The Super Bowl linebackers getting all the attention this week are Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.
This talented and tenacious twosome is the heart and soul of the Carolina Panthers’ stingy defense. Kuechly is the first player at his position with pick-sixes in back-to-back playoff games and Davis is playing with a fractured forearm.
Much respect, say the Denver Broncos.
But, also, pshaw!
In their view, the best linebackers in Super Bowl 50 are theirs.
Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware on the outside, Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall on the inside.
Between the edge rushers pounding the passer and the “No Fly Zone” secondary locking down receivers, Marshall and Trevathan collected a combined 234 tackles, three interceptions and 13 pass breakups while helping Denver lead the league in defense for the first time in franchise history.
When starting safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart got hurt in the AFC championship game, Marshall and Trevathan found themselves covering Patriots wide receivers on go routes.
Successfully converting all that sideline-to-sideline speed into vertical velocity kept Tom Brady from burning them deep — and gave them an appreciation for their star-studded secondary.
“I told Chris, ‘Now I know how it feels to be a corner,’ ” Marshall said. “Because I was tired as hell after that game.”
“They did a great job,” Harris said. “Having two inside linebackers who can cover, that’s crucial in the NFL now the way the offenses are. I mean, these two cats might be the fastest linebackers in the league. I don’t know if the Panthers have seen anyone faster from sideline to sideline than Danny and Brandon. Those guys are moving.”
They’re tough, too.
Marshall played all season with a broken screw in his right foot which will have to be removed after the Super Bowl. He’ll also go for an MRI to see if he needs surgery on his right index finger, which he used to poke the football from Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles’ grasp in Week 2, forcing the fumble that Bradley Roby turned into a scoop-and-score in the waning seconds.
Trevathan, a former University of Kentucky standout, has an appointment with an oral surgeon after the Super Bowl because he’s been missing two molars for two months. He swallowed one and spat out the other in a game at San Diego on Dec. 6 when an offensive lineman drove him into the ground in a pileup.
“Didn’t have my mouthpiece, didn’t have my chinstrap strapped and it came loose,” Trevathan said. “Don’t do that anymore.”
These are bumps and bruises compared to what Marshall and Trevathan went through last offseason.
Trevathan played in just three games in 2014 because of a trio of injuries to his left knee, which he fractured in August and again in October before dislocating it in December, requiring surgery.
Marshall suffered a dreaded Lisfranc ligament injury in his right foot late in the season and underwent surgery in mid-March, too late for him to have the hardware removed before the 2015 season. The titanium screw broke during training camp, however, causing excruciating pain that he feared would send him to injured reserve in August before it suddenly subsided.
This is the Gold Bowl. I’m trying to make a name here. I know what it means for all of us. You got to cash in to cash out. It’s way in the back of my mind, but this is the biggest game of my life, so it’s all focused on this game. I know what I need to do to get to the next level, and playing my best in this (game) can help me get to the next level.
Danny Trevathan, Broncos linebacker and former UK standout
Marshall and Trevathan were rehab partners when Wade Phillips arrived and changed Denver’s 4-3 defensive system to a 3-4 scheme that would put them on the field together when they got healthy.
“We worked hard together and it just made our bond stronger,” Trevathan said. “We were pushing each other and both fighting to get back.”
And envisioning greatness.
“I just felt we had good chemistry,” Marshall said. “I saw how hungry he was, how hungry I was and I just know from that, OK, we’re going to be great.”
Now, they’re preparing for the game of their lives — and maybe their last one together, too.
Trevathan is an unrestricted free agent in March and Marshall is a restricted free agent.
“Keeping us together would be gold,” Marshall said.
“This is the Gold Bowl,” Trevathan said. “I’m trying to make a name here. I know what it means for all of us. You got to cash in to cash out. It’s way in the back of my mind, but this is the biggest game of my life, so it’s all focused on this game. I know what I need to do to get to the next level, and playing my best in this (game) can help me get to the next level.
“I believe I could fit into any scheme. This game could make or break my contract. But, man, this is the Super Bowl. That’s all this is about, winning the game.”
So, Kuechly and Thomas can keep getting all the love; Marshall and Trevathan will take the Lombardi Trophy.
Super Bowl 50
Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.