The road to Super Bowl 50 came to a close on Sunday, February 8, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, with the final match up between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. The battle for the Lombardi trophy was a landslide victory with a final score of 24-10, not surprising to many NFL fans who crowded their living rooms watching the game. The real surprise, however, was the fan favorite Carolina Panthers, who had a franchise best regular season record (15-1) led by all-star quarterback Cam Newton, suffered a gruesome defeat to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
With Carolina rated as the number one offense in the league and Denver as the number one defense, this game truly proved the phrase that “defense wins championships”. The Broncos’ defense lived up to their rating, relentlessly pressuring Newton and the Panthers’ offense and completely throwing off their game. Newton, who always appeared smiling and full of energy in previous games, was silenced by Denver linebackers Von Miller, whose spectacular performance (2 forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks, and 6 tackles) earned him the title of Super Bowl MVP, and DeMarcus Ware. This duo and remaining defensive players gave truth to their fan-given title of “Orange Crush” causing turnovers left and right, and even scoring a touchdown on a forced fumble with six minutes left in the first quarter.
The Broncos dominated the first quarter, leaving Carolina scoreless with a score of 10-0, and it wasn’t until a few minutes into the second quarter when the Panthers finally added points onto the board. A successful four minute drive down the field ended with a 1 yard run by Panthers running back, Jonathan Stewart, finally giving life and hope back to the Carolina team and fans. However, for the remainder of the quarter, besides a 33 yard field goal by Denver’s kicker, Brandon McManus, was relatively uneventful. Following halftime, it was the same ordeal, as neither team could capitalize on a turnover or a three-and-out, except for yet another field goal by Mcmanus. By the end of the third quarter, the Panthers trailed the Broncos, 16-7.
Although there was still one more quarter left to play, Carolina acted as if the game was already over. The team seemed to have completely given up and even Newton, the one who the team looked to for motivation, remained quiet and unable to rally a drive. The Panthers were able to tack on a field goal, giving the game a close score of 16-10, but were unable to capitalize yet again. Mistakes, fumbles and a hurried offense cost Carolina multiple chances to take the lead, proving just how dominant the Broncos defense was on the field. With three minutes left in the game, the Broncos were able to yet again score on a 2 yard run by running back, C.J. Anderson, and secured their victory with a 2 point conversion from Manning to wide receiver, Bennie Fowler. As the clock winded down, Broncos fans across the nation celebrated while Carolina fans remained in utter disbelief of the game they had just witnessed.
By winning Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos secured their third Super Bowl victory in franchise history. Manning was able to secure his second ring, and also earn his 200th career win, the most by any other quarterback in NFL history. Miller earned the title of Super Bowl MVP due to his spectacular performance, and Carolina was sent home packing.
At 39 years old, Manning has not only earned two Super Bowl rings, but also a countless number of records, including most passing yards by a quarterback and tied for most Pro Bowl selections. His poor performance this season, and short 2-3 week injury have made every fan wonder one thing only, is this it for the veteran? Will he be taking off the pads for good? When asked by countless reporters, Manning responded, “I’m going to enjoy this Super Bowl victory and celebrate with my family and friends.” He gave no clear indication to what his decision will be, except for when he stated, “I think I’ll make a decision. I have to tell you, though, I’m very much at peace with it.” Regardless, much of the media has appeared to announce his retirement beforehand, saying it is obvious for Manning to end his career at the top, though as for now the question remains unanswered.
Super Bowl 50 marked the Golden Year of the NFL and although it was not a spectacular performance, it proved one thing: the season is full of surprises, even at its end. Battling adversity and doubt, the Broncos showed why they deserved to earn the title of Super Bowl champions.