- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

DENVER (AP) - Tom Brady couldn’t do it. Aaron Rodgers didn’t come close.

Neither did Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford or Alex Smith (twice).

The Denver Broncos are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer this season.

“Oh yeah, it’s a point of pride. I know those guys say ‘No Fly Zone,’ but it’s the truth,’” linebacker Brandon Marshall said of Denver’s star-studded secondary with the cool nickname. “I think with the scheme and the players we have, the rush and the cover, quarterbacks don’t have a lot of time to get the ball off and they can’t find anybody open.”

Denver leads the league in total defense, pass defense and sacks and is second in scoring defense to Cincinnati - but only because of Peyton Manning’s trio of pick-sixes early in the season. He’s now sidelined by a foot injury and Brock Osweiler gets his fourth start Sunday when the Broncos (10-2) host the Oakland Raiders (5-7).

While the Broncos have three safeties who are injured in T.J. Ward (ankle), David Bruton Jr. (knee) and Omar Bolden (hamstring), they still have ball hawk Darian Stewart and rising star Bradley Roby to go with Pro Bowl cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.

In the middle are Marshall and Danny Trevathan, who have combined for 184 tackles.

And they’re expecting the return of edge rusher DeMarcus Ware this week, bolstering a pass rush led by Von Miller that’s already second to none.

“That pass rush is ridiculous,” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for 223 yards in Oakland’s 16-10 loss to Denver in October. “Obviously, they drafted another first-rounder (in Shane Ray) to add to it. Not just the edge guys, but the interior guys and the linebackers on blitzes. The secondary are all Pro Bowlers back there. They’re all great players.”

Some other points of interest Sunday when the Raiders try to snap an eight-game skid against Denver:

OSWEILER’S EDUCATION: Osweiler has been sacked a dozen times in 14 quarters, but many of those have been because he’d rather take the hit than risk an interception.

“I believe ball security and quarterbacks protecting the football - that’s our job,” Osweiler said. “… If that means I have to take an extra hit to avoid an interception, sign me up for it.”

Osweiler has two interceptions in his three starts. Manning threw 17 in his nine starts.

“When I was on the sideline as the backup earlier in the year watching all those games, that’s one thing that I learned: If you don’t put our defense in bad situations, if you don’t put them in short fields, they’re going to make that opposing offense’s job very tough to go 70, 80, 90 yards to score points,” Osweiler said.

LATE-GAME WOES: The one blemish on Carr’s season are fourth-quarter follies. He’s thrown 23 TD passes with two interceptions in the first three quarters, but a league-worst seven interceptions with just three touchdown throws in the fourth quarter.

“I always want the ball,” said an undeterred Carr. “I always heard Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant say they missed a lot more game winners than they hit. But the only ones we seem to remember are the ones they hit. Someday, hopefully that will be the case, that there is a lot more that we make.”

SACK ATTACK: After struggling to pressure the quarterback early in the season despite the addition of pass-rush specialist Aldon Smith, the Raiders have put opposing passers on the run the past few weeks after Smith was suspended for the season.

The Raiders have nearly half (14 of 29) of their sacks over the last four games, including 10 in three games since losing Smith. Khalil Mack needs one sack to become the first Raiders player to reach double digits in a season since Warren Sapp and Derrick Burgess did it in 2006.

FAMILIAR FACES: Osweiler has faced Bill Belichick and several former Broncos coaches who are familiar with his play: John Fox, Adam Gase, Mike McCoy and now Jack Del Rio.

“I don’t really look at it like that,” Osweiler said. “I say, ‘Who’s the defense that I’m playing? Who’s the coordinator? What do they like to do? What coverages do they show? What blitzes do they do?’ I just attack it like that. I don’t get into too many thoughts as far as, ‘Does this guy know me?”

OFF AND RUNNING: The Broncos averaged 86 yards rushing with Manning and 161 yards with Osweiler, one reason C.J. Anderson dismisses Denver’s 43-yard performance against Oakland in Week 5.

“We’ve gotten a lot better from there,” Anderson said. “We were just learning the system and still trying to get in it. I think now we’ve executed the last few weeks better, so we should be fine.”


AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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