ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Danny Trevathan lost himself in the moment.
In that split second, the spotlight had found him and the Broncos linebacker felt compelled to cap his Week 1 pick-6 with a dramatic exclamation point. So as he prepared to cross the goal line with the football -- which he intercepted from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on a fourth-and-1, fourth-quarter pass -- Trevathan's mind sped ahead to his end-zone celebration.
"I saw those lights, and I'm there -- I'm going to go ahead, get my little dance in, do whatever," Trevathan said Monday, just days before he and the Broncos take off for New Jersey to face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. "That was just the young part of me."
There was just one problem: The second-year linebacker dropped the ball before he crossed the goal line, resulting in a fumble.
The Broncos went on to beat the Ravens, 49-27, in their prime-time season opener, but the embarrassment of that lost touchdown lingered in Trevathan's mind for weeks. It also resulted in the 23-year-old making a vow to his teammates that he has yet to break.
"I promised myself I would never put my team in a place like that. I'll make up for it, I'll do whatever I've got to do," said Trevathan, whom the Broncos selected 188th overall in 2012, courtesy of the draft pick acquired from the Jets in the Tim Tebow trade.
Trevathan was taken one spot after the Jets selected sixth-round safety Josh Bush.
"I promised those who were laughing at me, I'm going to make them suffer," said Trevathan, the Broncos' leading tackler. "I'm going to be here and grind it out, I'm going to pick it off next time, do whatever I've got to do to go ahead and get that off my back."
Denver's high-octane offense, however, generated much of the spotlight during the regular season. The unit was ranked No. 1 overall, in large part because the Broncos featured the league's top passing game (340.2 yards per contest). But thanks to players stepping up in the absence of injured outside linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris (just to name a few), the Broncos' defense is much-improved.
There was no "magic moment" over the past four games, coach John Fox said. Just a change in attitude.
"Statistically, we weren't where we wanted to be and just kind of putting your mind to improving and getting better," said Fox, whose team featured the top run defense during the playoffs.
The Broncos held the Patriots to 64 rushing yards in the AFC Championship Game, just a week after New England running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and a franchise-record four touchdowns in a divisional game against the Colts.
"We kind of find our swag," Trevathan said. "Guys have that attitude. What happened in the regular season happened then. This is the postseason. This is where people make their names."
And he certainly is.
Though people may not soon forget about his goal-line blunder, Trevathan knows he's a better man for it.
"It helped me grow. It taught me to be a little bit more humble," he said. "I settled down. I had a little baby girl [in November] that I love and she's just helped me get myself together, helped me grow a lot and get prepared for the rest of this season."