Santa Clara, Calif. – It was unseasonably warm in Levi Stadium on Sunday, February 8, 2016…a great day for football. At exactly 3:30pm, PT, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers took the field in front of 71,088 cheering fans to begin what many sports pundits had predicted…a win by the Carolina Panthers. In fact, ESPN’s Football Power Index had given the Broncos a 44 percent chance of winning. It was not to be for the Panthers, a team that had gone 17-1 in regular season play. The Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers, 24-10 in Super Bowl 50. It was the Broncos third Super Bowl win and they did it the old fashioned way – with bruising defensive play.
To say that it was a tough day for Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton would be an understatement. The Broncos hit Newton 13 times, and sacked him six times. The Broncos defensive efforts was led by linebacker and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller who kept his foot on the gas the entire game. He and his defensive compadres, DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe, Sylvester Williams, and Malik Jackson pressured Newton in ways that he had not been during the regular season. They blitzed him 25 times.
Denver got on the board first with a 34-yard Brandon McManus field goal. At the 6:34 mark, Miller sacked Newton forcing a fumble for an 11-yard loss that was recovered by defensive end Malik Jackson for the first Denver touchdown. The second Denver touchdown was setup again by Miller who forced his second fumble from Newton giving the Broncos possession at the Carolina 4-yard line. With less than three minutes to play, tailback C.J. Anderson sealed the day with Denver’s first offensive touchdown of the day. Manning added a two-point conversion pass.
Reflecting on the team’s extraordinary defensive play, Miller said, “We were just being the same group of guys that we’ve been all year long.” “We hadn’t really paid attention to the underdog talk and this talk and that talk. We know what type of team we are. We know what type of game we can play, and we just focused around that…we just played our game.”
Miller is the 10th defensive player to win the Super Bowl MVP honor and the second in three years. Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith won the award two years ago. Miller is one of three linebackers to win the honor. Former linebackers Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens) and Chuck Howley (Dallas Cowboys) were previous winners.
“If I could cut this award, I would give it to DeMarcus (Ware) and Derek (Wolfe) and all the other guys,” Miller said. “That’s what I would do. This is all great and stuff, but for me, I want to be with my guys. I would take the ring. The MVP is great, but I’ll take the ring.” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said, “Miller is a hell of a player, but he has become a great pro, a great man and a big leader on this football team. I’m proud of everybody but especially proud of him.” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera echoed that sentiment saying, “He played a heck of a football game and he deserves to be the Super Bowl MVP.”
Manning, 39, the oldest quarterback to play in a Super Bowl and the sentimental favorite of the game was sacked five times, throwing for 141-yards in a 13-for-23 passing performance. The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 with 194 total yards on offense, the fewest of any team to win a Super Bowl. “This game was like this season in that it tested our toughness,” Manning said. “It tested our unselfishness. It’s only fitting it turned out this way.” The biggest question of the evening was whether this was in fact Manning’s last hurrah. In response to that question, Manning said, “I have a couple of priorities first. I want to go kiss my wife and my kids, I want to go hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight. I promise you that. I’m going to take care those things first, and say a little prayer to thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity. I’m just very grateful.”
The Carolina Panthers finished the regular season with a 17-1 record. They steamrolled their opponents in the playoffs but lost their poise on the biggest stage of their season. At times, the Panther offense seemed confused on the field. They had 12 penalties, four turnovers, and a missed field goal attempt. This same team averaged 31.3 points during the regular season and 40 during the playoffs.
Quarterback Cam Newton who was named the 2015 NFL MVP completed just 18 of 41 passes for 265 yards. He fumbled twice, was intercepted once, and was sacked six times. Carolina also missed an opportunity in the third quarter when a 44-yard field goal attempt by Graham Gano hit the upright.
There were bright spots for the Panthers as defensive end Kony Ealy became the first player in Super Bowl history to have three sacks and an interception.
Cam Newton didn’t get to dab, and he had few words to say at the post-game news conference, leaving after a mere 3 minutes. But Newton should not worry as the William Hill Sports Book proclaimed the Panthers as the odds on favorites (7-1) to make it to the Super Bowl in 2017 while the Denver Broncos odds are 15-1. As the glittering shower of gold confetti fell inside Levi Stadium at the end of the game, this day for the Panthers was dark and dim.