ENGLEWOOD - The apocalypse, otherwise known as the Broncos Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks, altered minds all across The Front Range. Extreme disappointment can do that to a brain.
One of those altered minds belongs to John Elway.
"We've got a chance to be pretty good on defense," Elway said with uncharacteristic modesty. He's clearly still hurting from the 43-8 smack-upside-the-head delivered by the Seahawks.
The Broncos defense should be far superior to pretty good.
The Broncos defense had jelled into a stingy, solid, if not quite sensational, unit at the end of the 2013 season, holding their final four opponents to a total of 60 points. The Patriots marched into Mile High for the AFC title game after scoring 30 or more points eight times during the season. Tom Brady dropped 77 points on the Bills and the Colts in his previous two games.
In the game before the Seahawks debacle, the Broncos defense held Brady - one of the top five quarterbacks in football history - and his offense to 16 points. This was a defensive masterpiece at Mile High, and this masterpiece was performed with mega-talented linebacker Von Miller watching in street clothes.
Miller soon will return to Mile High, and he will be wearing No. 58 instead of jeans. He's endured an endless assortment of troubles. Suspension. A radically over-bulky frame. Serious injury.
Elway once called Miller the most talented player he's ever seen. That might sound like hyperbole until you witness Miller rampaging into the backfield in pursuit of a quarterback. Miller swears he's a new man, strengthened by his troubles.
This is uplifting news to Broncos fans everywhere.
And petrifying news for offensive linemen and quarterbacks.
"I want to be the best and that's my mission and I'm aiming for it and I'm working hard for it and that's where my head's at right now," Miller said Thursday.
Miller, man on a mission, will be blessed with a fresh tag team partner in DeMarcus Ware, who collected 117 sacks in nine seasons with the Cowboys. Elway offered a slightly sinister smile as he thought of Ware and Miller busting into backfields.
"Two beasts coming off the edge," Elway said.
This dangerous duo will do wonders for Elway's defense. Last season, the Broncos finished 19th in the NFL in total defense, but this statistic is deceptive. The Broncos were rugged against the run, yielding only 101.6 yards per game while ranking No. 7 in the NFL.
Here's the bad news:
The Broncos were pitiful against the pass, finishing 27th in the NFL. Opposing passers enjoyed plenty of free time in the pocket, which they used to gleefully dissect the Broncos secondary.
"The best pass defense is a pass rush," Elway said.
Exactly. If Miller and Ware remain healthy, the Broncos defense should rise into the NFL's top 10. This rise would produce an overwhelmingly powerful version of the Broncos, who boast the NFL's best offense.
The apocalypse delivered blessings. If the Seahawks had won by, say, a late field goal, Elway might have been content to sit back and enjoy a quiet offseason. The utter devastation that rained down on him and his team in New Jersey forced him to act.
"We can't rely on No. 18 to win it because he can't win it by himself," Elway said.
Denver's No. 7 speaks the truth about Peyton Manning, who carried his team to the brink of a NFL title in 2013.
This season, Manning's burden will be lighter. Two immensely talented beasts will share the load.