Denver wins Super Bowl 50
NOAH HILTON | CONTRIBUTOR
Cam Newton’s face said it all. Halfway through his postgame press conference following the Carolina Panthers’ 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, the Panthers’ quarterback decided it was time to call it a night.
After fielding questions from the media with a variety of sullen, half-hearted responses, Newton simply stood up and left. “I don’t know what you want me to say,” Newton said. “I’m sorry.” His usual pearly-white grin was nowhere to be seen.
The Panthers woke up on Super Bowl Sunday as heavy favorites to win their first championship in franchise history.
Newton, the league’s recently-announced MVP, had captained the offense to the top of league rankings with a campaign that nearly made him the second man ever with a Heisman trophy, college national championship, NFL MVP, and Super Bowl ring to his name.
Meanwhile, the Carolina defense relied on contributions from Pro Bowlers Luke Kuechly at linebacker and Josh Norman at cornerback to keep opponents out of the end zone.
More than anything, the 15-1 Panthers prided themselves on being a team that enjoyed the game of football. They were known for handing footballs to kids seated in the front row after touchdowns and declaring themselves a collective band of brothers.
It’s safe to say Sunday was not quite as fun for them. Quite literally, the Panthers let the Vince Lombardi trophy slip right through their fingers, as they lost three fumbles to bring their offense to a standstill.
Those fumbles, along with an interception by Broncos’ safety T.J. Ward, gave aging quarterback Peyton Manning of the Broncos enough time to make just enough throws to pull out a victory that should cement his standing as a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Under the guidance of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Denver kept constant pressure on Newton, sacking the athletic gunslinger six times, a season high.
Game MVP Von Miller, who was in on nearly every tackle, had 2.5 sacks on his own, while fellow Broncos linebacker Demarcus Ware chipped in two more.
As a whole, the Denver defense forced the Panthers’ offense into struggles they hadn’t experienced all season.
In spite of these heroic team efforts, the underlying story of the night still must center around the legacy of Peyton Manning.
Manning certainly wasn’t the star of the game—he completed just 13 passes for 141 yards and no scores.
However, under the shadow of an age-39 season that saw Manning benched for much of November and December and briefly caught up in a short-lived, largely unfounded steroid scandal, there is something to be said for the gutsiness of one of the league’s all-time greats.
Including the postseason, the Broncos’ win on Sunday allowed Manning to usurp Brett Favre as the winningest QB of all time. He is already the career leader in both passing yards and passing touchdowns.
He now holds two championship rings with two different franchises after winning his first with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. Considering those numbers, his age, and his declining skill set, talks of retirement are inevitable.
Will he walk away from the game though?
Recently, other NFL greats such as Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks and Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions have decided to hang up their cleats.
Manning’s boss and Broncos general manager John Elway, a legendary quarterback in his own right, pulled on his helmet for the last time in a victory over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.
It would seem appropriate for Manning to follow Elway’s lead and do the same. When asked about the possibility of Sunday being his last NFL game, however, Manning was, not surprisingly, undecided.
“I’ll take some time to reflect,” Manning said. “I got a couple priorities first. I’m going to go kiss my wife and my kids… I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight.”
Super Bowl 50, in many ways, was hailed as a passing of the torch.
Manning, the league’s elder statesman, going head-to-head against the emerging face of the league in Cam Newton.
By the end of a game marked by sloppy play and stout defense, it was clear that the torch has remained in Manning’s hands, at least for one more night.