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Broncos GM John Elway learned from Seahawks’ defense-first model after Super Bowl XLVIII

John Elway: "I think that we watched the model that the Seahawks ... put together of being great on defense." (AP)
LISTEN: Broncos GM John Elway on learning from Super Bowl loss to Seahawks

When the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 with a defense-laden team just two years after being ripped in Super Bowl XLVIII by a Seahawks squad led by a similarly suffocating defense, it seemed like more than a coincidence.

After all, the Broncos team that fell 43-8 to the Seahawks was historically great on offense, ranking first in the NFL that season in total yards, passing yards and scoring. Yet the Super Bowl trophy didn’t return to Denver, and instead went to a Seattle team that ranked first in scoring defense and yards allowed.

Denver general manager John Elway joined “Danny, Dave and Moore” on Friday and confirmed what many have figured – the way general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll constructed the Seahawks en route to thrashing Denver at MetLife Stadium in the Super Bowl had an influence on how Elway put together the Broncos before their own Super Bowl-winning season.

“It was at that point in time I think that we watched the model that the Seahawks and John and Coach Carroll had put together of being great on defense,” Elway told hosts Dave Wyman (his former teammate both in college at Stanford and in the NFL with the Broncos) and Jim Moore. “I think what we were able to do is we added some key components that offseason via free agency and plus my first five years that I was here we worked on the defense. … It all came together at the right time. Having seen the focus that on the defensive side, no matter what, if you had a great defense you’re going to be able to stay in football games.”

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Elway didn’t give all of the credit to the template the Seahawks set, though. He made mention of an emphasis on defense with their draft selections for several years before, which includes Super Bowl 50 MVP and 2011 No. 2 overall pick Von Miller, in addition to some strong free-agent pickups that solidified the Broncos for their championship run.

“My first five years that I was here we worked on the defense, and so our first five picks were defensive guys,” he said. “Those five guys really matured, came along, played great defense, and we were able to add Aquib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward, some key pieces there. And then Wade Phillips came in with (then-head coach) Gary Kubiak as defensive coordinator, so really kinda eveything aligned. I think the key thing is the young guys matured and really played well so that’s really what happened, and you’re right, we rode their backs last year to Super Bowl 50.”

And when they got to Super Bowl 50, they looked a lot like the Seahawks did two years prior. While Seattle never let Peyton Manning get out of the starting blocks, especially after Denver lost the ball on the first play of the game by snapping it over Manning’s head, Denver gave Carolina quarterback Cam Newton fits in a 24-10 victory at Levi’s Stadium.

“They just played so great down the stretch defensively and in the playoffs and then really frustrated Cam (Newton) in the Super Bowl, so it was really a lot of fun to watch,” Elway said of the Broncos.

It was a lot less fun for Elway to watch the Seahawks dominate his team in Super Bowl XLVIII, though.

“I think that the Seahawks, they had a great year that year and were really, really good on defense and obviously that game got started off bad for us with the snap over Peyton’s head,” he said. “It started bad and unfortunately in the Super Bowl when you make mistakes they’re magnified, and so we just couldn’t get out of our own way, especially early, the Seahawks did a great job taking advantage of that.”