Peyton Manning versus Cam Newton. “The Sherriff” versus “Superman.” The “OG” versus the “future.”
Yes, the 50th edition of the biggest sporting event in America came with tons of storylines, particularly with the star quarterbacks of both the AFC Champion Denver Broncos and the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers.
Amongst all the glitz and glamour out in the Bay Area at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, one side featured the future Hall-of-Famer in Manning, who had already tasted Super Bowl gold several years ago in Super Bowl XLI as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Then there was new face of the NFL and reigning league MVP in Newton. At the helm for the Panthers, the dazzling sensation led a powerhouse of talent through the ranks of the NFC, breezing through the regular season and postseason while introducing a nation of sports fans to the newest dancing celebration of “dabbing.”
However, in the end, a strong effort by Newton and the Panthers came up short against a stout Broncos’ defense that asserted themselves early and often, forcing the Carolina QB into several miscues and registering seven sacks while forcing four takeaways.
Denver and Manning won Super Bowl 50 by a 24-10 margin, giving the Broncos their third championship in franchise history in what was likely Peyton’s final game. In the two weeks leading up to the big game, speculation ran rampant that perhaps the gold edition of football’s biggest contest would be Manning’s curtain call.
If it was (and he was hesitant to address those questions with the media afterwards), then he certainly went out with a bang. Manning and the Broncos (15-4) took the opening kickoff and began an efficient drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal before their defense made perhaps the turning point of the evening on Carolina’s ensuing possession. Starting their drive deep in its own territory, Newton was unable to avoid a blitzing Denver pass rush, getting stripped by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, where Malik Jackson recovered the loose pigskin in the end zone for a stunning 10-0 advantage.
Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart responded with a 1-yard score midway in the second period to get the Panthers on the board at 10-7, but the NFC champions would get no closer. Denver created another big blow in the half, this time on special teams as Jordan Norwood returned a Super Bowl record 61-yard punt inside the Panthers’ red zone, setting up a short 33-yard field goal for a 13-7 lead and leading into a memorable Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show with performances by Beyonce’, “Coldplay”, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.
Penalties were huge in the game, and despite all the miscues by Denver on both sides of the ball, the Panthers (17-2) hung around late in the final period and had a chance to take the lead.
The first of Carolina’s two possessions resulted in a three-and-out. After the Panthers’ defense held, Newton and crew got another crack, but this time Miller was the catalyst again. On a third-and-9, the Denver defender got another strip sack of Newton, which allowed Broncos safety T.J. Ward to promptly recover the loose ball again deep inside Carolina’s territory.
After a costly penalty put the Broncos inside the five, C.J. Anderson dashed in from two yards out for the championship sealing score, followed by a successful two-point conversion for the game’s final points.
With his brother, two-time Super Bowl MVP and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning watching and cheering from a luxury suite box, Manning finished perhaps his career with 141 yards passing on 13 completions. Anderson led the Broncos rushing attack with 90 yards on 23 carries. But the MVP award went to Miller for his aggressive play and forcing a pair of turnovers on Newton that led to scoring opportunities each time.
“I’ll take some time to reflect,” Manning told CBS Sports afterwards. “I got a couple of priorities first. I’m going to go kiss my wife and my kids and I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight.”
“It feels great,” Miller said afterwards. “Peyton and DeMarcus and (Assistant Coach Wade Phillips) and all the guys that have been deserving their whole, whole career. I did this for them. I put my neck on the line for those guys.”
Newton finished with 265 yards passing on 18 attempts and rushed for another 45 yards. However, the postgame was marred with a bit of controversy as Newton was seemingly not wanting to answer a bevy of questions from the media following the loss. Conflicting reports say that perhaps Newton was being taunted by some Broncos’ players in the media area afterwards, which resulted in his angry departure from the podium.
In exit interviews conducted Tuesday, Newton stood by his reaction, telling reporters and Yahoo! Sports that he has no regrets on how he presented himself and that he doesn’t have to conform to what anybody wants – all the while promising that his team will return to the NFL’s biggest stage in the very near future.
“I’m on record as being a sore loser,” he added. “I hate losing. You show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”
As for the Broncos, the team returned to the Mile High City early Monday and held their championship parade in downtown Denver on Tuesday. Manning still has yet to say what will become of his future in the NFL, but many critics stand by their assumption that Sunday was the swan song for Peyton. As the lights dimmed in Santa Clara, Manning also became the first quarterback to win a title with two different teams and certainly played a career worthy of being enshrined in the halls of Canton, Ohio – soon enough.
Super Bowl 50 was the capper on another successful season for the NFL, which saw victories for the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars in the annual NFL International Series held at London’s Wembley Stadium. Total attendance for all three games in the series was 251, 631 — showing again that the league continues to attract UK fans of the American sport since the International Series started back in 2007. The second of the three-game series, featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars beating the Buffalo Bills 34-31, drew the largest with 84,021 fans.
For the latest on the NFL in the UK, go to www.nfluk.com
W| By Michael T. Lyle, Jr @LyleMultimedia Via @InspireLSSports