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Super Bowl preview: Demaryius Thomas will need to 'get physical' against Josh Norman

Here is the first installment of what will be four game previews leading up to Super Sunday. First up, the Denver Broncos passing attack against the Carolina Panthers secondary. In the table below we have where these teams are currently performing over the last four games and where they would have ranked in the NFL for 2015.

Carolina Panthers
Sunday, February 7, 2016 - 4:25 PM MT
Denver Broncos




7.95 (5th) Pass Off. 6.69 (28th)
4.32 (10th) Rush Off. 4.58 (6th)
6.97 (11th) Pass Def. 6.11 (1st)
3.65 (5th) Rush Def. 3.54 (3rd)
17-1 Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, CA 14-4
NFC Champion Spread: Panthers by 6 AFC Champion
Super Bowl Previews: DT getting physical Stopping the Read/Option Broncos must run Sacking Cam

This is more of an individual breakdown than it is a full game preview between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. The other posts will be like that, but as I was watching Josh Norman play Julio Jones late in the regular season, I came to the realization that Demaryius Thomas is going to have to overpower Norman if he wants to have success in Super Bowl 50.

Norman is aggressive and plays chippy against elite wide receiver talent. Thomas will have to beat him a few times early, which will open things up for Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. He won't get many free releases like the one here during the Broncos blowout win over the Green Bay Packers.

I took the Week 16 matchup between the Panthers and Atlanta Falcons as the centerpiece of my preview here. The Falcons were the only team to beat the Panthers, so it felt like the right game to break down. In this game, I was able to see all of the Panthers strengths and all of their weaknesses.

Starting out, it took Jones a while to get going as Norman was jamming him hard at the line. However, Jones finally started using his size to fight through those jams beating Norman for several big time catches in the second half. None bigger than this huge gain in the fourth quarter.

Jones finished that game with 9 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown. Up until that game Norman had shut down every single elite wide receiver he had faced, but on that day Jones torched him for 7 of those 9 catches for 91 yards. Jones accomplished that by being the more physical guy on the field, without resorting to the kind of chippy dirty play that Norman got Odell Beckham Jr. to succumb to the week before.

Demaryius Thomas must do the same, especially in the fourth quarter.

Over their last five games of the regular season and postseason, the Panthers have been outscored 45-28 and that number looks a lot better because they outscored the Arizona Cardinals last week in the fourth quarter.

If the Broncos can keep the score close heading into the fourth quarter, then it could come down to Thomas beating Norman to make a play late to win Super Bowl 50.