The phrase “defense wins championships” is one of the most colloquial phrases in sports. Fans and sports analysts at times struggle with the validity of this phrase. However, the Denver Broncos’ defensive performance made the best case for this argument last night as they single handily carried the Broncos to victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
The journey to Super Bowl 50 has been a long road for the Broncos defense. It began in Super Bowl XLVIII when a powerful Seattle Seahawks team annihilated them 43-8. While the Seahawks team did feature very potent offensive weapons, the Broncos GM, John Elway, blamed primarily their defense for such a lopsided loss. Keep in mind that the unit from that defeat was missing Von Miller, Chris Harris, and Derek Wolfe. This is when he began to formulate a defense that would go on to single handily win the Super Bowl two years later.
The key additions would include pass rusher Demarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib; and safety T.J. Ward, all of whom would play a huge part in Sunday’s victory. However, the most important move Elway could have made was bringing Wade Phillips on staff as the defensive coordinator. Phillips is a mastermind when it comes to generating defensive schemes, his game plan against the Panthers and Patriots were his masterpieces. His unit is the reason as to how the Broncos won the Super Bowl 24-10, they were the only team to tame the Panthers offense, holding the NFL’s highest scoring offense to their lowest point total of the year.
The Broncos defense mixed blitz packages with coverage schemes that confused the Panthers offense, especially the offensive line. They were able to get after Cam Newton from the opening snap and didn’t let up. The masterful scheme put together by Phillips led to a Super Bowl record tying seven sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception. The Broncos defense also held Newton, who earned the NFL’s regular season MVP Saturday, to no touchdowns the entire game for the first time this season. Their stellar pass rush and outstanding coverage worked in tandem, refusing to give up the huge chunk plays Carolina’s made all season long.
Newton’s main adversary the entire night was his former contemporary in the 2011 draft, Von Miller. Miller, who won the Super Bowl MVP Sunday night, was drafted second overall in the 2011 NFL draft after Newton and seemed to make amends for being selected 30 seconds after Newton five years ago. Miller sacked Cam Newton 2.5 times, twice forcing fumbles, one that lead to a touchdown, he also had six tackles.
Miller and the entire Broncos defense continuously put the offense in positions to come away with some type of points. When the Broncos offense did score it was off of field goals, their one offensive touchdown came very late in the game after the defense forced a fumble on Carolina’s door step.
The Broncos defense definitely won this Super Bowl because Peyton Manning and the lackluster Broncos offense could not have done it at all. This Denver defense will now be compared to some of the best defenses of all time and rightfully so.