(Reuters) - While standout quarterback Peyton Manning has remained the focal point for the Broncos, Denver's league-best defense has quietly been the pillar of their growing status as Super Bowl contenders.
Denver's defensive unit was on full display on Sunday when they dominated the previously unbeaten Green Bay Packers in a 29-10 victory that took them to a perfect 7-0 record.
With swarming lineman and linebackers, and a lockdown secondary, the Broncos harassed quarterback Aaron Rodgers and held the decorated signal-caller to the lowest passing total of any start in his career (77 yards).
"This is the biggest test we've had all season," Denver defensive back Aqib Talib told reporters. "(Seventy-seven) yards passing -- we got an A-plus on that test."
The performance against the Green Bay offense was so resounding even Packers coach Mike McCarthy was left impressed.
"I haven't had my ass kicked like that in a long time," McCarthy said. "They covered us well."
Despite building an impressive undefeated record, the Broncos had still accumulated doubters this season because of Manning's advanced age and decreased arm strength.
However, Denver's defense has been their backbone and entered Week Eight leading the NFL in fewest yards allowed.
With eight-time Pro Bowl lineman DeMarcus Ware, tenacious linebacker Brandon Marshall and Talib the Broncos are able to attack quarterbacks and running backs while sustaining strong coverage on wide receivers.
It is therefore easy to see why their secondary calls itself the "No Fly Zone".
"That's what we do -- we work together on the front and the back end," Broncos defensive back Chris Harris Jr said. "As long as we continue to play like this, we have to win this Super Bowl."
Whether the Broncos can win it or not, their championship hopes are now carried by their defensive muscle as much as Manning's right arm.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)