Orange Crush Defense

This article is about the 1970s-era Denver Broncos defense. For the soft drink, see Crush (soft drink). For the alternative rock song by R.E.M., see Orange Crush (song). For other uses, see Orange Crush (disambiguation).

The Orange Crush Defense was the 3–4 defense of the Denver Broncos during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The team adopted the 3–4 defense during the 1976 season, and the nickname "Orange Crush" for the team's defense was popularized early in the 1977 season by sportswriter/broadcaster Woody Paige.[1][2]

It was one of the top defenses of its time with linebackers Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson, with Gradishar as a potential Pro Football Hall of Fame selection. Other key players were defensive linemen Paul Smith (a three-time Pro Bowl selection), Barney Chavous, Lyle Alzado, and Rubin Carter, linebackers Bob Swenson and Joe Rizzo, and defensive backs Billy Thompson and Louis Wright and Steve Foley and Bernard Jackson.

The team's coaching staff was led by Joe Collier, who was the defensive coordinator, along with defensive line coach Stan Jones (inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991), and head coach Red Miller.

In the season the team played in Super Bowl XII, the 1977 Broncos had the National Football League (NFL)'s number-one defense against the rush and were a respectable 11th out of 28 teams against the pass using the NFL Passer Rating score. They allowed only 10.6 points per game, the third fewest in the league.

The team's defensive unit derived the nickname from their orange home jerseys and a popular soft drink, Orange Crush.[3]

The use of the term has resurfaced in recent years, most notably in reference to the Broncos' 2015 season.[4]


  1. Niesen, Joan (September 22, 2014). "THAT OLD ORANGE MAGIC". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved November 6, 2016. Throughout that season Rocky Mountain News sportswriter Woody Paige had helped popularize a nickname for the Broncos' defense: Orange Crush.
  2. Engelbart, Drew (October 4, 2015). "Legendary 'Orange Crush' members talk as Broncos team echoes their success". KDVR. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  3. Groke, Nick (January 11, 2015). "Broncos' 1977 Orange Crush defense honored at half of Colts playoff". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  4. Paige, Woody (January 24, 2016). "Paige: These Broncos may surpass the Orange Crush". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 6, 2016.

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