The Denver Broncos shocked the world when they dismantled the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. The 17-1 Panthers, who had trounced two very good defenses in the NFC Playoffs, were expected to run away with the game.
It was one of the most masterful defensive performances in a Super Bowl ever witnessed, and yet, according to cornerback Aqib Talib, the Broncos still aren't getting the respect they deserve.
“We still have conversations about our respect level," Talib said Monday. "We still don’t feel like it’s there. We still have got a chip.”
Along with the 2013 Seattle Seahawks' Legion of Boom, who dominated the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos performance in Super Bowl 50 has to go down as one of the top-two in the last 25 years. Throw in the 2000 Baltimore Ravens for good measure.
That's rarefied air. To the Broncos, who hail from the Mile High City, it's thin air. But now, they've got to duplicate their 2015 breakout season as defending World Champs. And they have to do it with nine of the 11 Super Bowl starters.
“Like I said, I never came back after an offseason and had the exact same team there," Talib said. "It happens every year. We didn’t lose that much on our defense. We lost two starters. We’ve got nine starters returning. That’s definitely a positive.”
One of the reasons the Broncos were so successful as a defense in 2015 was because of their elite depth. The two open starter positions on the defense will be filled by guys who were backups last year. And the show will go on.
Continuity is huge. The Broncos not only get Gary Kubiak back running the building, but Talib and his comrades get defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, too. The foundation that allowed John Elway to build a World Champion team is still in place.
“Just to come in and know how our offseason is going to go and know how Phase 1 and Phase 2 of OTAs, just knowing our schedule and how Coach ‘Kub’ runs the building, it’s always nice to have the same D-Coordinator (Wade Phillips), the same situation when you come back in," Talib said. "A lot of times I came back in the offseason and I had to learn a whole new defense. I may have to do that six or seven times in eight years. It’s good to come back to that foundation.”
“I think we split that leadership role," Talib said. "DeMarcus plays a huge part. [CB] Chris [Harris Jr.] plays a huge part. There are a lot of guys in our locker room who play a part when it comes to leadership. Some guys are not as vocal. Some guys just put their head down and work. When I see that, it makes me put my head down and work. Some guys are vocal, so that leadership role is spread through our locker room. There are a lot of guys that take advantage of that role.”
As for Manning, his absence was noticed and felt on the first day of OTAs.
"At the team meeting I was just looking at Peyton’s spot and he’s not there," Talib said. "It’s different."
If you're wondering whether anyone took the opportunity to sit in Manning's chair, Talib has the answer.
“I think it was empty. Nobody is bold enough to go sit right there.”
The Broncos are without Von Miller, who's staying away from team activities barring a new contract, but inside linebacker Brandon Marshall showed up to work, even though he's yet to sign his restricted free agent tender, which will pay him $2.5 million in 2016. That is leadership.
“That’s huge," Talib said. "Just to see his face—like Von, he’s going through the business side of football. He’s here. First step in getting better than he was last year is showing up. He’s here. He’s getting better and that’s a positive for us.”
As for Miller, Talib isn't too worried. He's confident that the Super Bowl 50 MVP will be back in the locker room in due time.
“We’re all anxious to see Von around the building," he said. "He’s going through the business side of football. We all have to go through the business side of football. That’s just part of our game. He’ll be back in our locker room soon.”
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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