SANTA CLARA, CA — Careful what you ask for, you just might get it. The Carolina Panthers — brash, talented and boastful (17-1) with pictures (selfies) and celebrations — scored 500 points, averaging 40 points a game in the playoffs. It was all bubblegum and giggles, just having a great time, until young MVP quarterback Cam Newton was humbled on the world’s biggest stage.
Super Bowl 50 will forever be a bad taste in the mouth of Carolina, just a win away from being in the conversation as one of the greatest teams ever in the Super Bowl era. Instead, they are, for now, just a mere fart in a windstorm after being dominated by the Denver Broncos 24-10. Denver led 10-0 early, setting the tone defensively; teams scoring first are 34-16 in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 50 was the first NFL Championship game in the San Francisco area in 30 years. The story lines focused on Peyton Manning, the future Hall of Famer’s potential last game, and Newton as unstoppable star quarterback, Superman, the new kid with the new wave brashness, physical dominance, and the NFL’s MVP.
It all came to a crashing halt as the Broncos’ number-one-rated defense smashed Newton and the Panthers. They simply hit them in the mouth to win their third Super Bowl in eight tries.
Newton was sacked six times, fumbled twice, threw an interception, and looked all game about as uncomfortable as a politician in a clown suit. He could do nothing right. He was only 18-41 for 265 yards and ran for 45 yards. However, he was under duress and pressure, which has been known in time to burst pipes.
Both Manning and Newton were awful, maybe the poorest combined performances by two quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. Manning threw for just 144 yards, fumbled, and had an interception; his QBR was 56.6. Newton was even worse with his two fumbles, both of which directly led to touchdowns by Denver.
Linebacker Von Miller haunted Newton and disrupted the Panthers’ offense. The Broncos won a Super Bowl with the fewest yards, just a record-low 194 yards total offense, the fewest by a Super Bowl winner in history.
Defense wins championships? Indeed. Newton had a chance to join Kurt Warner (1999) with St. Louis as the last regular-season MVP to also win the Super Bowl.
Carolina’s Kony Ealy was sensational also with three sacks, tying Reggie White and Darnell Dockett, and he had an interception. Miller and DeMarcus Ware were terrors off the edge.
Miller, with six tackles, two and a half sacks, and two forced fumbles was named the game’s MVP. Ware had two sacks also. Miller is so fast and disruptive that he’s only the 10th defensive player in Super Bowl history to be MVP.
The Broncos team to a man wanted this game just a little more than Carolina. And they wanted it for Manning — they came with a mission to send him out as a winner. They were sick of hearing how powerful the Panthers were. Carolina helped by dropping balls, missing blocks, fumbles, and missing a field goal with four turnovers, two of which led to touchdowns.
Peyton is a happy man as the first starting QB to win Super Bowls with two teams, Indianapolis in 2007 and the Broncos in 2016. He’s the first QB to win 200 career games, 186 in the regular season and 14 in the playoffs.
At age 39, Manning is the oldest starting quarter back ever to win the Super Bowl. He also ties his brother Eli with two Super Bowl wins.
Teams with the NFL’s number-one-rated regular season defense have won 10 of 12 Super Bowls since 1970. The Broncos’ John Elway is the first Super Bowl-winning quarterback to also get a Super Bowl ring as the team’s general manager.
The AFC has now won 26 and the NFC 24 of the 50 Super Bowls. Super Bowl 50 on CBS Sunday was the second-highest rated ever with a rating share of 49.0/73.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.