May 15, 2021

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Aqib Talib’s stories of how a fearless defense…

3 min read
Aqib Talib's stories of how a fearless defense...

True to Talib’s vision, the Broncos certainly were not scared.

Miller provided the game-changing play with a first-quarter strip-sack Newton; Malik Jackson recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to provide a 10-point lead. The Panthers would threaten that deficit at times — it was a three-point game early in the second quarter and a six-point game midway through the final frame — but they were not able to overcome it.

The frustration built for Newton and the Panthers. Of their 16 possessions, seven failed to gain a first down. After romping through the regular season and the playoffs with just one loss, Newton struggled like he hadn’t before.

“You could see it in his face, his body language,” Talib says. “You could see it. What he was saying back to us — we were talking a little noise to him. The trash he was talking back, the looks he was giving us. We was like, Yeah, he’s hot. He mad. They can’t get in that rhythm, he feel it. So, yeah, we can definitely feel that frustration all day.”

The finishing blow came late in the fourth quarter with the Panthers trailing by six. Miller again beat the right tackle to get to Newton, this time just barely stretching his hand out far enough to dislodge it from Newton’s as he brought the ball back to throw.

The loose ball bounced around a bit back toward the Panthers’ end zone before safety T.J. Ward recovered it, setting Denver up four yards from the goal line. A few plays later, C.J. Anderson powered through multiple defenders for the game-clinching score that put Denver up two touchdowns.

With three minutes to play, the game was effectively over. The defense forced another three-and-out, the offense drained a minute off the clock and when Newton completed a short pass in-bounds with less than half a minute to go, they resigned to their fate, letting the clock tick down to zero.

“I remember looking at the clock,” Talib says. “And it was just, like, Four … three … ahhhh! It started right there, too, and it was over with. Boom, the confetti drops.”

From one moment to the next, Talib became a Super Bowl champion. Most of the year, Denver’s defense paved the way for this, but without a championship, their legacy would be moot. Now, they had etched their names in the annals of NFL history — perhaps at the very top — by finishing their season with a win in a game that was awash in gold to celebrate its history and the players who helped make it.

“I feel like we did in the era where the game is set up to sell tickets, the game is set up to be on social networks — it’s not really set up for the defense to succeed,” Talib says. “We succeeded in the era like that with a bunch of passes. We went against the top three quarterbacks in the league that year: Tom, Ben and then Cam. Cam was the MVP that year. So, our competition was second to none. And we all had picks, we all had tubs [touchdowns], we had sacks, we danced and we made it look good.”