Super Bowl XLIX is days away. We'll be previewing and picking the big game through orange and blue lenses as we approach the conclusion of the 2014-2015 NFL season on February 1st.
John Elway said that, if the Broncos were to go down in the postseason, he wanted to see them go out "kicking and screaming." It's become the mantra of the 2015 offseason, like "thirty-five" a year ago (the number of points by which the Broncos lost Super Bowl XLVIII) and "don't let Jacoby Jones get behind you" the season before it (sorry Rahim).
"Kicking and screaming" could be interpreted to mean toughness in general, which is something the Broncos definitely faced in their 2014 Super Bowl opponent Seattle Seahawks. At the highest level, the Seahawks are old-school. They're a classic NFL champion, beating you with defense and with a strong running game. But that philosophy only tells half the tale. They're so damn good and so physically imposing in both areas that they left lasting impressions on Broncos players over the last 12 months.
Demaryius Thomas on Kam Chancellor
Peyton Manning's first completion of Super Bowl XLVIII wasn't a momentum-generator. It wasn't even a sign of encouragement after a disastrous fumble for a safety to start the game. Instead, it was a sign of impending doom.
By some reports, Thomas dislocated his shoulder on this hit. He broke a Super Bowl record for receptions in this game despite the injury, which one might certainly file under the category of "kicking and screaming," but momentum was solidly in Seattle's corner after that hit. It would never relent.
Thomas, along with a handful of Seattle players, recalled the impact of Chancellor's hit, both literal and figurative, to ESPN/Grantland.
Demaryius Thomas saw him coming. They usually do. No one goes very long without looking for Kam Chancellor. And as Thomas sprinted across the field, there he was - the bad man in the dark visor who lurks in the depths of football's best defense. Thomas had one thought as Peyton Manning let go and Chancellor let loose: Hold on to the ball.
He did, somehow, even as Chancellor lowered a shoulder and sent him sprawling.
Not that it mattered. It was the Broncos' first completion, down just 5-0 with nearly 55 minutes left, but for Seattle, Super Bowl XLVIII was already over.
"To me," says Chris Clemons, "that hit solidified the game for us. They didn't run routes the same."
Byron Maxwell, only a couple of yards away, had the best view. "I was just lookin' at Demaryius's face," Maxwell says, "and I could see that he'd been hurt. I saw a little pain on there." Earl Thomas leaped into Chancellor's arms. Richard Sherman slapped him on the helmet.
"It wasn't just him making noise," Demaryius Thomas says about the aftermath of the hit. "It was a couple of other guys making noise. Basically saying they were there, and it was going to be like that all night."
It was like that all night.
DeMarcus Ware on Marshawn Lynch
Beast Mode has Beastquaked a number of NFL defenses over the years. While the Broncos were more-or-less able to contain Marshawn in their Week 3 matchup, he still left a lasting impression on DeMarcus Ware. He relayed it to CBS' Pete Prisco.
"I shed my blocker and I was there waiting for him," Ware said. "I said to myself, 'I got him.' I tried to lock up on him and he knocked me off. I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' That just shows how strong he is. I knew I had to bring the heat if I was going to tackle him."
"When he comes at you, it's almost like he's saying this is my train track, and I am going down this train track, and whatever is in front of me I am going to run it over," Ware said.
"It was going to be like that all night.... like he's saying this is my train track." The Broncos have the personnel to be this kind of team. They have Von Miller. They have T.J. Ward. They have C.J. Anderson.
Now, hopefully they have the coaches to extract this train-like, all-night play from them in the postseason, when it matters. If they go out, they'll go down kicking and screaming.
Or maybe, like the Seahawks, they'll go out on top.
For your Super Bowl tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.