Super Bowl 50: Defense is the X factor for Denver Broncos
Despite being considered heavy underdogs in Super Bowl 50, the Broncos (and their elite defense) actually have a good chance of pulling off the upset.
Many experts are predicting that this year’s Super Bowl will have a similar outcome to the Broncos’ last appearance – a 43-8 shellacking courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks. After all, this time around, the Broncos have to face the 17-1 Panthers.
At first glance, the Broncos do seem to be heavy underdogs in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers boasted the best scoring offense in the NFL (31.2 points/game), and a solid defense (19.2 points/game, ranked 6th best). Additionally, the Panthers are led by Cam Newton, an offensive force who scored a combined (passing/rushing) 45 touchdowns during the regular season.
All things considered, it could easily be another long Super Bowl Sunday for fans of the Broncos.
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In the midst of (rightfully) lauding the Panthers, however, many experts and fans have forgotten that the Broncos are also a great football team.
In fact, if the Broncos are able to play their kind of football game on Super Bowl Sunday, what the Panthers do won’t even matter.
That’s right. If the Broncos are able to follow their usual formula of success, they will almost certainly pull off the upset.
While the Panthers win games with a proficient offense and a good defense, the Broncos win with a mediocre offense (ranked 19th in scoring) and an exemplary defense. Throughout the season, the Broncos defense gave up a minuscule 18.5 points/game (4th best) while leading the league with 52 sacks. As long as Peyton Manning avoids committing turnovers, his defense gives him a chance to win any game.
The Broncos followed this model perfectly against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. The Broncos’ offense stalled frequently throughout the game, managing to squeak out only 20 points. Yet Manning played a relatively clean game (barring a lateral turned fumble), and his defense did the rest. The underrated defense of the Broncos wreaked havoc on the offense of the New England Patriots all day, sacking Tom Brady four times and holding the Patriots to 18 points.
Jan 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) in the AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18 to advance to the Super Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Although Newton is far more mobile than Tom Brady, he will also struggle against the Broncos’ elite pass rush. As is noted in a recent article by Pro Football Focus, Newton has put up average numbers (6 TD, 6 INT) this season when being pressured.
Combine the Broncos’ pass rushing ability with an elite secondary that can shut down the Panthers’ middling receivers, and Super Bowl 50 begins to look more and more like a 21-17 game as opposed to a Panthers’ blowout.
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As long as Manning doesn’t turn the ball over, expect that 21-17 score to be in favor of his Broncos. Either way, get your popcorn ready, because Super Bowl 50 should be a great one.