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Who will the Denver Broncos defense play for in 2016

The Denver Broncos historic Super Bowl run in 2015 was a ride every Bronco fan will remember for the rest of their lives. The narrative was simple, a past-his-prime legend, humbled by time and injury, was carried to the finish line by a brash young defense. The old legend rode off into the sunset, leaving behind his team, and a simple question. Now what?

manning & Ware

I was on Assignment: Football talking about the AFC west, and doing a little season preview, when an interesting topic came up. What are the Denver Broncos playing for in 2016? Peyton Manning came to Denver with the high hopes of taking the franchise back to the promised land. The mission was clear, win a Super Bowl. It looked inevitable at the start. Offensive records fell like shooting stars flashing across the sky. Elway had struck gold bringing in the legend for his final run.

And then it didn’t happen. The loss to Baltimore in the playoffs, the drubbing in the Super Bowl against Seattle. The stumbling into the playoffs, and home loss to Indianapolis. The inevitable was slowly turning into the unreachable.

But then 2015 happened. A new coaching staff came in, and the talk was Super Bowl or bust. That being said, Manning was playing more like bust, and it was the defense that carried the team. But why? What was their motivation? Winning is nice, but winning with a purpose can push a team beyond what they truly should be.

To watch the flailing Peyton Manning was to watch the collapse of an NFL great. It was sad, but the Broncos defense put him and the rest of the offense on their shoulders. It was inspirational. The defense wanted to send Manning out on top. The defense played for him. You could tell by the way they celebrated after defeating the Panthers. Everyone wanted to hug Manning and tell him they loved him.

Now, with the mission accomplished, and the purpose gone, what will the defense play for? I know what you are thinking. This is their job. They shouldn’t need any other motivation, but humans are exactly that, human. They need a push at times. They need more than just, “do your job.”

We’ve all had jobs where we worked harder because we respected the person we were working for. Now the defense will be carrying a team that does not have that inspirational leader. They will be playing for themselves. Maybe that is the new inspiration. Playing to prove it was not a fluke. Playing to show they really are as great as they showed in 2015.