Opening Night has been and gone, the Super Bowl is around the corner. Now we’re a little clearer on what will put the Vince Lombardi trophy into the Broncos’ hot little hands.
Defense with a capital D.
It's no surprise that defense is still their best bet. Yes we're perhaps tired of hearing the whole ‘defense wins championships’ mantra, but hey, the Broncos’ defense didn't become the best this season by doing nothing. They were the first in total and passing yards allowed, third in rushing yards against. They clocked up the most sacks during the regular season and had the third most interceptions. Wade Phillips sure knew what he was doing. Talib and Harris have proven themselves to be a strong secondary and Ware and Miller have wreaked havoc on quarterbacks. Some even say this defense was flawless.
Peyton Manning’s experience.
Clearly he's not the quaterback he once was, but let's remember Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. The Greatest. There are many out there who still believe he will come up with the goods to lift his men to victory. He's still protecting the ball – he hasn't thrown a single interception since that awful loss to the Chiefs in November. Lately, he's had a real knack for picking up vital third downs again and again. Regardless of his age, he's still considered one of the best at the LOS. Cam Newton may be a fresh-faced young'un, but it will be a long time before he's even close to notching up the experience Manning has. Manning is more than capable of coming up with a ‘dib’ to answer Newton’s ‘dab’. He even hinted at it on Opening Night – saying if he scores a rushing touchdown on Sunday, he “will celebrate”. Hm.
Newton and the Panthers in general are multidimensional. However, the Super Bowl will be unlike anything they've experienced. Many a first-time quaterback (or any player for that matter) has been taken down amidst all that frenetic atmosphere. The Broncos were in the big one just two years ago, and have won five consecutive division titles. Plus, they've had a challenging schedule, which resulted in five wins over playoff teams in the regular season. And most rewarding of all - they've taken down those Patriots twice. They're built to survive and conquer all the Super Bowl hype!
The Broncos’ wins were not always convincing. But they get the title for the most tight-game wins. They may not have demolished teams the way you'd expect a a Super Bowl team to, but more often than not, they found a way to win. They're tough, accustomed to turning things around when the game is on the line. In the months leading to the Championship game they started strong, faltered, then came back. The Panthers however, started incredibly strong, but began to slip towards the end of the regular season. The Broncos are resilient, and you can bet when the going gets tough this Sunday, the tough will get going.
Their run game.
We're all guilty of screaming at Denver’s wide receivers to “stop dropping the ball!”, but guess what? They're actually a more solid receiving core than the Panthers average wide outs. Demaryius Thomas is still widely regarded as a top 10 receiver and Emmanuel Sanders has a down-the-field speed to rival the best. All this opens up the running game. In eight of the last nine games, their rushing attack hit the 99-yard mark. The Panthers have a good tight end in Greg Olsen, but they'll be unable to match the Broncos’ wide receiver depth. And just on a side note, we know Thomas won't get the slightest bit distracted on the night… since he doesn't know who Coldplay is.
The ‘this is it’ mindset.
While we don't want it to, everything seems to point to Manning hanging up his cleats after this game. Super Bowl 50 is comparable to 47 when the Ravens were the old team with one more chance of glory, and the 49ers were the new kids on the block. The Broncos have several experienced veterans, but the Panthers are younger and could stick around in the top tier for some time. The entire team have indicated they'd like to win this one for Peyton, as if to say ‘this is it’. This motivation alone will propel them towards the coveted hardware.
So friends, here we are. Super Bowl 50. And with a fantastic chance of winning. Let's hope we see Peyton wipe out Cam’s dab with his own special dib.