Beatdowns such as that leave psychological scars. Maybe not in the players, although I doubt that it was ineffectual on them. But definitely in the fans. 43-8. That was the final score. The Broncos trailed from the first snap. And the rest of the game could be categorized as an epic comedy of errors.
But that was last season. A football lifetime ago. Pro football players have short term memory. Their focus can't be on yesterday, or the last play, or last season. It has to be on the here and now. And the collective focus of the Broncos is firmly bent on the Seahawks this week.
Don't let the Broncos collectively calm demeanor with the media this week fool you. They are fired up about this matchup. They're tired of answering questions about the Super Bowl. They want to speak with their actions, not their words. As Super Bowl Champions, the Seahawks have had the prerogative to do both. They proved their worth by the virtue of their performance and the end result. And they've been jawing in the media about it ever since.
If you think the fans are sick of hearing about it, how do you think the Broncos feel about it? Peyton Manning? Or even guys like Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Rahim Moore and Chris Harris, Jr who weren't able to take the field with their teammates on February 2nd? I don't know about you, but I feel that if those 4 guys were suited up for action that day, the end result would have been very different than 43-8.
35. That was the difference in point production in the Super Bowl. And the Broncos have been using "35" as a mantra and a rallying cry ever since. These guys are focused. And motivated. Defeating the Seahawks at home this week, won't completely atone for the 35-point loss, but it would exact a small measure of revenge and exorcise some demons.
John Elway has built the 2014 Denver Broncos in the image of the 1997-98 team that he quarterbacked. The team that earned Elway 2 Super Bowl rings. The goal has been to make the roster balanced. Last season, despite all of the success and records, the Broncos were a top heavy roster, with Manning and the offense placed precariously at the top. All that it took were a few injuries on defense and the house of cards crumbled, when all of the chips were down.
The 2014 Broncos are a vastly different team than their 2013 counterpart. DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, and Aqib Talib are all making a huge impact on the team already. Emmanuel Sanders is poised to have a career year, and possibly to lead the Broncos in receiving yards. These 4 players are all members of Elway's 2014 free agent class.
But the draft has also produced some players that have already begun to impact the team. Bradley Roby, the team's 1st round pick, sealed the Broncos week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts when he broke up a 4th down pass, with only seconds left in the game. It was clutch. And it clinched the win.
2nd round pick, Cody Latimer, a wide receiver out of the University of Indiana, has yet to see any snaps with the first team offense in the regular season, but his time will come and when it does, it's going to be something special to behold. But Elway also mined some diamonds in the rough in the middle rounds that will impact this team's future too. Lamin Barrow, drafted in the 5th round, is not poised to see a lot of action in 2014, but if a starter gets bitten by the injury bug, he can step in and fill the hole.
The same can be said for many of last year's rookies. Quanterus Smith, a 5th round pick in 2013, essentially red-shirted his rookie season, as he rehabbed his knee. Lerentee McCray, an undrafted rookie free agent, also missed his rookie year on I.R., but is now Von Miller's back up and would likely start on any other NFL team who runs the 4-3 defense.
They say that in the NFL, you are only as strong as your weakest link. I don't see any weak links on this year's roster. The Broncos are talented and deep, across the board. That's balance. But the Broncos don't want to only have a balanced roster, they also want to have a balanced game plan.
Believe it or not, the Broncos were a relatively balanced offense in 2013, despite all of the passing records. They not only boasted 4 receivers with at least 10 touchdowns, but they also had a 1,000-yard rusher in Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for 10 touchdowns himself. Montee Ball is on pace to duplicate that production. Notwithstanding this, offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, has stressed that the offense is going to be more balanced in 2014. He wants to pummel the opposition by grinding the rock on the ground, as well as gash them down the field in the passing game.
Tomorrow's matchup vs the Seahawks is the perfect opportunity to establish that identity. A Peyton Manning-led offense is never going to take a "run first" approach, but if the Broncos hope to win, they'll have to get the ground game going in Seattle. The Broncos have made the necessary changes in the trenches to get this done. Orlando Franklin is a road grader in the run game, and his counterpart at right guard, Louis Vasquez, was first-team All-Pro in 2013.
Just getting studs back like Ryan Clady, Von Miller and Chris Harris, Jr will make all of the difference vs an elite opponent like Seattle. This is not last year's team. This is the 2014 Denver Broncos. I don't know if they'll win tomorrow's game. I don't have a crystal ball. But with all of the new faces (14 new starters), this team is on a mission to avenge what happened in the Super Bowl.
Broncos Country, don't fear the Seahawks. The Broncos might not win tomorrow, but they will not get blown out. And although I'd be remiss to guarantee a victory, I can tell you this. I wouldn't bet against them tomorrow.
Image Credit: Matthew Emmons of USA Today Sports.