On Sunday evening, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos faced off in Super Bowl 50 in between Lady Gaga’s rendition of “Star Spangled Banner,” a mash up of Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyonce, and a plethora of entertaining, well-planned commercials. The Panthers, led by quarterback Cam Newton, who was the winner of the NFL MVP of the Year for this season, were predicted to win against the Broncos, led by veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, the oldest quarterback to ever start in a Super Bowl. But, this did not turn out to be the case. The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10 due largely in part to Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who recorded two forced fumbles on Newton including one that led to a defensive touchdown early in the first quarter. Miller was rightfully given the Super Bowl MVP award after the game, which is not a common occurrence for successful defensive players such as Miller. Miller recorded 2 forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks on Newton throughout the game.
Despite having one of the strongest seasons in NFL history, Cam Newton was not able to hold off the Broncos defense. The Panthers started every game in the postseason with a significant lead at the end of the first quarter, but the pressure of being in the Super Bowl appeared to prevent the Panthers from playing to their full potential. The Panthers defense was not able to prevent the Broncos from scoring a field goal in their first run after kickoff, and they were noticeably nervous for the remainder of the game. When the Panthers gained possession of the ball after the Broncos’ initial field goal, the referees called a pass from Newton to Panthers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery an incomplete, despite Cotchery being in control of the ball after nearly dropping it. Panthers coach Ron Rivera challenged this call, but the referees on the field claimed that the incomplete pass call stood, and the Panthers lost the challenge. This decision played a large role in the following plays; two plays after the Panthers’ failed challenge, Von Miller forced his first fumble on Newton, which sent the ball bouncing out of Newton’s hands and on to the goal line. Then, Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson ran the ball into the end zone for the Broncos’ first touchdown. To add insult to injury, Miller did Newton’s signature “dab” in the end zone after the Broncos scored.
The Broncos maintained their 10-0 lead until the second quarter after a 73-yard run from the Panthers, when Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart dove over the Broncos defense from the 1 yard line to score the Panthers’ first and only touchdown of the game.
Carolina’s sloppiness continued through the second quarter, resulting in another Broncos field goal scored by kicker Brandon McManus after the longest punt return in Super Bowl history after the Panthers scored their sole touchdown. The score at the end of the first half was 13-7. Both defenses made key plays that set the stage for each team’s points. Forced fumbles and interceptions allowed for the teams to gain possession of the football at a frequency that is normally only seen after rallied scoring.
Second half offensive play appeared sloppy on both sides, but the Broncos’ defense saved their championship hopes after Panthers kicker Graham Gano missed a field goal to open the third quarter. After several defensive plays on both sides that alternated possession of the ball, McManus scored yet another field goal for the Broncos, increasing their lead to 16-7. Though the Panthers visibly seemed to be diminishing in confidence, they knew that winning the Super Bowl was still within reach, so they attempted several runs and long passes to score a touchdown that would either tie the score or give them a one point lead. However, their efforts were literally sacked by the Broncos defense, giving them an opportunity to score only a three-point field goal in response to the Broncos’ several field goals in the first half. Gano successfully kicked this field goal with 10:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter of the battle of strong defenses, Miller forced yet another fumble on Newton at the Carolina 4 yard line and allowed for the Broncos to regain possession and score another touchdown. Instead of kicking for the extra point, the Broncos decided to run the ball in an attempt for a two-point conversion. Though the Panthers defense had been relatively strong throughout the game, they were unsuccessful in preventing the Broncos in increasing their lead. It was clear that the Panthers’ morale had hit rock bottom at this point, so the Broncos accepted the fact that they had just won Super Bowl 50 24-10.
Although it was not as exciting as previous Super Bowls for spectators, Super Bowl 50 showed the power of a good defense. The Broncos were able to overcome the memory of their annihilation by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 48, and Peyton Manning can end his historic career on a high note, if the rumors are true that this was his last game before his imminent retirement.
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