Defense drove the Broncos to a world championship, but the offense had its moments, as well, helping drive three comebacks from 14-point deficits against playoff teams and delivering big plays when they were needed most.
Here are my top 10 offensive plays from the Broncos' third world-championship season. (Yours may differ.)
10. Demaryius Thomas wins the jump ball.
With 13 seconds left in the second quarter in Detroit and the Broncos facing fourth-and-1, Head Coach Gary Kubiak opted to go for it -- and go for more than just a play that would move the sticks and give Brandon McManus a chance at a half-ending field goal. Peyton Manning looked toward Thomas all the way, and capitalized off Darius Slay's hesitation; he expected a short slant route and was left chasing as Thomas strode up the right side of the field.
Slay was able to catch up to Thomas as the pass arced toward him, but Thomas was in perfect position after adjusting to the ball, and Slay was off-balance and not in position to make the tackle, allowing Thomas to easily stroll the final 15 yards to the end zone. This was a much better play than Thomas' 72-yard catch-and-run in the regular-season finale, which was aided by a half-hearted tackle attempt that sprung Thomas free.
9. C.J. Anderson's jump cut to glory.
**Trailing 14-10 with 11:27 remaining in regulation against the Bengals, Anderson used a jump cut to bounce outside and elude Wallace Gilberry in the backfield, then followed Emmanuel Sanders' block downfield for a 39-yard touchdown that put the Broncos in front for the first time in their crucial Week 16 showdown with the AFC North champions.
8. Brock Osweiler gets off to a roaring start.
Osweiler earned the game ball in his first start, a tough 17-15 win over the persistent Bears, displaying the poise of a seasoned veteran and a willingness to take what Chicago gave him. On the first possession, that meant finding Thomas wide open in the middle of the field; he did the rest of the work, running the final 37 yards for a 48-yard touchdown that put the Broncos in front to stay.
7. Ronnie Hillman gallops 72 yards up the left sideline.
Running in between blocks from Owen Daniels and Virgil Green, Hillman exploded up the left sideline for the longest touchdown run by a Bronco since Javon Walker's 72-yard sprint at Pittsburgh in 2006. It would be another two weeks before Denver's ground game found consistency, but after three weeks of struggle, this provided the first indication that the Broncos would eventually find their footing on the ground.
6. Manning hits Sanders for a 75-yard touchdown.
Having just thrown a pick-six on the previous play from scrimmage, Manning was deep in the throes of struggle, and Cleveland's crowd was roaring as it rarely had since the Browns were reborn in 1999, sensing the possibility of an upset. Social media exploded with real-time eulogies for Manning's career, but then Manning delivered his best pass of the season to date, a perfect strike to a striding Sanders to put the Broncos back in front.
5. Osweiler hits Thomas up the right sideline.
Late in the Week 12 game against the Patriots, Thomas was in a funk as deep as the snow. His drops outnumbered his receptions, and the Broncos' 10 consecutive points to get back in the game had come via the feet of their running backs and the hands of other targets. But in need of a kick-start, Osweiler uncorked a deep pass for Thomas, who adjusted perfectly and made a leaping catch. Two plays later, Osweiler delivered a 39-yard strike to Emmanuel Sanders, setting up a 4-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell.
The drive proved crucial in getting the game to overtime, which set up ...
4. Anderson's game-winning sprint.
A three-and-out forced by the defense set up the offense for a game-winning opportunity, and then Anderson and his blockers did the rest. He sprinted to the left where Vernon Davis, Matt Paradis and Ryan Harris all delivered key blocks, leaving Anderson with only one man to beat: safety Duron Harmon. Anderson forced Harmon to dive, easing past him and sprinting upfield for the score that clinched the Broncos' fourth consecutive winning season and ended the Patriots' hopes of an undefeated season.
3. Manning re-enters.
It was like a combination of Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals or Daniel LaRusso at the 1984 All Valley Karate Championships ... it seemed scripted, like a film, but was very real.
The ovation Manning received sent hair follicles spiking on the back of necks from Sedgwick to Sawpit and beyond. Manning wasn't spectacular, but his return energized the team and the fans as the Broncos overcame their early turnovers to rally for a 27-20 win that clinched home-field advantage in the postseason.
2. Bennie Fowler turns third-and-12 into a 31-yard gain.
Trailing 13-12, the Broncos offense hadn't scored a touchdown and was in danger of frittering away the opportunity presented by Bradley Roby's forced fumble from Fitzgerald Toussaint. But Manning found Fowler at the center of the field, just past Brandon Boykin.
Fowler then burst through Will Allen and kept going all the way up to the Pittsburgh 36-yard-line, igniting the offense to its only touchdown drive of what would end up being a 23-16 win.
1. Anderson's 2-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl 50.
It wasn't the most spectacular play, but it neatly encapsulated the Broncos' "kicking and screaming" ethos and Anderson's own ability to keep on chugging and never yield.
Anderson ran through All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly and a horde of other Panthers to eke the football over the goal line and effectively clinch Super Bowl 50.