ENGLEWOOD • Twice this season, the Denver Broncos defense has surprised many people.

For the first six games, the Broncos surpassed almost all expectations with how good they were on defense. The past two weeks, the stunner has been how quickly that magic disappeared.

Denver has given up 149 rushing yards per game after not allowing 100 to any of its first six opponents. The Broncos yielded 321 total yards in the second half against Pittsburgh. They hadn’t allowed more than 315 over an entire game before playing the Steelers.

“There’s things we’re happy about,” defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said, talking about the defense overall this season. “We’re disappointed though, in the last few weeks defensively in not playing 60 minutes.”

The Broncos have been pretty good in the first half of each of their past two games, only to falter after halftime. Nolan said the team didn’t react well to halftime adjustments by the opponent. The Broncos have had some issues against no-huddle offenses each of the past two weeks, because it has limited their normal substitutions.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw it again this week, but let ’em keep trying it,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “It’s not going to work every week.”

Safety Brian Dawkins’ explanation was that players might be pressing a bit, and that has led to missed assignments and other breakdowns. He said he thinks the Broncos’ defense will be fine once players concentrate on handling their responsibilities. 

“Trying to do a little too much can always be a problem,” Dawkins said.