RECORD: 15-3, AFC West champions
COACH: John Fox; 112-89 overall at Carolina and Denver; 2-1 in playoffs with Broncos
The 58-year-old Fox held nine jobs in his first nine years in the profession before breaking through as New York Giants defensive coordinator in 1997. He spent five seasons in that role before taking over as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, a title he had for nine seasons. He was hired by the Denver Broncos in 2011 on the heels of a 2-14 campaign with the Panthers. Fox coached in two previous Super Bowls -- in a loss with the Giants to the Baltimore Ravens (XXXV in 2001) and the Panthers' loss (XXXVIII) to the New England Patriots in 2004.
--STORY OF THE SEASON
The Broncos bring the greatest offense in NFL history to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII, and Denver has the records to prove it.
Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, and Denver never stopped scoring.
Manning and the Broncos became the highest-scoring team in NFL history, averaging 37.9 points per game in the 2013 regular season. Manning established records with 55 regular-season touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards.
The Broncos broke out to a 6-0 start before a loss at Indianapolis in an emotional return to Lucas Oil Stadium for Manning. Epic shootouts along the way -- 51-48 at Dallas and a 34-31 loss at New England -- exposed shortcomings for a defense held together by veteran free agents, such as defensive end Shaun Phillips and cornerback Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Outside linebacker Von Miller missed the first six games serving a suspension and was lost for the season to a torn ACL on Dec. 22, joining left tackle Ryan Clady and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson on injured reserve. Cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) rarely played a prominent role because of injuries and top cover man Chris Harris (ACL) landed on injured reserve with the knee injury suffered in the divisional playoff victory over San Diego.
Manning kept the Broncos pointed toward the top seed in the AFC despite the changes in personnel and coach John Fox's impromptu absence. Fox left the team for 31 days -- he underwent open-heart surgery on Nov. 4 to replace his aortic valve and was back to work on Dec. 2 -- leaving defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to run the team on an interim basis.
Running backs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball combined for 1,597 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns and the Broncos had five receivers with 60-plus receptions, led by Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (92 receptions, 1,430 yards, 14 touchdowns) and wide receivers Eric Decker (87-1,288-11) and Wes Welker (73-778-10).
A new go-to weapon emerged Week 1, tight end Julius Thomas, who caught 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. The former Portland State basketball star caught five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens.
9/5/2013: W, 49- 27, Baltimore Ravens
9/15/2013: W. 41- 23. at New York Giants
9/23/2013: W, 37- 21, Oakland Raiders
9/29/2013: W, 52- 20, Philadelphia Eagles
10/6/2013: W, 51- 48, at Dallas Cowboys
10/13/2013: W, 35-19, Jacksonville Jaguars
10/20/2013: L, 33-39, at Indianapolis Colts
10/27/2013: W, 45- 21, Washington Redskins
11/10/2013: W, 28- 20, at San Diego Chargers
11/17/2013: W, 27- 17, Kansas City Chiefs
11/24/2013: L, 31- 34, at New England Patriots