SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Over Wade Phillips' 33 seasons as a head coach and defensive coordinator in the NFL, his teams have finished 10th or better in yards allowed 18 times. They've finished in the top 10 against the run 15 times and, on 12 different occasions, have made the top 10 in fewest points allowed.
The 2015 Denver Broncos are among his greatest teams and while Phillips has not had the opportunity to place them in historical perspective, he knows that a win in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday against the best offense in the NFL could put them close to No. 1.
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"I think this game will determine that," Phillips said Monday at Opening Night here in San Jose. "To hold Pittsburgh to 16 points and New England to 18 points, and we play a tremendous game this game, I think you'd have to rate them pretty high. It's up to everyone to determine that, it depends on how we play obviously, but you almost never lead the league in every category.
"And even rushing, we were third but we gave up the fewest yards per carry. So we almost literally led the league in every major category."
Phillips' Broncos team beat the mark set by the 1978 Houston Oilers for most wins by seven points or fewer in a season. Phillips was the defensive line coach on that Oilers team and said that the ability to play well down the stretch has truly set the Broncos apart from other teams he's coached.
"Yeah, I've said it before -- playing under pressure," Phillips said. "They seem to really respond under pressure and we've had so many pressure games. They just broke the record of the '78 Oilers who had the most wins of seven points or less and, of course, I coached on the '78 Oilers and that's when my hair started turning grey all those close games."
Phillips is a true football coach, weathered by more than three decades and countless firings. But it's clear that this Broncos team means a lot to him, especially given his ouster in Houston back in 2013. Denver's assistants have talked about an unusually close-knit defense and how effortless it's been for Phillips to foster that kind of environment.
Maybe that's why he wouldn't hesitate to put them No. 1 if Denver can find a way to win.