DENVER -- John Elway has been a Denver-area resident since he was an NFL rookie in 1983.
He played for the Broncos for 16 years during his Hall of Fame career at quarterback and has been the team's top football decision-maker since owner Pat Bowlen hired him in 2011.
After he watched the franchise earn its eighth Super Bowl trip -- the seventh that Elway has been part of as a player or team executive -- with a 20-18 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, Elway declared this Broncos defense the best the team has had in those three-plus decades.
"Definitely, in everything they can do, in how they can defend in so many ways," Elway said just outside the team's locker room. "[Defensive coordinator] Wade [Phillips] had some good defenses when I was playing, but overall with the speed, playmaking, the secondary, our pass rush, our backups come in and do a helluva job whenever they are asked, the way we can change things up, cover people. Yes, it's the best."
After a regular season in which Denver finished No. 1 in the NFL in total defense, No. 1 in pass defense and No. 1 in sacks, the Broncos pounded Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throughout Sunday's affair. They sacked Brady four times -- a Broncos playoff-record 2.5 of those came from Von Miller -- and hit Brady 23 times.
Brady finished 27-of-56 for 310 yards, but until the Patriots' final two possessions of the game, the Broncos had held Brady to 207 yards passing.
"We were able to put pressure on him, even when we dropped eight into coverage. I thought we really got him out of sync at times," Elway said. "It was just the way you need to play a guy like Brady, a team like that, that's done so much. You have to get them off schedule."
Told what Elway said, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said: "Well, you take that. He's seen it all. We'll take that. We want to do it one more time this season and finish what we started."
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.