Another NFL season concluded Sunday night as the Denver Broncos triumphed over the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in the fiftieth annual super bowl. The heavily-favored Panthers were sluggish out the gate while recently named MVP Cam Newton faltered throughout the contest. Peyton Manning did not outperform him by any means, but he did enough to win and presumably “ride off into the sunset”, perhaps ending an illustrious career. While Manning has not said anything publicly regarding his retirement decision, it is assumed around the league that his playing days are over.
Despite the game being maybe Manning’s last, he was hardly the reason Denver conquered some playoff demons to win their third Super Bowl championship. Without the help of an elite defense, Manning would have been watching this game from home; the Broncos sacked Newton seven times, tying the record for one team in a super bowl. Even the record does not tell the whole story; Denver’s defense was harassing the league’s MVP all game long, with eventual game MVP Von Miller stripping him twice, first for a touchdown, and the next starting the back-breaking drive that won Manning his second ring. "It feels great," said Miller, who on top of his two forced fumbles, had six tackles, 2 1-2 sacks, two hurries, and a pass defended. "Peyton and DeMarcus and Coach Phillips and all the guys that have been deserving their whole, whole career. I did this for them. I put my neck on the line for those guys." As was the case two years ago, the better defense won the big game; only Denver is on the winning side this go-around.
As much as the Broncos earned this win, the Panthers blew this game. While fans will point to a seemingly missed call on a Jerricho Cotchery catch that led to seven points for Denver, Carolina was all over the place from the outset. Tackles Mike Remmers and Michael Oher (both pointed out as weaknesses by yours truly: http://apexhslegacy.weebly.com/home/super-bowl-50-preview) were abysmal in their blocking efforts, and Newton’s receivers did not help him too much either, as they dropped numerous balls en route to a stinging loss that will not soon be forgotten. "We dropped balls," said Newton, "we turned the ball over. We gave up sacks. We threw errant passes. That's it." Fullback Mike Tolbert did little well for his Panthers too, coughing the ball up twice, once being recovered by Denver’s tenacious defensive unit. Carolina’s defense was their lone bright spot, allowing only seventeen points on their side of the ball, with no help whatsoever from their offense when it came to field position.
Carolina and Denver both have significant staying power, developed around a young core of players expected to lead their respective teams to numerous feats of glory. Newton and Miller being drafted first and second in 2011’s draft only added extra incentive to this match-up as it was the first time such a thing happened. These teams will be back, though. Regardless of Newton’s post game departure, he will be expected to get better next season. No one can say they would have handled that situation differently unless they were there. Newton is the reigning MVP, and Miller is the reigning Super Bowl MVP headed into next year, and both fan bases have reason to believe they will defend their titles prestigiously.