Five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Irvin knows speed, and he knows how to win Super Bowls. And he says the Denver Broncos, as good as their defense has been this year, hasn’t seen the kind of speed that the Carolina Panthers bring to this year’s Super Bowl.

Irvin, who never lost a Super Bowl in three trips with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s, joined Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro on Mile High Sports AM 1340 from Radio Row at Super Bowl 50 and cautioned that the top-ranked Broncos defense will have their hands full with the speed of quarterback Cam Newton and his receivers.

But before that he had plenty of praise for the defense that delivered a No. 1 overall seed and a Super Bowl berth, despite facing juggernaut teams like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and New England on their road to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50.

“My friend Warren Sapp said, ‘The tough defenses are when the front end and the back end work together,'” Irvin told Goodman and Shapiro. “And that’s what you see in Denver. You have a front end that gets to the quarterback and a back end that presses the receivers because they know you don’t have that long to throw the football.”

Carolina’s top-scoring offense is certainly dangerous, but so is the Denver defense.

“They are dangerous,” Irvin said Wednesday. “Von Miller? In that AFC Championship Game he was hitting Tom Brady before Tom Brady can cock the football. It was incredible watching that guy come off the edge.”

However Miller and the No. 1 defense in yards allowed and sacks generated will face a whole different monster against Carolina.

“I said to Von,” Irvin laughed, “tackling Tom ‘No Feet’ Brady is a lot different than finding Cam ‘Sweet Feet’ Newton. How will [he] find Cam ‘Sweet Feet’ Newton? Because he won’t be planted like Tom Brady was.”

Miller will have some help from the best secondary in the league, though. The ‘back end’ Sapp was talking about. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris have both earned multiple Pro Bowl nominations, as has safety T.J. Ward. Nickel corner Bradley Roby and free safety Darian Stewart have had breakout years in their own right.

Naturally, Goodman and Shapiro wondered how Irvin would fare against such an impressive group.

“They’re good,” he said. “Now wouldn’t have had a tough time. I understand everybody else is having a tough time, but what they do is up my alley. They want to be physical with guys and take them out of a game. Well that’s the way I played the game, so it would have been great for me because I want you to try and be physical…”

That physical style negated the complex crossing routes that the New England Patriots used successfully all year (when healthy) and that helped lead to a Super Bowl victory last year. That style of play is what has Denver playing this year in their place.

“I love Talib. I love those guys. I love the way they play the game. I love the way they attack receivers and that’s what’s going to make it tough for Carolina,” Irvin admitted.

But he wasn’t ready to cede the game to the Denver defense. He suggest that the ‘front end’ is going to have to do something no other team this year has done with much success.

“Here’s what you have with Carolina, though. [The receivers] don’t have to win in the front door. The front door means, ‘I don’t have to win on a timing route.’ Because Cam is going to be able to buy time. So Ted Ginn and Devin Funchess and those guys, if they don’t win in the front door, on the regular first route, they can come out on the side door or the back door because Cam is buying time and you’re still alive.”

Harris and Talib are physical, but struggled against speedy receivers like Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown.

“Ted Ginn is a fast, fast dude. This is a different kind of speed, so they have to watch out for that,” Irvin said.

Denver will need to win on both the front end and the back end of the defense, not to mention put some points on the board to leave Santa Clara with a third Lombardi Trophy in tow.

Listen to the full discussion with Irvin, including some advice he gave Demaryius Thomas and his take on what Peyton Manning must do to win the game, in the podcast below…

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