If this is indeed the end of Peyton Manning's career, he goes out on top as a World Champion. Manning, like he had been throughout the 2015 season, was not at his best, but it didn't matter because Denver's defense was absolutely amazing against the Panthers.
The Broncos defense picked up right where the left off in the AFC title game, harassing Cam Newton all night. They sacked the showboating quarterback seven times, forced two fumbles via strip sacks, and intercepted him. By the time the fourth quarter ended the smile had disappeared from Newton's face, replaced by a look of bewilderment and frustration.
Von Miller was named Super Bowl MVP and rightfully so. It was Miller's strip of Newton on third and nine with 4:04 to go in the game that proved to be the final dagger and turning point of the night. The Panthers were only down six point, 16-10, and Miller shut the door in Carolina's face. The free agent-to-be slapped the football out of Newton's hand and linebacker Demarcus Ware tried to scoop it off the ground with one hand. The ball bounced around for seemingly forever, before T.J. Ward fell on it at the Carolina four-yard line. The game was over.
Miller finished with six tackles, 2.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and a forced fumble. DeMarcus Ware also had two sacks and three tackles.
Give a lot of credit to Wade Phillips for an incredible game plan against the Panthers. He found a way to get his players to contain Cam Newton in the pocket, and totally shutdown Jonathan Stewart. A Carolina offensive line that had bullied the entire NFL all year was bullied by Denver's front seven for sixty long and hard minutes on Super Sunday. While Miller gets the MVP award, it was Phillips' genius schemes that were the main reason why Denver is hoisting its third title in franchise history.
Also, give a lot of credit to Head Coach Gary Kubiak who found a way to get a team comprised of star players to come together and unselfishly play as one for the greater cause. The Broncos had a wild regular season, and for them to find themselves at this point is a true statement to him and the team he and his coaches built.
As far as this game was concerned, it was a true slugfest between two incredible defensive teams. On the Carolina spectrum however this defeat was a lost opportunity, remembered best for one play in the first quarter of the game that was clearly the turning point of the entire contest. With Denver leading 3-0, Newton connected with Jerricho Cotchery around the 40-yard line with the receiver going down to the ground while clutching the ball with one hand. However the initial call by the refs was incomplete.
Replays on CBS clearly showed that Cotchery caught the football, but after an instant replay challenge by Carolina, official Clete Blakeman ruled that Cotchery never maintained possession of the football. The ruling was truly a horrible mistake by Blakeman who is not stranger to criticism. Blakeman was the same ref who was in the middle of the coin-flip disasters in the Jets-Patriots and Cardinals-Packers games. To be honest and fair, Blakeman blew the call. Cotchery should have had a first down.
Now stuck in the shadow of their goal-line, Newton was hurried and striped sacked by Von Miller, with Malik Jackson eventually falling on the football in the end zone for the score giving Denver a 10-0 lead. Clearly the horrible call by the refs cost the Panthers dearly. Had they made the right call on the Cotchery catch, who knows where this game would be at the end of the day. In a league year where officials have struggled to distinguish between a catch and a non-catch, this call was truly disturbing, especially in a game of this magnitude.
That being said, the Panthers did little to help themselves. For the entire evening the Panthers either shot themselves in the foot or couldn't find an answer for the Denver defense. Here is the list of mistakes by Carolina:
1) Down 10-7, the Panthers fail to cover a punt properly, allowing Jordan Norwood to gash them for 61-yards down the sideline to set up a Denver field goal to make it 13-7.
2) On the next Carolina possession, Mike Tolbert fumbled after gaining 11-yards across midfield giving the Broncos the football back.
3) After Carolina got the football back on a Manning interception, they went three and out on offense.
4) The Panthers took four and a half minutes off the clock on their opening possession of the second half only to watch Graham Gano miss a crucial field goal as the ball bounced off the goal post.
5) Down 16-7 and driving the football into Denver territory, Newton throws a costly interception to T.J. Ward.
6) Carolina's two fourth quarter possessions following Denver punts, ended in a punt and a strip sack fumble.
7) Remember in December Josh Norman drew a lot of attention for his fight with Odell Beckham Jr.? Yeah, well Norman got burned on a holding call at the goal-line, giving Denver renewed life. C.J. Anderson plowed into the end zone from there to ice it for the Broncos.
The Broncos deserved to win this Super Bowl. They were the better team, and packed a great defense too boot. In NFL history, this is the 10th time a top ranked defense won a Super Bowl. Denver's efforts throughout the 2015-16 season on the defensive side of the ball is legendary, and deserves to placed right up there with the 85 Bears, the 2000 Ravens and 2013 Seahawks. These guys were amazing.
As for Peyton Manning, he didn't have his best day. He completed only 13 passes for 141 yards with a pick. His arm is not what it once was, his body is failing him at this point in his playing career, yet he went out there and managed the game well enough to get the win. Manning had a legendary career with Indianapolis and Denver. His win in Super Bowl 50 gave him 200 career wins, the most among any NFL quarterback; this for a guy who is now a two-time Super Bowl champion, five time MVP and the league's leading passer all time. We will never forget what an amazing quarterback Manning was in the NFL. He changed the game, and in return played with true professionalism and class. Congrats Peyton on a job well done.
NOTES: The Super Bowl halftime show will go down as one of the worst in history. It didn't take long for Twitter to explode in rants against the halftime show, as people blasted Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyonce. It was ugly, real ugly.
The commercials? They sucked. But we did get this nice gem. JASON BOURNE.
Cam Newton did his own Bill Belichick impression during the postgame press conference. Classy and Cam Newton apparently don't gel after losses. And speaking of Belichick, his quarterback Tom Brady was relentlessly booed by the Super Bowl crowd during the a ceremony honoring past Super Bowl MVPs. Not only was Brady severely booed, but so was his former teammate Deion Branch. Nobody likes the Patriots that much.