For psychics and Denver fans, the Super Bowl 50 victory over the Carolina Panthers was written in the stars in the preseason. NFL analysts predicted that the Broncos would have the best defense in football since the end of last season with a stellar linebacker group, capable corners and a stalwart defensive line.
Gary Kubiaks team showed and proved their mettle throughout the regular season, particularly against the rush. They held nine of their 16 regular season opponents to double digit rushing yards. While Peyton Manning fans grimaced and moaned as they watched him suffer a plantar fasciitis injury against the Kansas City Chiefs that caused him to miss seven games, the squad rallied around backup quarterback Brock Osweiler to keep themselves in contention while Manning healed.
Even when Manning returned, much of the talk still centered around him and whether or not Osweiler, who led the team to five victories, should remain the starter when Manning got back. Meanwhile, the defenses just went to work. Brock would go 5-2 as a starter before Mannings return.
During the AFC Divisional game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Manning looked like he was back to his old form with 222 yards on 21-37 passing, but that zip was long gone like B.B. Kings thrill. That gave doubters yet another reason to pick doubt them.
Once they got to the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots, it was all Von Miller, all day long. He would record four tackles and 2.5 sacks in the game that pushed Denver to Super Bowl 50.
Many prognosticators predicted that the Carolina Panthers were simply too versatile to be corralled by the league-leading Broncos defense. Even Vegas made Denver a five-point underdog.
(Photo Credit: Gannett)
The Broncos defense came to play from the very beginning, hitting, hurting and harassing Cam Newton from the jump as the Panthers struggled to pick up a first down on two consecutive drives.
They got the ball in the first half as Peyton Manning, assisted by a heavy dosage of runs from CJ Anderson, would lead a drive down to the Panthers 16-yard line before stalling and having to settle for a field goal.
The pressure offered from Denvers elite linebacker corps was just hellacious for Cam Newton to deal with. A sack by LB Von Miller led to Denvers first touchdown when DE Malik Jackson recovered the fumble and stumbled across the goal line for the score.
The game was plump with the potential for a blowout in the 1st quarter as Broncos got off to a 10-0 head start and the Panthers looked flustered.
The Panthers would punt after going three and out on two consecutive drives early on.
The Broncos would force the Panthers to punt yet again on a third drive, this time from the Denver 49-yard line. Carolina and company would finally get on the scoreboard due to a touchdown run by RB Johnathan Stewart off left guard. Although his hustle and heart were both in the right place, CB Aquib Talib would cost his team early on with multiple boneheaded penalties (taunting, face mask and off sides).
(Photo Credit: Associated Press)
But those plays did not affect the outcome of the game.
However, Von Miller did. He was partially responsible for each of Denvers touchdowns thanks to sacking, forcing fumbles and harassing Newton.
DeMarcus Ware, one of the all-time great defensive players in NFL history, did his part as well by contributing two sacks.
In the end, Cam Newtons offensive line seemed ill-equipped to deal with the constant pressure being dialed up by Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Additionally, aside from Ted Ginn, Jr., none of Carolinas threats on the edge showed up until it was too late. Cams receivers dropped six passes.
Though I would not have been mad if Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were named co-MVPs, Miller certainly deserved the accolade with five solo tackles, two and half sacks and two forced fumbles. For his part, Ware would get solo three tackles and two sacks of his own.
Cams regular season MVP form returned in spurts, but he just wasnt his normal self, throwing for only 265 yards on 18-41 and an interception. He was also the Panthers leading rusher with 45 yards on the ground.
The Broncos recorded seven sacks, an interception, forced four fumbles (three of them recovered by Denver) and completely dominated the Carolina offense in what was more of a lopsided victory than the score would lead one to believe. The difference in skill, grit, experience and resilience between the opposing units was a canyon.
The casual observer can say that this wasnt a really exciting Super Bowl.
However, lovers of hard-hitting football can appreciate the efforts of the Denver defense. They are the sole reason Denver was victorious in winning 24-10. Congratulations to the Super Bowl 50 champions.