ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Broncos were clearly taken with the gut punch Seattle's defense delivered to them in Super Bowl XLVIII.
In less than 24 hours, the Broncos committed a reported $60 million in guaranteed money to defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward. Talib and Ward were second-team All-Pros last season. Ware was a first- or second-team All-Pro for seven consecutive seasons from 2006-12 before being hindered by an elbow injury last year.
But honors don't reveal why they're here. It's performance -- and the manner in which it was provided, with a dose of physicality and attitude.
"I think it's an investment in brutal nasty," Ware said. "I think what they're trying to do is really beef up their defense and give them an opportunity to not (repeat) what happened during the season."
And with that investment, the Broncos hope to channel a key aspect of how Seahawks dismantled opponents en route to their world championship: possess multiple pass-rushing threats from the edge, safeties who could blend inside-the-box intimidation with sound coverage ability and cornerbacks who can be left in one-on-one coverage.
Being a safety, Ward believes Seattle safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor set the tone that he wants to provide in Denver.
"The Seahawks, they have two good safeties that bring that type of energy," added Ward. "Offensive energy is great -- touchdowns and getting the fans up. But there's something different about imposing your will on the other team and having that attitude when they know that when they come out and play you, they better get ready because it's going to be a long day."
Some of the ingredients for this cocktail are already on hand, most prominently Terrance Knighton's ability to exploit one-on-one matchups and draw double teams, Danny Trevathan's blend of coverage skill and sound hitting, Von Miller's speed and reach off the edge, and Chris Harris Jr.'s acumen in coverage, particularly in the slot.
But injuries to Harris and Miller blasted holes in the defense late in the season, and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson's season-ending hip injury robbed the defense of some of its snarl. Vickerson plays on a jagged emotional edge -- as evidenced by his spate of penalties against Indianapolis and Washington in Weeks 7 and 8 -- but his fiery nature helps the Broncos more often than it hurts.
Ward, Talib and Ware combine that type of attitude with Pro Bowl resumes. In the parlance of Head Coach John Fox, they have "skins on the wall." And they do it without sacrificing their game.
"I think we all are guys who kind of play with that attitude on the field," Talib said.
For Talib, that shows up in his willingness to be isolated in one-on-one coverage. New England used him in role at times last year, where he would shadow targets such as New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
Talib is 24 pounds lighter than Thomas and 60 pounds lighter than Graham, but he lined up against them anyway, and succeeded more often than not.
"I want to go out there and play against the best receiver on the other team every play," Talib said. "I don't want to just stay on the left side, sometimes go against number threes like some guys do -- I won't say (any) names -- but some guys just stay on one side of the field.
"I relish the opportunity that my coach has enough confidence in me that he allows me to guard the other team's best player for the full game. I just love that my coach has enough confidence in me to do that."
With Ward, that attitude bears itself out in his talkative nature and his hits. He doesn't feel an obligation to be a physical safety, but that it just transpires naturally.
"I think it's just something that's going to happen with me being out there. It's not something that I've got to think about. It's just my style of play," Ward said. "That's just what I bring to the table, and that's why they brought me here. They're going to get that, without even second-guessing."
And that comes back to Super Bowl XLVIII, when Seattle's defenders jammed and throttled the Broncos early, knocking the offense out of rhythm from the first quarter onward.
"Seattle was just a little more physical, and we're preparing ourselves right now to combat that against every team," said Ward. "I think that's why me, Talib and Ware were brought in, because we're three physical players.
"It's going to help this defense. It's going to help this team."