Wade Phillips' relentless Denver defense is coming off of one of the most impressive performances in AFC Championship Game history, hitting Tom Brady more times (20) than any quarterback in the past decade.
Despite dropping seven players into coverage, Phillips generated consistent pressure with just three or four rushers. Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe combined for a whopping 15 QB hits -- more than any entire defense recorded in a single game this season.
Ware is one of the premier defensive stars of his generation, Miller is an annual All-Pro candidate and Wolfe has begun channeling J.J. Watt over the past month.
Beyond the game-wrecking pass rushers, safeties T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Shiloh Keo punished Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on the Patriots' trademark slants and crossing routes, eliminating big plays after the catch.
When healthy, the cornerback trio of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby was the NFL's stingiest this season. The insider linebacker duo was Pro Bowl-caliber, with Brandon Marshall stuffing the run and Danny Trevathan hanging with scat backs and athletic tight ends in coverage.
We've already covered 11 defensive stalwarts without mentioning breakout star Malik Jackson, burgeoning edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, first-round linebacker Shane Ray and run-pluggers Vance Walker and Sylvester Williams.