Ask a group of Denver Broncos fans how they feel about cornerback Aqib Talib and you will get a varied reaction. Expect anything from “underrated cornerback” to “dirty player” to “team leader” or maybe even “knucklehead”.
But no matter your opinion of No. 21, there is no denying that Aqib Talib saves his best plays for the biggest moments.
With all of the talented players on the Denver Broncos defense, once again on Sunday, it would be Talib coming up with a clutch play at the most crucial time. Nursing a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Broncos were trying to survive a comeback attempt by Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
Luck had just led his offense on a 13-play, 79-yard touchdown drive on the Colts previous possession. Doing it again would give Indy an improbable lead. On third and 15 at his own 35-yard line, Luck looked for his speedy wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and instead found Talib.
The interception stopped the drive, but that wasn’t enough for Talib, who also wiggled his way 46 yards back to the end zone for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 10-point lead.
That’s a pretty incredible feat, when you realize that he has only been in Denver a little over two seasons.
In his career, Talib has 31 interceptions, and has returned nine of them for touchdowns. Sure, critics will point at his Three Stooges eye poke last season or maybe even his penalties in the Super Bowl.
After all, who could forget his blatant face mask in Super Bowl 50? The Broncos had jumped on top 10-0 early in the game, when Cam Newton drove the Panthers deep into Denver territory. When Newton threw a short pass to wide receiver Corey Brown, Talib had trouble bringing Brown down, and resorted to flinging him out of bounds by his facemask.
He was flagged immediately.
It was a desperate play made by a player,that was desperate to keep his opponent from scoring. But let’s not forget that the penalty also had no consequences.
The Panthers were already at the Denver 3-yard line, and like it or not, it did make a statement.
The Panthers may have been 17-1 and a heavy favorite to win the Super Bowl, but the Broncos weren’t afraid of that record, and Talib let everyone know that the Carolina Panthers were in for a dogfight all day.
NFL football is a dangerous, physical game, and the most physical team usually wins. This Denver defense is one of the most physical units in the game today, and Talib is a big part of it.
You can have Josh Norman, or spend a weekend on Revis Island.
I’ll take my chances with Aqib Talib.
That guy just makes plays.