One of the biggest lessons about playing in the Super Bowl is being prepared to play. Each team has to watch 2 weeks of media hype and reading their own press…especially when that press is ready to hand them the Vince Lombardi Trophy before the game begins.
Apparently the Carolina Panthers are the latest team to learn that lesson as they concluded a successful 15-1 regular season with a disappointing 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. It’s not fair to assume that the Panthers were ready to play this game, it just didn’t look like it on the field.
Meanwhile, the Broncos did as their #1 ranked defense set the tone for this impressive victory. They did the one thing that 17 NFL teams failed to do vs. the Carolina Panthers: Stop Panthers QB Cam Newton.
Broncos LB Von Miller certainly put the brakes on Newton as he truly made his Super Bowl a nightmare forcing 2 fumbles and 2.5 sacks, which led to both Broncos touchdowns which earned him the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award.
This is the 3rd Super Bowl win Broncos history and the second victory for QB Peyton Manning in 4 tries. Manning won a Super Bowl in 2006 with the Indianapolis Colts and he also lost one Super Bowl each with the Colts (2009) and Broncos (2013) as well. This was the second Super Bowl loss for the Panthers, who also lost in 2003.
With rumors circulating that this may be his last NFL game, when asked if it were so, Manning responded stated that he will take time on making a decision of his future and that he won’t make an emotional decision.
As for the game itself, the Broncos took the opening drive-and drove it down the Panthers throats, as QB Peyton Manning took the Panthers lack of pressure on him to his advantage and completed several passes before handing off the ball. As successful as that drive was, unfortunately they couldn’t get it into the end zone and had to settle for a Brandon McManus FG to give them a 3-0 lead.
The Panthers then got the ball and MVP QB Cam Newton’s nerves got in the way as he overthrew his receivers and the Broncos defense shot down RB Jonathan Stewart and the running game. The Panthers ended up punting. The Broncos then did nothing on their ensuing drive and punted the ball back to the Panthers, and that’s when the first touchdown was scored.
Only it wasn’t the way you expected. Deep in Panthers territory, Newton held onto the ball a little long on 3rd down and was hit from behind by Broncos LB Von Miller who stripped the ball and as it rolled into the end zone, DE Malik Jackson recovered it for the TD, giving the Broncos a surprising 10-0 lead.
The Panthers eventually woke up when Newton did and when he started running the ball, the offense opened up and on their next drive, he ran it often which pushed the Broncos back. He also completed a couple of passes to WR Corey Brown and suddenly the Panthers were at the Broncos goal line, Stewart took the handoff and went airborne-into the end zone for the Panthers first points, closing the Broncos lead to 10-7.
Late in the second quarter, both teams exchanged drives, but then the Broncos struck again as punt returner Jordan Norwood took the ball and raced it a Super Bowl-record 61 yards into the Redone, but once again, the Broncos couldn’t punch it in and had to settle for another McManus FG, extending their lead to 13-7.
The Panthers had their chance to take the lead, but the turnover bug returned to them when RB Mike Tolbert fumbled the ball after getting the first down, but the Broncos could do no better as Manning’s 3rd down pass landed in the hands of Panthers DE Kony Ealy. But Newton and the Panthers couldn’t capitalize as time expired and both teams went into the locker room with the Broncos leading 13-7.
In the 3rd quarter, the Panthers received the ball and did nothing, as did Denver, but after they exchanged the ball once more, the Broncos added 3 more points off the foot of McManus to extend their lead to 16-7. Newton then got the Panthers started on the ensuing drive and completed a pass to WR Ted Ginn for over 40 yards. But unfortunately, that drive died an awful death when his next pass was intercepted by Broncos safety TJ Ward.
As the 4th quarter began, Manning and the Broncos tried to advance, but was stripped from behind and recovered by Ealy. Newton then drove the ball down the field, but once again, they were unable to get it into the end zone and had to settle for a FG by K Graham Mano, closing the Broncos lead to 16-10.
The Panthers defense once again shut down Manning and the Broncos, but they couldn’t capitalize-and to make matters worse, they fumbled the ball again when Newton was stripped and Denver recovered and then the Broncos finally scored their first touchdown of the game when RB CJ Anderson ran it in from the 2-yard line. They also got the 2-point conversion which extended their lead to 24-10, which sealed the victory.
Manning didn’t have an impressive game, but what matters is that he didn’t lost it. He passed for 141 yards and his lone interception and fumble wasn’t costly. He still made sharp decisions that enabled the Broncos to hold onto their lead. Anderson led with 90 yards rushing and the TD and former Pittsburgh Steeler WR Emmanuel Sanders led with 83 yards on 6 receptions.
But the defense was truly the stars of the game as they sacked Newton 7 times with 2 forced fumbles and an interception.
As for Newton, he certainly saved his worst game for last as although he did pass for 265 yards, his 2 lost fumbles, 7 sacks and interception were costly. He still did all he could to get the Panthers into the end zone more than once, but the Broncos wouldn’t allow it. Newton also led the Panthers with 45 yards rushing. WR Corey Brown led with 80 yards on 4 receptions but missed the rest of the game with injury.
For the Broncos, they had a chance to avenge their ghastly 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks 2 years ago. They will celebrate their first Super Bowl win since the 1999 season and will try for the repeat in 2016. Meanwhile the Panthers will need to deal with the sting of their loss, hold their head up high and reflect that it was still a successful season that included a 15-1 regular-season record. They will hope for a return to the Big Game in 2017. “We’ll be back.” Newton said.
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