What the Colts can learn from the Super Bowl winning Broncos

Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; The ball goes loose as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) during the first quarter in Super Bowl 50 at Levi
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; The ball goes loose as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) during the first quarter in Super Bowl 50 at Levi /

The Indianapolis Colts didn’t make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot they could learn from watching the two teams in the Super Bowl.

Defense wins championships.

More specifically, pass rush wins championships. Pass rushers are the second most important players on the football field. And quarterbacks don’t have to be the hero every game.

These are things we learned from Super Bowl 50.

The Denver Broncos have built a defense that is perfect for the modern NFL. They have corners who excel in man-to-man coverage. Disciplined linebackers who are not just good against the run but can also cover. And most importantly a dominating pass rush. Not just edge rushers, but interior linemen who can push the pocket as well.

The Colts list of offseason needs should be a lot shorter after watching the playoffs. They absolutely have to build that type of pass rushing attack. Want to Build a Monster? Get some speed and talent on the edges to put the fear of God into opposing quarterbacks.

The Colts have some minor issues on offense, but they’re pretty straight forward: pass protection and something resembling a consistent rushing attack. The defense is much more worrisome. They need help at just about every position on the field. The defense has to get faster and younger in the near future.

The Colts tend to struggle at some of the basics when it comes to stopping the pass. They can’t get consistent pressure on opposing QBs. Their linebackers are not very effective in coverage. And aside from Vontae Davis, their cornerbacks are terrible. The lone bright spot might be the defensive line, only because they have young talent and effective veterans at the position.

GM Ryan Grigson made a few splash moves in free agency on offense last year, and this season he might need to do the same on the other side of the ball. The upcoming draft is so crucial for the team’s continued success as Andrew Luck‘s upcoming contract is going to eat into the salary cap. The Colts are going to have to find quality players in the draft as free agency won’t be a viable team building option going forward.

After watching the Super Bowl, the most disappointing thing about this season is that the Colts played both of these teams very well. They ended the Broncos undefeated season just a week after they’d forced overtime against the Panthers in a loss.

Here are a few more things the Colts can take note of from the Super Bowl:

  • Don’t overpay wide receivers. Demaryius Thomas is the highest paid player on the Broncos roster right now. He made $13 million this season, and gets $16 next year. His stats from the Super Bowl: one reception, eight yards. Against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game: two receptions, 12 yards. Maybe this is exclusive to Thomas, and T.Y. Hilton has certainly played well in the postseason (just ask the Chiefs), but the order goes: 1. Quarterback 2. Pass rusher. That’s it for top tier contracts. Colts have to find their number two still.
  • Don’t be conservative. This applies to either side of the ball. Gary Kubiak nearly gift wrapped the last two games of the season with an overly conservative offense. We get that Manning was limited, but Kubiak really hampered what Manning was allowed to do on the field. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos defense did the opposite. One thing you didn’t see from this unit was a prevent defense in the playoffs. They didn’t drop back into deep coverage, instead playing tight, still rushing four players, and remaining aggressive. Essentially, they didn’t change their defense late in games to prevent big plays.
  • Double team Von Miller. The Colts may have their issues, but they certainly know how to handle big name pass rushers. Miller was held sack-less against the Colts (he did manage to hit Luck a number of times) and they get good practice twice a year facing J.J. Watt. Miller is going to get paid. Five sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception in the biggest two games of the year? Broncos are going to have to add a zero to that contract they’re about to offer him.

This is the most important offseason for the current era of the Colts. The right moves and this could be a Super Bowl contender in 2016.