American football: No offence, but Broncos get it done with stellar defence

From top: Super Bowl 50's Most Valuable Player, the Denver Broncos' Von Miller, strips the ball away from Carolina Panthers' star quarterback Cam Newton, forcing a fumble that led to a Denver touchdown, in the first quarter. A sullen Newton barely an
Super Bowl 50's Most Valuable Player, the Denver Broncos' Von Miller, strips the ball away from Carolina Panthers' star quarterback Cam Newton, forcing a fumble that led to a Denver touchdown, in the first quarter.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
From top: Super Bowl 50's Most Valuable Player, the Denver Broncos' Von Miller, strips the ball away from Carolina Panthers' star quarterback Cam Newton, forcing a fumble that led to a Denver touchdown, in the first quarter. A sullen Newton barely an
A sullen Newton barely answering questions from the media after the game. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
From top: Super Bowl 50's Most Valuable Player, the Denver Broncos' Von Miller, strips the ball away from Carolina Panthers' star quarterback Cam Newton, forcing a fumble that led to a Denver touchdown, in the first quarter. A sullen Newton barely an
It was a dream ending for Broncos' aging quarterback Peyton Manning as he holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his career.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

SANTA CLARA • The Denver Broncos' defence was so dominant this season that part of the prelude to a Super Bowl - in which they were the underdogs - included in-depth discussions about what their nickname should be if the team managed to win.

They kicked around ideas like Orange Rush, a reference to Denver's Orange Crush teams of the late 1970s, but it will take some time for a nickname to build momentum.

And after powering a team with almost no offence to Sunday's 24-10 Super Bowl win over the Carolina Panthers, the highest-scoring team in the National Football League (NFL), the Broncos' defence clearly deserves one.

It would not seem a stretch to include Denver on a list of the most dominant defences in NFL history, alongside the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, the 2013 Seattle Seahawks and the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Quarterback Peyton Manning heaped praise on the defence while congratulating Von Miller for being named the game's Most Valuable Player.

"Von earned it," he said. "He's been awesome. I'm just glad I'm on the same team as our defence."

Comparing numbers between eras can be dicey, but the Broncos had plenty of superlatives in the 2015 regular season: the NFL's No. 1 overall defence, No. 1 passing defence and No. 3 rushing defence.

As Wade Phillips, Denver's defensive coordinator, was quick to point out, the Broncos held opponents to a league-low 3.3 yards per carry. So by some measures, they have been the best in every category.

But Phillips said the team's ability to grind out wins was what set it apart.

"We've had so many pressure games," he said, "When you think about it, we just broke the record of the '78 Oilers, who had the most wins of seven points or less."

The Broncos wreaked havoc with Miller and DeMarcus Ware rushing from the outside as the team's dominant secondary took away any options for quarterbacks hoping to get rid of the ball quickly.

They expertly disguised who would be rushing the passer on every play and made star quarterbacks look like amateurs.

They kept Panthers' star quarterback Cam Newton, the league's Most Valuable Player, out of his comfort zone, limiting him to 18 for 41 in pass completions with 265 yards and an interception.

Factor in the 68 yards the Broncos took away with seven sacks, and Carolina had only 197 passing yards.

The Broncos, in many ways, were held back by their offence. That unit, led by Manning, committed 31 turnovers during the regular season, giving their opponents short fields to work with.

It was more of the same against Carolina, with the Denver offence failing to score a touchdown until given a drive in which they needed just four yards to score.

But, as was the case in the regular season when they were written off as pretenders each week, the determined Broncos won the Super Bowl, regardless of how many people wanted to see Newton prevail.

"I guess people don't like how we win," Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr said when asked why his team were not given much chance to beat Carolina.

"We have a lot of ugly wins; people don't like that, and I would say that's why. We win those tough, gritty games that make you fight until the very end, and that's how we've done all year."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'No offence, but Broncos get it done with stellar defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe