of the flu. “Any time you take away those caliber of players, it’s a blow.”
Miller was rushing Matt Schaub when he was blocked cleanly by tight end Ryan Griffin. His right knee buckled and he crumpled to the ground. Miller walked off the field and into the locker room with a team doctor and trainer.