The Seattle Seahawks are ranked No. 1 in defense in almost every major category, but the Denver Broncos are ranked No. 1 on offense in almost every major category. In order to try and find a gauge on how Denver will do against the tenacious Seattle defense, I scanned through the regular season schedule of the Broncos to analyze their offensive play against highly rated defenses. What I found, however, was the fact that Denver did not really have to face any elite defenses in the regular season. The Broncos did end up playing some defenses that ranked in the top ten against the pass or the rush, so I poured over those statistics to see if I could create a better understanding of what to predict in the Super Bowl for the Denver offense.
When Denver faced the third-ranked pass defense of the Houston Texans, Peyton Manning picked the Texans apart with the help of Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Manning attempted 51 passes against the Texans, and he torched Houston with 400 passing yards. Decker and Thomas each finished the day with over 100 yards receiving, and the duo combined for three total touchdowns. The running game was not much of a factor in this game, and between Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, only 18 attempts were made at running the ball. This was especially surprising as the Texans finished the year ranked No. 23 against the run, but Manning was able to get the job done through the air. When Manning faced the No. 11 ranked pass defense of the Tennessee Titans he was just three yards shy of having another 400-yard game. The Broncos rushed the ball 29 times in that game, but the focal point of the offense was once again the passing attack.
We know that Manning can throw the ball, but you can’t win a Super Bowl being one dimensional. When Denver had to face a tough run defense, the Broncos did not shy away from the running game. Against the No. 10 ranked run defense of the Philadelphia Eagles, Moreno ran the ball for 78 yards and a touchdown. Hillman also added 11 carries for 36 yards, and Ball carried the football eight times for 24 yards. Combined, the Denver rushing attack finished the day with 138 rushing yards and a touchdown. Manning struggled in the loss to the the San Diego Chargers, but the No. 12 ranked run defense of San Diego completely shut down the Denver running game. Moreno and Ball rushed for a combined total of 18 yards, and Manning threw for under 300 yards with one pick. The Broncos did defeat the Chargers the first time they played, but the Chargers proved that you can find ways to quiet the offensive juggernaut that is the Broncos.
It almost seems that you only need Manning to win a game, but the Broncos had poor rushing performances in two out of three losses. Denver is not afraid to attack the perceived strength of any team, but they will need to make sure that the running game is able to take pressure off of the passing game. Whether that means Moreno has to do everything himself or the Broncos have to use a mix of Moreno, Ball and Hillman, the running game needs to be established early on. Any football fan can tell you that a football team can not be successful if the play-calling makes the team one dimensional, but these stats show that the Broncos are talented enough to take on Seattle in the air and on the ground. While Manning has a great shot of being the MVP of the game, the overall success of the team will depend on the Denver running game.