The Denver Broncos parlayed an incredibly strong defensive showing into a resounding victory in Super Bowl 50, beating the Carolina Panthers by a final score of 24-10.
The Denver Broncos defense was historically good this past season, compensating for a sometimes inconsistent offense, a litany of injuries and propelling Denver to a championship over the recently crowned NFL MVP Cam Newton and a good Panthers offense. In Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos defense sacked Newton 7 times while also forcing 4 turnovers throughout the game.
It was evident on Sunday that when it came to winning ball games this season, it was not the offense that Gary Kubiak relied upon. As accomplished of a quarterback as Peyton Manning is, it was not the future Hall of Famer that led the Denver Broncos to victory. The Denver Broncos first-year Head Coach put games in the hands of his defense, and they did not disappoint.
Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller shows just how important defense was in the Denver Broncos postseason run. As my colleague Matthew Schoettler wrote earlier, Von Miller’s defensive presence was essentially the equivalent of a quarterback leading a team to victory. His ability to force turnovers and pressure the quarterback keyed the Denver Broncos throughout the playoffs.
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From the Broncos win over Pittsburgh in the Divisional round, to a stellar showing against Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game, to essentially making the NFL MVP Newton a non-factor in the Super Bowl, Von Miller’s presence made the Denver Broncos defense historically good. Miller also made his teammates better: DeMarcus Ware is exhibit A.
It is incredible when you think about how unimpressive the Denver Broncos offense was at times throughout the regular season and the playoffs that they were able to win the Super Bowl. Additionally, the fact that Denver beat the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady en route to an NFL Championship is equally as impressive.
Now, the Denver Broncos defense this season was no doubt the best squad in the NFL. In terms of total defense, the Broncos led the league in the least amount of yards allowed this season with 4530, besting the Seattle Seahawks by 138 yards. Their defense against the run was the 3rd best in the league, while their passing defense was ranked first.
Given how remarkably well the Denver Broncos defense played in 2015, were they as historically good as say the 1985 Chicago Bears — the team that is the most known for their defense? Sadly, the answer is no — and it’s not even close.
The 1985 Chicago Bears only allowed 186 total points in the regular season, while the 2015 Denver Broncos allowed 297. While the Denver defense this season was good, and was certainly one of the best defenses in recent memories, they were not nearly as impressive as the ’85 Bears.
A more reasonable comparison to this year’s Denver Broncos team (to me at least) is the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Ray Lewis and Brian Billick’s Ravens team had a staunch defense, but did not possess a dynamic offense.
On paper, a Peyton Manning led offense with weapons such as DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders looks great, it did not accomplish much this season. Before Peyton Manning sat for 7 games due to plantar fasciatis, he was leading the league in interceptions. Even with the Brock Osweiler led Denver Broncos offense, they regular were unable to score consistently (anyone remember the regular season game against Pittsburgh?).
The 2000 Ravens were led by Trent Dilfer; and because of their excellent defense, won Super Bowl XXXV. Dilfer does not have the same pedigree or career stats that Peyton Manning does, but their defense propelled them to an NFL championship, just like the Broncos.
It will be interesting to see how the offseason plays out; but it looks like no matter who is under center for the Denver Broncos next season, their defense will continue to remain strong as they contend for a repeat.