2. The Best Defense vs. The Best Offense
Denver’s defense wasn’t just the best in the league this season; they were one of the best defenses of all time. They finished the regular season with a league-high 52 sacks, a league-high 23 interceptions, and allowed a league-low 283.1 total yards per game (199.6 pyg, 83.6 ryg). Led by their two pass-rushing freaks, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, this defense has carried the load in the playoffs and is the reason Peyton Manning has an opportunity to win his second and final ring. In the AFC Championship game against Tom Brady, Denver’s pass rush had 20 QB hits, the majority of which came from Miller, who sacked the hall of fame quarterback two and a half times.
Denver’s pass rush will have a much tougher opponent in Super Bowl 50 however, as Carolina’s offensive line is leagues better than the disheveled group New England put together in the AFC title game. It’s because of this improved offensive line, which features pro bowlers Ryan Kalil and Trai Turner, that Carolina has been able to establish one of the league’s most dominant offenses. They finished behind only Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills (152.0) in rush yards per game during the regular season with 142.6, and they’ve raised that number to 148 rypg in the playoffs. The running game is just the beginning though; it’s the catalyst.
Once this team gets the running game going and the defense begins to stack the box, Cam Newton makes an adjustment and in the blink of an eye Tedd Ginn Jr. can beat them for 80 yards and a touchdown.
The key for the Denver D is going to be stopping the running game and unleashing Von Miller in the passing game. Alternatively, the key for Carolina’s offense is to establish the running game early, but to also be aggressive in the passing game and to protect Newton when doing so.