SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Back in the locker room after earning Super Bowl MVP honours, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller danced and sang along to "Big Rings" by Drake and Future: "’Cause I got a really big team! And they need some really big rings!"
A few feet away, teammate Brandon Marshall explained why Miller’s first-quarter strip-sack of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was such a significant moment in Denver’s 24-10 victory Sunday night that earned rings for the Broncos.
"We got in (Newton’s) head after that. We got in his mind. Because he hasn’t been harassed like that all season," Marshall said.
Then, pounding his right fist in his left palm, Marshall added: "That play rattled him. That did it."
Five years after being drafted No. 2 behind Newton, Miller bothered Carolina’s quarterback from start to finish Sunday, forcing two fumbles and compiling 2 1/2 sacks in a showdown between a couple of shutdown defences.
"I’m going for the ball every single time," said Miller, the second defensive MVP in the past three Super Bowls. "That’s just the type of football player I am. If it was basketball, I’d definitely be a 3-point shooter."
Miller really was everywhere — and he did a bit of everything.
He created Denver’s first touchdown by zooming past right tackle Mike Remmers ripping the football away from Newton, honoured as the regular-season MVP on Saturday. The fumble bounced into the end zone, where defensive end Malik Jackson landed on it to put the Broncos ahead 10-0 about 8 1/2 minutes into the game.
With 4 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Miller set up Denver’s only other TD, too. Again, he got past Remmers and, as the offensive lineman grabbed a fistful of his white jersey, Miller reached out with his left hand to grab Newton’s right arm as the QB brought the ball back to throw.
This one was recovered by safety T.J. Ward, and soon thereafter, C.J. Anderson’s 2-yard run sealed the victory for Denver (15-4), which allowed the fewest yards per game in the regular season and was just as stingy against the run as the pass.
Earlier, Miller laid a big hit on Newton near the sideline. He also shared a third-down sack with Derek Wolfe to get Denver the ball back at the end of the third quarter.
And, showing his versatility, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Miller even made plays in pass coverage, dropping back to force an incompletion from Newton to Jerricho Cotchery.
It was all part of quite a display by Denver’s defence, making the NFC champion Panthers (17-2) and the league’s top-scoring offence look decidedly mediocre.
Miller actually lamented not having more sacks.
"I should have had two or three more — (Newton) was able to get out of ’em," Miller said.
Thanks to Miller and Co., Peyton Manning did not need to do much to earn his second Super Bowl ring: The Broncos’ 194 total yards were the fewest ever for a Super Bowl winner.
Denver’s defence wound up with a Super Bowl record-tying seven sacks, showing off the rush that led the NFL with 52 sacks this season.
Two years ago, when Manning directed the NFL’s best offence, Denver got walloped 43-8 in the Super Bowl by the Seattle Seahawks, owners of the league’s best defence.
General manager John Elway set out to build the Broncos’ D, adding players such as DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib.
Elway already had Miller, who missed the first six games of the 2013 season because of a drug suspension and that loss to Seattle because of an injured knee ligament.
"Tore my ACL. Suspended," he said, thinking back. "To all the guys that’s having a rough time right now, all you’ve got to do is be consistent and keep pushing, and you can be right here where I’m at."
Now comes the off-season and contract negotiations for Miller, someone the Broncos would love to lock up for the long term.
"The guy is so explosive. He is extremely gifted as an athlete. His first step is really quick. He has a plethora of moves," Marshall said. "So it’s like: How do you block him? It’s hard to stop Von."