With one look at the numbers, you can see the Broncos needed a nearly perfect performance by their defense to earn the victory.
Denver's offense accumulated 194 total yards against the Panthers, the fewest by any winning team in Super Bowl history. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens previously held that distinction, per Chase Stuart of Football Perspective.
That 2000 Ravens team fielded one of the best defenses of all time. Baltimore allowed a staggering 10.3 points per game en route to a win in Super Bowl XXXV against the New York Giants. The Ravens offense totaled only 244 yards in that contest, but the defense allowed only 152 yards to the Kerry Collins-led Giants.
Peyton Manning threw for 141 yards on 13-of-23 passing, but running back C.J. Anderson carried the load for the Denver offense. He had 90 yards on 23 carries, and his touchdown late in the fourth quarter sealed the game for Denver.
With the way Manning played, along with how well Carolina's defense played, it was up to the Denver defense to do everything it could to win the game.
The Broncos gave up only 315 yards while capturing their first Super Bowl title since 1998. Denver allowed league MVP Cam Newton to complete only 18 of 41 passes and intercepted him once. The Broncos, led by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, sacked Newton seven times in their 24-10 victory.
"The Broncos defense just won Denver a championship," ESPN analyst Herm Edwards said, per NFL on ESPN. "What a performance."
Tom Pelissero of USA Today shared this tidbit from Miller, who refused to compare his Broncos defense to other great units from the past:
Smart stuff from Von refusing to compare Broncos defense to past great defenses. Says too many greats came before them that he respects.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 8, 2016
It's unfair to compare the Broncos defense to the other great units in history such as the 1985 Chicago Bears or 2000 Ravens. But the Broncos did everything, and then some, to stifle the Panthers offense in a way that seemed unimaginable at the end of the regular season. Carolina did not look like a 15-1 team playing for its first Super Bowl championship Sunday.
Denver, however, did look like a team that had a legendary defense all year long.