When Carolina has the Ball
The Broncos led the league in total defense and sacks in the regular season. All-Pro cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. are complemented by safeties and linebackers that cover well. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware wreak havoc off the edge, while the strong interior of the defensive line makes it extremely difficult to move the ball on the ground. The defense dominated the New England Patriots’ third-ranked scoring offense for most of the AFC Championship Game.
Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula utilizes spread concepts to give the Panthers a numerical advantage in the run game. When a defense loads the box, the Panthers have dialed up punishing big plays with Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr., and Corey Brown.
Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, however, can take away the numbers advantage with his 3-4 defense. The Broncos can get away with loading the box because they have the best man-to-man secondary in the league. Carolina’s receivers are better than people give them credit for, but – aside from Olsen – they all have major flaws that Denver’s cover personnel can exploit. For example, Ginn still has top-notch speed but his physicality and consistency catching the ball leave much to be desired.