Two years after being on the wrong end of one of the most lopsided Super Bowls in history, the Denver Broncos return to the grand stage with renewed focus.
Despite wielding the highest-scoring offence all-time in 2013, Denver were torn apart 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
This time, the Broncos enter the match-up with the Carolina Panthers boasting the league’s best defence and with key players healthy.
Missing in action against Seattle in that blowout were linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Chris Harris Jr and defensive end Derek Wolfe – all out to injury. Those three key cogs will be in uniform tonight, along with players who’ve been acquired since that Super Bowl that make up the stout unit.
“I think, you know, guys like me, DeMarcus (Ware) and T.J. (Ward), we weren’t here and they signed us after,” cornerback Aqib Talib said.
“(Executive vice president of football operations and general manager) John Elway said he wanted to add some tough-minded people to the guys that were already here.
“We’ve heard about that game. But this is a different team, different year; we just have to go play, man, like we’ve been playing all year.’’
The loss to Seattle was a thorough beating with the Broncos conceding points just 12 seconds into the game on a safety before Peyton Manning threw a pick-six to Malcolm Smith, who returned the interception 69 yards to give the Seahawks a 22-0 lead at halftime.
The nail in the coffin was an 87-yard kickoff return for a score by Percy Harvin to open the third quarter to ensure an uneven score, something this version of the Broncos haven’t faced much of.
Denver have 11 victories in the regular season and playoffs this year of seven points or fewer, setting an NFL record.
Whether or not they can erase the bad taste left by their most recent Super Bowl appearance, it’s clear this Broncos team is different.
“Anybody in this locker room who was there remembers,” Harris said, recalling the defeat to Seattle.
“I think we’ve just done the work this time around, kept our focus.”
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