BART HARVEY ’16
The Carolina Panthers were favored to beat the Broncos by five and a half points in Super Bowl 50. But in the end, the Broncos’ defense demonstrated on the national stage why they should go down in history as one of the best defensive units of the NFL by defeating the Panthers with a score of 24-10.
The two weeks leading up to Super Bowl 50 produced many headlines. Some focused on Peyton Manning’s possible retirement. Others concentrated on Cam Newton’s comments regarding race. For the fans who had no dog in the fight, they experienced a generational divide between Cam Newton – a “new age” style of quarterback with flashy dance moves who can effectively run and throw – and Peyton Manning, a traditional pocket passer with a cerebral demeanor in the twilight of his career.
While the quarterbacks were the primary focus of the media attention leading up to the game, neither was able to steal the show on Sunday. Many argued that the Carolina and Denver defenses were equal in skill, but the Broncos proved to be the better defense from start to finish – with defensive end Von Miller being named Super Bowl MVP after recording six tackles, two and a half sacks and two forced fumbles.
After the Panthers chose to defer the opening kickoff and put the ball in Manning’s hands to start the game, Broncos kicker Brandon McManus capped a 10-play, 64-yard drive by drilling a 34-yard field goal to open up scoring. Following a three-and-out by both offenses, the Panthers were stuck in a difficult position with 3rd-and-9 on their own 15 after failing to win their first challenge. Von Miller bolted around the edge of the offensive line and stripped the ball from Newton, allowing defensive tackle Malik Jackson to recover it in the end zone, putting the Broncos up 10-0.
The Panthers were able to close the gap, thanks to their newly crowned regular season MVP, Newton, who accounted for 74 yards on a touchdown drive to open up scoring. Following a three-and-out by both offenses, the Panthers were stuck in a difficult position with 3rd-and-9 on their own 15 after failing to win their first challenge. Von Miller bolted around the edge of the offensive line and stripped the ball from Newton, allowing defensive tackle Malik Jackson to recover it in the end zone, putting the Broncos up 10-0. The Panthers were able to close the gap, thanks to their newly crowned regular season MVP, Newton, who accounted for 74 yards on a touchdown drive to open the second quarter and tighten the gap to three.
The Broncos fired back quickly after the Panthers’ punt coverage team wrongfully assumed that returning WR Jordan Norwood had signaled for a fair catch. Norwood wasn’t tackled after making the catch despite being surrounded by four Panthers, instead scampering 61 yards down the right sideline – setting a Super Bowl record for longest punt return, and giving the Broncos a 13-7 lead after McManus’ 33-yd field goal.
After exchanging field goals and many turnovers, the Panthers had the ball on their own 25-yard line with a little over four minutes left and a six-point deficit. With the Panthers stuck in another third and long situation, Miller solidified the Bronco defense’s domination by strip-sacking Newton for the second time of the game. Miller’s sack landed the Broncos’ offense four yards away from another touchdown and putting the game away.
After a pass interference penalty, the Broncos punched it in on a two-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson. This drive put the Broncos up by two possessions after a two-point conversion by Manning to Bennie Fowler. With a final score of 24-10, the Broncos put the gameout of reach for the Panthers.
Following the game, both quarterbacks made headlines. Manning boasted that the rest of his evening was going to be spent with family and a couple of Budweisers while Newton was criticized for walking off during a mandatory post-game interview. Beyond his walk-off, the media questioned Newton’s commitment and effort as it looked as if he failed to jump on his critical fumble near the end of the game.
On the other hand, Manning was peppered with questions regarding his retirement – every media outlet hoping that he would use their station to announce his retirement and boost their ratings. But Manning failed to commit, referencing the wisdom to stray away from making an emotional decision. However, according to NFL players, no active NFL player is able to promote or market alcohol – leaving some to speculate that Manning’s Budweiser promotion is a clear indication of his retirement.
Despite a low-scoring game, the event had a lot of excitement on and off the field. After the game, some claimed that the real winner of the Super Bowl was Beyoncé, who stole the halftime show away from the likes of Coldplay and Bruno Mars to promote her new music along with some spectacular dance moves. Others claimed that the city of Santa Clara truly shined throughout the event; especially in boasting a LGBT-friendly theme during the halftime show.
Beyond the football teams, businesses had a lot at stake throughout the evening, hoping that their purchases of $5 million, 30-second long commercial spots would be able to connect with viewers, enhance their branding image and attract new customers from an incredibly large and diverse audience.
Nonetheless, with all the fanfare and media speculation, one thing is certain: The Denver Broncos’ 2015 defense will go down in history alongside the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 1985 Chicago Bears, and 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers as one of the greatest defensive units of all time.
BART HARVEY ’16