The Denver Broncos will never be associated with defense.
When you have men like Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and a record-setting offense, people tend to look at that side of the ball, marvel, and move on. It's a natural thing, it happens all the time.
However, the Broncos have recently shown that they also have a defense, something many believed would never be the case with this year's squad. In their two playoff games, Denver's defense has been terrific, limiting the San Diego Chargers' high-flying attack to only 17 points and then stuffing the New England Patriots to only three points for a majority of the game before giving up 13 in garbage time.
Even more impressive, the defense has done all of this without its best player. Outside linebacker Von Miller tore his ACL against the Houston Texans in the regular season's penultimate game, putting him out for the season. Then Chris Harris, the Broncos' second-best cornerback, tore his ACL in the Divisional round.
Despite all that, Denver has thrived in the postseason under defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, allowing only one more point than Seattle's vaunted defense. It has been an impressive performance, led by the rushing defense. In their two playoff games, the Broncos have allowed a total of 129 yards on the ground.
Ultimately, the defense's emergence was necessary for Denver to have any realistic shot at winning the Super Bowl. Even with perhaps the best offense of all-time, postseason football demands a complete team that can win in any fashion.
Take the 1999 St. Louis Rams as an example. That season, the Rams put together one of the most spectacular seasons the NFL has ever seen. On the way to going 13-3 and procuring the NFC's No. 1 seed, St. Louis scored the second-most points in league history at that time behind Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
They rolled into the playoffs and dismantled the Minnesota Vikings, scoring 49 points in the Divisional round for the right to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. If you don't remember that Tampa Bay team, its defense was every bit this Seattle team, if not better.
In that game, the Buccaneers punished the Rams. Tampa Bay allowed only five points through three and a half quarters. In the end, it took a perfect pass by Warner to unheralded but underrated Ricky Proehl to put St. Louis into the Super Bowl. What people always forget is the Rams' defense, which kept them in the affair all afternoon.
That season, St. Louis had the No. 6 defense and ranking fourth in points against. It took a team effort to get into the Super Bowl and eventually hold the Tennessee Titans on the one-foot line to win arguably the greatest game ever.
Denver seems to have found a solid defense at the perfect time. The Broncos will struggle to look great on offense in the cold weather against the best defense in football. At times, Manning will get frustrated and the Broncos are going to need a huge stop.
Finally, it appears they are capable of getting one.