Defence wins championships. As cliché as the adage is, it’s been proven over and over in the NFL, and never more emphatically than in the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl domination.
What’s missing from that saying but implied is the word ‘great’ before defence.
The Carolina Panthers had a very good defence. Denver had a great defence. The difference between the two made all the difference in Super Bowl 50.
And yet, the Broncos came into the game as underdogs, with Carolina tipped as the ‘team of destiny’ and a feeling of inevitability that Cam Newton would complete his magical year.
The 24-10 result in favour of Denver was surprising – not because their defence was slept on, but because they won so comfortably despite playing with one hand tied behind their back.
It was clear the Broncos’ offence was never going to be much of a factor, but the unit on the other side of the ball was so overwhelming that Peyton Manning and his crew didn’t need to win the game. They just had to stay out of the way.
It’s a testament to how ridiculous the Denver defence was that the offence only amassed 194 total yards – the fewest of any Super Bowl-winning team in history.
The seven other teams who failed to cross the double century yard mark all lost.
The Broncos also joined the 1968 New York Jets and 2002 New England Patriots as the only Super Bowl victors with one offensive touchdown.
That statistic is crazy in its own right, but even more so when you consider that Denver’s touchdown came at the very end to serve as insurance. The defence was so damn good, they didn’t even need it.
Two players were at the heart of the damage-inducing rampage: Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
The duo of pass rushers obliterated Panthers tackles Mike Remmers and Michael Oher. On the 16 plays in which both Miller and Ware rushed Newton, Carolina had minus-33 yards, four sacks and two fumbles. Only one of those plays gained positive yardage as Newton was harassed all game.
Miller in particular was astounding, producing one of the greatest individual defensive performances on the biggest stage with 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and six total tackles.
His first forced fumble was as symbolic of the entire night as any play. Miller used his quickness to race by Remmers before tearing the ball away from Newton as if it belonged to him, resulting in Malik Jackson pouncing on the ball in the end zone.
This is the same linebacker who can drop in coverage and wreak havoc, as he did in the AFC Championship Game with an interception, as well as shut down the run.
Miller rightly earned Super Bowl MVP, becoming just the 10th defensive player and fourth linebacker to take home the honour, showing why he’s one of the most devastating players in the league.
On a larger scale, Denver staked their claim as one of the best defences ever, reminding the importance of that side of the ball.
The top-ranked units from the regular season, in terms of yards allowed, are now 10-2 in Super Bowl history and it could easily be 11-1 if a certain play call was different last year.
It may not have been aesthetically pleasing to watch, but the Denver Broncos won in their own way and in that, there is beauty.
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