SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- If every dog has its day, then the Denver Broncos hope Sunday is it.
The Broncos are 5½-point underdogs to the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Call it familiar ground.
They have spent much of the season feeling rather unappreciated and were underdogs to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Consider it part of “the noise” the Broncos say doesn’t matter.
“I really don’t pay any attention to it,” linebacker Von Miller said. “I am not betting on the game or anything like that. I am just going out there and I am just playing. I really don’t pay attention to all that stuff. We have a huge opportunity. Anything can happen on Sunday.”
Favorite? Underdog? Is the line based on football or which fan base is betting more money?
Either way, the Broncos have comfortably worn the uniform of confident underdog. They are 11-3 in games, regular season and playoffs, decided by seven or fewer points.
“It’s like [Broncos coach Gary] Kubiak said, ‘We like to fly under the radar and come out and show who we are and what we’re about,’” guard Louis Vasquez said.
“Yeah, we’re used to it now,” Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “I think the past two weeks we’ve been underdogs and we stepped up to the plate and we were able to come out with the win. We don’t really care what the papers or whatever they say about being underdogs. We’re going to go out and do our jobs.”
Some of the public perception could be rooted in the idea the Panthers have the league’s highest scoring offense (31.3 points per game) and quarterback Cam Newton is poised to win his first league MVP award Saturday night at the NFL Honors show.
Newton accounted for 45 touchdowns this season -- 35 passing, 10 rushing -- and his threat as a runner to go with his work in the pocket as a passer make him unlike any player the Broncos faced this season. Or as Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said: “I haven’t seen one like him; none of us have.”
But the Broncos do have Super Bowl history on their side, even if the betting line isn’t. The Broncos finished No. 1 in total defense this season. Sunday will be the 16th time a team has brought the No. 1 defense into the title game.
In the previous 15, the team with the No. 1 defense has gone 11-4 in the Super Bowl. And that total includes two times in the pre-merger NFL, when the teams with the No. 1 defense in the NFL and AFL played each other in the Super Bowl -- so No. 1 beat No. 1 -- for two of those losses.
“I mean, we’ve been underdogs all year,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “At the same time, we’ve kind of bought into that mode. People still don’t talk about the D like I think they should be talking, but we bought into the underdog role and it’s something we feed off of.”
Kubiak isn't overtly using the underdog status as a rallying cry, however.
“As a coach at this game, if I have to go mention to my team about every article and everything that’s written each and every day, I don’t think I have to go there,” Kubiak said. “They're smart players. They’ve been at it for a long time. I would just say this; we’ve been in this situation before throughout the course of the season. We have great respect for their football team and what they’re capable of doing and how they got here, but we also have a lot of confidence in our football team, too. We’ll stay focused on ourselves, stay in the moment and continue to get ready to play.”