By Anna Padilla
BU News Service
Scratched. Clawed. Fumbled. Dragged.
The path behind the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl 50 looks like the carnage of a natural disaster compared to the serene road the Carolina Panthers paved for themselves.
It is a matchup of all too cliché David-and-Goliath implications.
The football world opened its upcoming union without hesitation. Old versus new. A fading star versus the upcoming protégé. Offense versus Defense.
Each team has a trove of talent to compare with. But talent is not what got the Broncos to the championship.
Before the season even started, 39-year-old Peyton Manning’s longevity and effectiveness were already being questioned. Then a six-game injury saw Manning on the sideline as Brock Osweiler, the little-known back-up, scavenged a 5-2 record to get to the playoffs.
Between the two quarterbacks, they boasted the most interceptions in the league at 23.
Ranked 17 in the league for overall rushing yards, only one other post-season team (New England) had lower rushing yards than the Broncos. The run game was unreliable. The rushers injured.
Even the wide-out talent that had paired so well with Manning in the past three seasons seemed to be having an off year. Demaryius Thomas bumbled his way to the fifth most-dropped passes. While that number only totaled nine, it felt like every drop was a crucial play, a turning point.
So there it was every Sunday. Limited passing momentum followed by a sputtering run game. How can you win if you can not score any points?
Defense is dirty, unruly and uncouth. But it is also discipline, talent and will. In no other position do you rely solely on your own body. There is no ball to play with, no one to protect you or to partner with in success. You are alone as a player and singled out as a group. In a way, if you do not succeed it is because of your own shortcomings.
Regardless of luck or refereeing, the Broncos defense fought the ugliest, toughest road to the Super Bowl. The defense fought for three downs and returned to the sideline to see the offense blunder away opportunities. And then it had to go back out on the field.
The defense saved the Broncos. It scored for the team. It willed its team.
It made you believe you could catch the bus you missed if you focused and ran your hardest.
Let there be no discredit made here about the Carolina Panthers. After a smooth and convincing season, no one will object that Cam Newton and the team are for real. Denver could not have had the number one overall defense without talent. But defensive talent can only take you so far in 18 games.
With grit and scrappiness, the Broncos have recalled the power of the human mind and body.
The team has led us to the old adages of sport: You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Hard work beats talent. Never give up.
In this 2015 season, the Denver defense have proven these true. And it will again on Sunday.