It’s not about how much bigger you are, how many more weights you can lift or how high you were drafted.
According to Robert Ayers, stopping the run in the NFL is about sheer grit.
“Being sound against the run is a mindset,” Ayers said. “It’s not about talent and having a bunch of guys that are good players. It is about having a physical, tough mindset.”
On Monday, Ayers said he was reiterating one of Head Coach Josh McDaniels’ philosophies often heard echoing throughout the locker room.
“That’s really the identity that we’ve talked about for a long time, ‘Hey, let’s make sure that they can’t just create a bunch of chunk plays in the running game,’” McDaniels said.
The coach continuously credited Ayers and fellow linebacker Jason Hunter with establishing the edge of the defense in the team’s win against the Titans on Sunday. Their play on the outside prohibited Tennessee’s runners from escaping containment and pushed traffic back inside toward the teeth of the defense.
“I thought the defense did an excellent job of really maintaining their discipline all day,” McDaniels said.
“If we were charting discipline, (Ayers) was probably close to 100 percent.”
Faith in the scheme produces the run-stopping performances the Broncos put on display for four games. No individual has hit 100 yards on the ground against the Broncos this season.
When Ayers and Hunter trust their teammates to complete their assignments, they don’t overextend themselves and leave their responsibilities in pursuit.
“That’s a maturity in our scheme,” McDaniels said. “I think they’ve learned that everybody else in the defense is trusting that they’re going to set the edge in the running game and kind of force it back inside where we can pound a lot of bodies.
“They’re learning how much responsibility we put on their shoulders sometimes, and yesterday was probably even more than normal. Again, (I’m) very proud of the way those two guys played all day.”
McDaniels ventured to say Ayers had his best game as a professional. But with a Ravens team that beat the Broncos 20-7 in his rookie year up next, Ayers hopes to top that performance this Sunday.
“Hopefully I can have a better game, and (McDaniels) can be in here saying the same thing again,” Ayers said. “That’s my goal and that’s what I am going to keep working for.”