After one huge Super Bowl blowout loss and two playoff exits in the Divisional Round, the Peyton Manning-led Broncos had a history of disappointment in the postseason.
But something feels different this time.
All throughout the 2015 regular season, the Broncos have felt like a different team than the one coached by John Fox. They're more tight-nit, more gritty — hungrier.
Accountability has been a mantra from head coach Gary Kubiak and the players have bought into it with gusto. The Broncos have found a way to win close games.
They're 11-3 in 2015 when the final score was determined by seven points or less. That shows the character of this team. John Elway wanted kicking and screaming and Kubiak delivered.
Even in games where the Broncos have struggled and fallen behind by two scores, they've battled back and found a way to win.
They beat three playoff teams this year, after trailing by a 14-point deficit. A new NFL record. They've been the underdogs at home on more than one occasion, but the most telling was vs. the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
The Broncos came out on top. Every time this team has been underestimated, whether it's by the opposition, the media, or even Vegas, they've found a way to use it to their advantage.
It'll be no different this coming Sunday in Super Bowl 50. On a neutral field, the Broncos are 6-point underdogs to the Carolina Panthers
"The oddsmakers say that we’re not the favorite, which we like because we’ve been there the last few games," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Monday night. "I think our team thrives on that and our defense especially plays well under pressure.”
Although the Panthers are saying all the right things, and complimenting the Broncos (especially the defense), they don't seem to be as focused on the game as the Broncos are.
I thought MHH's very own Jake Marsing captured the feeling I'm trying to describe quite well, following Carolina's interactions with the media on opening night of Super Bowl 50 — Media Day.
"Both the Panthers and Broncos who spoke to the press seemed relaxed. However, it remains difficult to shake the feeling that this young, brash, but ultra-talented Carolina team isn’t entirely focused on the game that is going to be played on Sunday."
There's something to be said about how being favored in a game of such magnitude as Super Bowl 50 can wear on a team, on a player. The pressure and expectation can become overwhelming, especially for a young, relatively untested team like Carolina.
The Panthers don't sound worried at all about Manning and the Broncos offense, despite all of their lip service. Again, that's just what the Broncos want.
"Offensively, don’t count us out," receiver Emmanuel Sanders said Monday night. "We got myself, Demaryius Thomas, C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman, Peyton Manning at quarterback. We have playmakers all over the field and we can go out and put up points as well. I like being an underdog.”
But they emerged victorious. There are a shocking amount of similarities between that Super Bowl champion squad and this year's Broncos. And something tells me that will ring even more true next Monday morning.
Something feels different this time.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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