The theme for Super Bowl 50 was that of history; the game was highlighted by the attendance of former Super Bowl MVPs, and imagery of season past. But history was on display in Super Bowl 50, as arguably the ugliest offensive Super Bowl in history concluded with the Broncos defeating the Panthers 24-10. While many people anticipated a low-scoring, defensive slugfest, it was certainly a surprise to see 6 turnovers, 15 punts, and the lowest 3rd down conversion percentage in Super Bowl history. Looking back at the game the morning after, here are the 10 thoughts that stand out to me:
- Von Miller was an absolute beast once again. After an incredible 2.5 sack and interception game in the AFC Championship game, he one-upped himself with a 2.5 sack, 2 forced fumble performance including the games defining play in the first quarter that resulted in a Denver defensive touchdown. After a playoff run that included 23 QB pressures and 5 sacks, Miller will certainly demand a large payday this off-season.
- As great as Von Miller was, Demarcus Ware was right there with him. The likely Hall-of-Famer added 2 sacks and 4 QB hits of his own, and his sack at end of the 1st half was huge at the time as it maintained Denver’s 6 point lead in a game where points were hard to come by. If Ware decides to retire, he certainly went out at the top of his game.
- Incredibly though, the best defensive performance in this game wasn’t for Denver. Kony Ealy had a monstrous day for the Panthers, recording 3 sacks, an INT and a fumble recovery. His stat line is a classic “if you tell me that line before the game, his team won” kind of line. Unfortunately for Carolina, they had a few of those despite coming up short.
- Also on the Carolina defensive side of the ball, Luke Keuchly was excellent. In typical fashion, he made plays all over the field, ending up with 10 tackles and a sack. He may be the best linebacker in the NFL, and as long as he is around this Carolina defense will be tough to beat.
- In Super Bowl XLVIII, Demaryius Thomas set the record for receptions when he posted a 13 reception for 118 yards and one TD stat line in the Broncos blowout loss to the Seahawks. But this time around, he recorded only one catch on 6 targets. I bet he’s ok with it, but he has to be in the conversation for weirdest Super Bowl stat lines; he now owns two lines that nowhere near reflected his team’s results.
- Credit Denver’s defense, but newly minted MVP Cam Newton got frustrated early in this game and let it get the best of him. People will be talking about his press conference all off-season, but what really summed things up for me was his poor effort going after his own fumble late in the 4th quarter. At the time, the game was still within one score, and Denver recovering the ball setup their game-sealing TD. It was a disappointing end to a fantastic season for Cam Newton, and my bet would be that this loss will only motivate Cam to come back better than ever next season.
- The Broncos won the special teams battle, and it may have been the difference. Carolina’s Graham Gano missed a FG during a critical moment, while his counterpart Brandon McManus went 3/3. Denver’s Jordan Norwood notched the only notable return of the game setting up a field goal, and once again, Brandon Colquitt and the Bronco’s gunners did a fantastic job controlling the opponents return game, holding the dangerous Ted Gin to just two yards on 3 punt returns.
- The 3rd Quarter was Carolina’s for the taking, but they couldn’t finish drives. Denver put together one decent drive, going 54 yards for a field goal, but Carolina twice put together drives of 50+ yards while coming away with no points. Thanks to a missed field goal and an untimely fumble from Mike Tolbert, Carolina found themselves holding the ball for most of the quarter with nothing to show for it. With points hard to come by, even coming away with 3 points could have changed the game and taken away from the confidence of Denver’s defense.
- On to my post-game thoughts: Thomas Davis’s arm was gruesome (the feint of heart shouldn’t follow this link), but his desire to play says a lot about his heart and the make-up of this Panthers team. For a young team to go 15-1 without its best wide receiver, and head into an off-season where they have cap room to spend on some additional pieces, it’s hard to imagine Carolina won’t be right back in the Super Bowl mix in 2016.
- I had to save the Sherriff for last. For most of Peyton Manning’s career, he had a losing playoff record and entered this post-season with an 11-13 record. But after often having a lack of a defense for an excuse, he ironically rode the coat tails of a fantastic defense to finish his career at 14-13 in the playoffs, and become the first QB to ever reach 200 wins (playoffs and regular season). In what was more than likely his final game, he capped off an incredible career riding into the sunset; it’s incredible that Denver fans have gotten to witness that twice. Congrats on a great career Peyton, I certainly won’t miss you dominating the Ravens.
And I guess… that’s it. Thanks for all the listening, reading, tweeting and sharing this NFL season. It was a pleasure covering it from pre-season predictions all the way through Super Bowl 50, and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. And don’t worry, the NFL Draft is just 7 weeks away!