Superb defense powers Broncos to Super Bowl 50 win
The Broncos subdued Panthers quarterback and league MVP Cam Newton throughout, and despite their own offensive deficiencies, they were able to close out the win with relative ease in the final quarter.
There was a SuperBowl record of 12 sacks in the match and for long spells of the game, it looked like the Broncos were going to win without scoring an offensive touchdown.
But CJ Anderson’s touchdown, and the subsequent two-point conversion, with three minutes left on the clock secured the Broncos third SuperBowl and a second SuperBowl for veteran quarterback Peyton Manning.
Carolina won the coin toss and made the bold move of choosing ends and deciding to kick-off, meaning that they would receive the ball first in the second half, as they backed their defense to get them off to the best start.
It seemed to backfire, though, and the Broncos ended up scoring on their first drive, albeit with a 34-yard field goal from Brandon McManus. The opening three points, which came off the back of 10 plays and 64 yards by Denver, marked the first time the Panthers had been behind in the entire play-offs.
After making a shaky start with the ball, resulting in the Panthers punting off their first possession, Cam Newton then found Jerricho Cotchery through the middle, the wide receiver fumbling before appearing to re-gather. Coach Ron Rivera threw the challenge and the play was controversially called an incomplete pass, denying the Panthers a significant field gain.
Carolina’s woe was compounded moments later when on third and long, Newton took too long in the pocket and was hit by Von Miller, knocking the ball free, enabling Malik Jackson to retrieve and run the ball into the end zone for SuperBowl 50’s first touchdown.
At 10-0 down, the Panthers had their first break midway through the first quarter when Newton was sacked by Darian Stewart, but they were awarded a fresh set of downs as Denver’s Aqib Talib was penalized for taunting. As it was, a struggling Newton failed to make the most of the opportunity and the Panthers punted again.
He turned to his running game at the start of the second quarter and followed that up with two smart passing plays to take the Panthers within a yard, and Jonathan Stewart got them on the board as he pivoted his way over the defensive line and into the end zone.
The Panthers were forced to punt again soon after and Jordan Norwood completed a monster return of 61 yards - a Super Bowl record - to march the Broncos up the pitch.
They will have been disappointed not to get a touchdown given their first down position, but the Broncos at least managed a field goal from 33-yards for McManus to stretch their advantage to 13-7 that they held until half time.
Play resumed after the famous half time show, featuring Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars, and it continued in disjointed, error-strewn fashion.
Another costly Cotchery drop denied the Panthers 1st and goal early in the third quarter, and a subsequent penalty for unnecessary roughness eventually restricted Carolina to a 45-yard field goal attempt. Up stepped Graham Gano and his kick came off the top of the right upright and was no good.
After a fine drive, the Broncos did what the Panthers couldn’t, and tagged on an extra three points of their own through McManus from 35-yards to make it a nine-point ball game.
Denver’s defense by now was showing enough that they believed they could win the game. They forced their third turnover of the night when Ted Ginn tipped Newton’s long pass and it was intercepted by TJ Ward, and regathered by a Broncos man after a brief fumble.
At the end of the third quarter, the Broncos retained their nine-point advantage.
A big moment came at the start of the fourth as Kony Ealy recorded his third sack on Peyton Manning - a record-equalling SuperBowl tally - and that set up Panthers for a drive to their first field goal of the game, 39-yards for Gano to reduce the arrears to 16-10.
The underwhelming Broncos offense went for another three and out, but then with less than five minutes remaining, another huge defensive play put another nail in the Panthers coffin. A huge recovery by TJ Ward after Von Miller had sacked Newton, and the quarterback had fumbled it, put the Broncos 1st and goal.
After two runs came up short, Manning went for a pass on third down and was rewarded by a holding call against the Panthers.
That gave the Broncos a fresh set of downs and they needed just one as CJ Anderson found his way into the end zone and after the play survived a review, Denver added a two-point conversion to extend their lead to 14 with three minutes to play.
Carolina and Newton’s woes continued as DeMarcus Ware wrapped up the MVP for a seventh sack and as time ticked on, the Panthers were back on fourth down.
Manning entered possibly his final two minutes as a football player, and the excellent Ware and Miller celebrated with the traditional dowsing of their coach in water as the Panthers closed out time with yet more fruitless offence.