Swallowed up by the media frenzy that started from Richard Sherman’s post-game interview and Peyton Manning’s golden arm is the streaking Denver Broncos defense, which enters Super Bowl XLVIII flying under the radar.
While most of the Super Bowl hype has deservedly gone towards the Seattle Seahawks’ stingy defense that features the bombastic Sherman along with fellow Pro Bowlers Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, the Broncos’ defense has stepped up in a huge way over the last month and a half.
In fact, the Broncos have allowed fewer total yards over the last six games (regular season and playoffs) than the Seahawks have.
While the Broncos have allowed more points than the Seahawks, they have allowed fewer than 20 points in every game over the last five weeks and have only let an opposing quarterback exceed 200 passing yards just once in the last seven games (Tom Brady last week).
Surely, the Seahawks can boast similar credentials as they haven’t allowed 20+ points in a game since Week 11. However, it’s clear that the Broncos defense is just as hot. They may even be hotter in the playoffs.
The Seahawks have allowed over 700 total yards in their two home playoff games and that was with their raucous “12th Man” advantage at CenturyLink Field. Denver, on the other hand, shut down two proven quarterbacks in Philip Rivers and Tom Brady and extinguished both respective teams’ running games.
In the AFC Wild Card round, the San Diego Chargers ran past the Cincinnati Bengals but crashed into a brick wall against Denver. Then, LaGarrette Blount and the New England Patriots’ running attack was stonewalled by the Broncos after accounting for six touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional Round.
Seattle’s big advantage on defense comes in the turnover department. They were the best team this year in terms of turnover margin (+1.3 per game). The good news for them is that in the last five years, the team that won the Super Bowl was in the top five in the league in terms of turnover margin per game. Denver had a negative turnover differential this season. They rely more on getting stops.
The bad news for the Seahawks, though, is that they’re going up against Peyton Manning and he’s only thrown two picks over the last six games. Besides, Manning is the type of player that can overcome a turnover-riddled performance. Earlier this year, he had a three interception game and still led his team to a 24-point victory.
The hot Broncos’ defense bodes well for Manning, who has felt less pressure in terms of having to outscore opponents in order to win games. In the first eight weeks of the season, the Broncos scored 30+ points in every game – including a 51-48 thriller at Dallas where the Broncos porous D allowed over 500 passing yards to Tony Romo.
Those days are long gone. The Broncos didn’t even need to crack 30 points in both of their playoff wins and neither game was really close on the field. The Broncos dominated both wins from start to finish.
More is being said about Peyton’s “Omaha” count and Sherman’s mouth, but don’t be surprised if the unsung Denver bunch takes over and helps bring another Lombardi Trophy to Colorado.