Klee: Broncos' Time To Ride must become the Hit Parade

By: Paul Klee
February 4, 2014 Updated: February 5, 2014 at 6:05 am
Caption +
Duke Ihenacho has a chance to become a thumper in Denver's defense, but the Broncos need more. (Kent Nishimura, The Gazette)

NEW YORK - If Von Miller is finished partying with the Seahawks, the Broncos can return to the Super Bowl in 2015.

The Broncos won't waste a day of the Peyton Window. They will continue to surround Manning with a fleet capable of playing in Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix.

"We're going to keep building like Peyton is going to be here," John Elway said Tuesday.

But winning it? That requires one more thing: thumpers.

The Broncos need a thump in their step and a pop in their tackles. They need a couple of guys in the defensive secondary who put the fear of Kam Chancellor in the opponent.

To win it - not just be in it - the Broncos need a slice of nasty. If their historic offense this season was the Time to Ride, next season must be the Hit Parade.

Excellent, and dumb, things happened at Manhattan nightclubs during Super Bowl week. Jay-Z, or one of his people, dialed up his own 40/40 Club to offer a cigar to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at a shindig for Broncos fans. The Guv declined, but it's the thought that matters.

And though it's nice Vonnie Football was able to enjoy himself at a nightclub with the Seahawks deep into the trouble hours of Monday morning, here's hoping he copped more than their drink orders. Miller was "the only brave Bronco" to celebrate with the Seahawks, according to a copy of the New York Post I bought while stranded at LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday.

Miller can't be the only brave Bronco to return with a mindset of controlled violence on the field. The Broncos must make it dangerous to cross the middle again.

It's important to remember this was a Broncos season blessed with enough memories to fill a dozen scrapbooks. In the wake of a 43-8 loss to the Seahawks, the greatness of Manning's offense and the resiliency of a depleted defense can't be forgotten.

"15-4 is not real shabby," coach John Fox said.

The most memorable hit of the season came from Wes Welker. His smackdown of Aqib Talib was totally legal and totally set the tone for a beatdown of the Patriots.

But the most memorable hit can't come from a 5-foot-9 wide receiver.

After Renee Fleming delivered Sunday's national anthem with a side of goose bumps, here's what I witnessed: the best NFL defense in almost 30 years and the Broncos limping toward the nearest exit.

Ironically, MetLife Stadium offered one. In a heated tent outside the stadium, a blue sign blared, "Emergency Exit." The Broncos could've used it, oh, about 12 seconds in.

Steps from that exit, Champ Bailey offered a telling statement:

"When I first met (Seattle safety) Earl Thomas," Bailey said, "I knew any defense he's on would be good."

Thomas doesn't break up passes so much as he breaks spirits. Chancellor doesn't wrap up; he rips you down. Michael Bennett trash talks right after he trashes your ego.

The gap between the Hawks and Broncos isn't The Gorge it appeared to be. Bruno Mars and Anthony Kiedis weren't ripping a set next to a breathtaking view of the Columbia.

But when K.J. Wright thumped Welker in the first quarter - and the Broncos didn't thump back - the only drama was in the commercials.

The Broncos weren't about that action.

Maybe those guys - the thumpers - are already on the roster.

Duke Ihenacho, 24, has a chance. His taunting penalty against the Chiefs reeked of Seahawk. So does Kayvon Webster, 23. His booming hit of a Cardinal in the preseason lifted expectations for the rookie corner, who looks to me like a safety.

"Absolutely, if it makes sense," Bailey said when asked if he would consider a move to safety in his 16th season.

Or maybe the influx of nasty comes from elsewhere.

"One thing I do know is no team stays the same," Bailey said. "There will be changes made."

But there will be Peyton, Julius, Demaryius, Montee, Danny, Shaun, Chris, Terrance, Derek, Rahim, Champ, and, if their rehabs go well, Ryan, Chris and, yes, Von. We don't know yet if there will be Knowshon, Eric, Zane and Dominique.

And if we know anything about the era of Elway - the great executive, not the greatest quarterback - the next Broncos will add one, two or four big-time free agents that make you go, "Ooooh."

Free-agent pickups Welker (11 touchdowns), Shaun Phillips (team-high 10 sacks), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (star in the AFC championship game) and Louis Vasquez (All-Pro right guard) were pretty good, didn't you think?

This NFL season whittled itself down to three elite teams: Seattle, San Francisco, Denver. Those three also are the favorites to win the next Super Bowl, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.

The prettiest passing game we've seen carried the Broncos to the big game. The Hawks and Niners attack with a style that would win the Hunger Games.

"The bottom line is we're going to work as hard as we worked this year, if not harder," Elway said.

To turn "Super Bowl or Bust" into "Super Bowl Title or Bust," the Broncos must take the advice of Pete Carroll's good buddy, Dr. Dre.

Keep their heads ringin'.

Maybe then Von can party with his own teammates.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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