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'Underdog' role suits Broncos' defense

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They don't like not being believed in, but keep showing that doubt all you want. It's only going to make this Broncos' defense stronger.

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If you didn't know any better, you might think the Broncos defense was only playing Cam Newton this weekend.

And if you hadn't watched the Broncos all season (and instead only listened to sports news on cable or the Internet), you might also think that the No. 1 defense in the league has no chance against this one guy.

Newton is fast. He's athletic. He is big (how big is a bit of debate - anywhere from 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-7 and between 250 and 270 pounds, depending on who you read).

Cam is Cam. He brings a whole new set of challenges. It's going to be fun. -Von Miller

But somehow people have forgotten that the Broncos' defense is fast and its players are athletic. Like, best-defense-in-the-NFL athletic.

Despite Newton's natural gifts, Broncos defenders are looking forward to showing him a little bit of their own skill.

"Cam is Cam," said Von Miller, noting that the quarterback's ability to make others play at a higher level is his greatest attribute. "He brings a whole new set of challenges. It's going to be fun."

Though Newton has been able to escape pressure often and beat defenders with his legs, Derek Wolfe has no intention of letting him off the hook.

"I think we just stay after him," Wolfe said earlier this week. "You got to wrap him up. He is a big guy so you got to get your hands on him and hold on."

Aqib Talib noted that althougth the defense got a confidence boost from being able to contain Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game, Newton is an entirely different beast.

"It's a totally different game with Cam," Talib said. "He's a totally different quarterback. It's totally different preparation."

Peyton Manning has consistently praised his counterpart across the field, saying numerous times that Newton's play this year has been "awesome."

"He's certainly making the Panthers happy they drafted him No. 1," Manning noted.

But if the Broncos defenders (and Manning) seem a little tired of talking about Newton, you'll have to forgive them. They've been bombarded with questions for three days about an extremely talented quarterback that they have every intention of stopping.

Next question.

Chris Harris, Jr. pointed out that all the things analysts have been saying the defense has to do against the Panthers' offense is something the Broncos have been doing all year. And though the Broncos haven't faced Newton, they have gone against a bunch of good teams - playoff teams to be exact.

We know they have a fast start, but I don't know if they've played any defense like us.  -Chris Harris, Jr.

"I don't know the last time we hadn't faced a playoff team, man, with our schedule. So we feel like every week we've had to jump out early - try to get on their team's toes early," Harris Jr. said. "That's what we want, man. We know that they have a fast start, but I don't know if they've played any defense like us."

For a No. 1 seed and a No. 1-ranked defense, it isn't too crazy to think the Broncos just might be the Kryptonite for the Panthers' Superman.

"Shoot, man. We have some of the best run stoppers in the league - Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson. I believe in our front," Harris Jr. adding, saying he believes the big boys up front plus Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall inside can put a stop to the 100-plus rushing yards the Panthers accumulate every game. "I have all confidence in the world that they can shut down the run."

And the defensive line's job has been made easier too thanks to the No Fly Zone.

"I feel like we have the best secondary in the NFL, there's no question about it," said Sylvester Williams. "And when you've got guys covered like that man-to-man and keeping those guys strapped up, I think it makes it easier for us to get pressure up the middle and put pressure on the quarterback."

Williams also isn't buying the Panthers' attempt at playing the underdog.

"Nah, it's hard to be the underdog when you've lost one game all year," said the nose tackle. "We're very confident this year as well, but I think us being the underdog is kind of bringing us closer together and motivating us a little bit more to go out there and prove the world wrong."

Darian Stewart, who is hoping to be healthy enough for that very opportunity, believes this matchup will definitely not be the lopsided one so many want to predict. In fact, he thinks this will be perfect for the Broncos' defense.

Do you see this smile on my face? I can't wait to play the game.   -T.J. Ward

"It's just all situational football at the end of the day, man," he said. "We know they like to run the ball and I think we got the formations down that they like to run out of. I think it's going to be all right. This is our type of game. I expect me and T.J. to get a lot of action."

T.J. Ward is certainly hoping so. Having to sit out the end of the AFC Championship game with a reinjury to his ankle, the strong safety cannot wait to get back to playing football.

"I'm looking forward to setting the tone, making my presence felt in the game," Ward said, adding that all the lack of faith in the Broncos is just fine by him. He's used to having to prove people wrong. "We couldn't stop Aaron Rodgers. We couldn't stop Tom Brady. We couldn't beat Ben Roethlisberger...but somehow we're in the Super Bowl."

So does that get Ward fired up even more for Sunday?

"Do you see the smile on my face? I can't wait for the game."