Teams either have it or they don't.
For four years, the Denver Broncos didn't have "it," and they weren't close either.
What is it?
Determination. Grit. The desire to want to win as opposed to expecting to win. Call it what you want, but we've heard it all year. Let's call it what it really is: Championship football.
After the Broncos' gut-check 23-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, they're one step closer. And what has come to define this team is grit. Another gritty win by a gritty team.
Denver is now 10-3 this season in games decided by one score.
There's your #kickingandscreaming. Broncos dug down for the drive they needed & the defense finished it off.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) January 18, 2016
"Our defense has been outstanding all year," Peyton Manning told the media after the game. "Let's be clear. But you have to be a good team to win these games."
What is "championship football?"
What is championship grit?
The defense steps up when the opposition seems to be humming on offense and forces a turnover.
Stink up the joint offensively and make key plays in the most important drive of the season.
Convert on third-and-long to a young receiver over the middle.
Broncos dominate 4th quarter, bust Steelers 23-16
Broncos receivers dropped at least seven passes Sunday, but defense, special teams, and 4th quarter offense were enough to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and advance to the AFC Championship Game.
Run the football down the throat of the defense when you haven't had success doing so prior.
Eat over 6 minutes off the clock and finally punctuate it with a touchdown.
That's how you win championships. That's what sends a team on a championship run.
That's championship grit, and this team has it in droves.
It's not about style about points or how pretty the win is. All that matters, especially in the playoffs, is you win.
Denver has areas it needs to improve, without question. But no matter how cliche it is, it's still true. The NFL is a week-to-week league. I'll say it again: All that matters at this point in the season is you win, not how you win.
"When you look at the paper, and you see that 'W', that's what it's about," Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware told the media.
Up until Bradley Roby caused the game-changing fumble recovered by Ware, the Broncos looked completely listless. It seemed as if the offense and defense had no clue what to do. Aside from Brandon McManus, who kept his team in the game, and the special teams. Who would've thought that, eh? The Broncos special teams?
It had the feel of last season's divisional playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts all over again.
But there should have been a voice in your head saying, "the Broncos have this. They find a way in these close games."
Unlike that Denver team from last season or the ones the last four years, this one doesn't quit. That doesn't do much for the old heart, but the Broncos have been this way all season so should we really be surprised? I know my ticker feels it after these close wins.
Throw it down! #BeatTheSteelers https://t.co/lmKbo30CMi— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 18, 2016
Again, the stat that defines this team is 10-3. All three phases can win games for the Broncos as they've shown all season. It doesn't matter how the game goes, they're never out of it. They never lose confidence or hope.
As mentioned earlier, no doubt Denver needs to improve. There's one area that comes to mind over the others: Drops. Had half of those passes been completed, who knows how the game changes? Yet the Broncos still won.
What happened this week has no bearing on next Sunday. It's a new game, new opponent, new game plan, new day, new weather (it is Colorado after all).
Given what's happened two of the last three times Denver's played in the divisional round, this is a huge first step. Given the embarrassment of last year's loss, this was the most important playoff game for the Broncos since the wild card round in 1997 after the horrible loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Winning ugly is still winning. #Broncos— Eric Goodman (@EricGoodman) January 18, 2016
All that matters is Denver got the win, and moves one step closer to the Super Bowl.
It was another gritty win by a gritty team that finally has "it."
Teams have either have it or the don't.
The Broncos finally do.