Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller is a very bad man.
He might not be as precise a tackler as the Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly or have Thomas Davis’s warm back story. But he absolutely blew up the New England Patriots Sunday to get the Broncos to their eighth Super Bowl.
Officially Miller had 2 ½ sacks and an interception. Unofficially he was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s tormentor. Brady was hit 20 times in the Broncos’ 20-18 home victory in the AFC Championship Game. It seemed like Miller was responsible for about 18 of those hits.
So, Miller now becomes the biggest worry for Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula heading into Super Bowl 50. If there is a more ferocious defender this side of, perhaps, J.J. Watt, I don’t know who he is.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
I can’t imagine how much time Brady had to spend in the cold tub after the beating he took. His bruises have bruises. I’m thinking it will be at least a week before he feels anything close to normal.
Now granted there are two important difference between the Patriots and the Panthers. Brady isn’t the athlete Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is or nearly as large. Also the Panthers have one of the NFL’s top running games thanks to tailback Jonathan Stewart and Newton, too.
The Patriots ran the ball just 17 times, accounting for a mere 44 yards. Heck, Brady was the Patriots’ leading rusher Sunday off one 11-yard scramble.
The Broncos’ terrific overall defense was a factor in that, but New England has been a one-handed team all season.
That made Brady, who has never been elusive, quite a target Sunday. Without any real fear of being burned by the run, Miller could simply aim himself at No. 12 and create mayhem.
"They’ve got a great rush," Brady said afterward. "They’ve got some great pass rushers, they’ve got interior pass rushers, they’ve got some outside rushes. I think you complement that with good coverage."
Indeed, the Broncos’ secondary is impressive, particularly cornerback Aqib Talib, who is Denver’s version of Panthers defensive back Josh Norman.
But Miller proved to be more than a guided missile. He dropped back into coverage and outfoxed Brady by picking off a pass intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Asked about the pick, Miller joked he was just adding some extra "sauce" to the secondary.
"It was just a bad decision," Brady said. "(Gronkowski) went in on him and was breaking out. I think Von knew that and he made a good play."
Was he shocked to find Miller back in coverage?
"They rush more often than not, but those are the things quarterbacks have to see."
Someone asked Miller if he was surprised how effective the Broncos’ pass rush was. Miller took on a quizzical expression and said of course not. They expect to be dominant because they have been dominant pretty much the entire season.
"We started the week saying that we need to be consistent in the secondary, consistent in the rush and that was going to be it for us," Miller said. "I think we were able to do that today."
Miller had predicted earlier in the week that if he could get two sacks then the Broncos were headed to the Super Bowl. So naturally when he came to the lectern Sunday Miller was asked for any new predictions concerning Super Bowl 50.
"No," he replied with a contented grin. "I’m good."
No he’s not. He’s great.