It was always an adage in sports that offense sells tickets but defence wins championships. In recent years with all the flashy offenses and gaudy passing numbers, that old adage was said to not apply anymore. But some things are timeless, a great defence is certainly that.
Behind one of the greatest team defensive performances in Super Bowl history, the Denver Broncos upset the Carolina Panthers 24-10 to win Super Bowl 50. Von Miller became the fourth linebacker to win MVP recording 2 1/2 sacks, forcing two fumbles, and recovering one. He had a key pass breakup in the third quarter when Carolina had things working.
It would be one of the only times Carolina had much working, and they were unable to score, missing a field goal on that possession, and later throwing an interception in the red zone.
It was a nightmare for newly crowned league MVP Cam Newton, for the game and the entire two-week build-up. Newton was never prepared for anything he faced, either on or off the field. From the opening kickoff he had the glazed-over look of a high school student, ill prepared for a test. His teammates did him no favors; his organization did him no favors; and the Broncos defence cashed it in.
The Super Bowl cannot be treated as ‘just another game.’ It has gotten too big for that. The Panthers PR staff never prepared Newton for the multitude of non-football reporters who suddenly emerge to cover just the Super Bowl. They are reporters who do not know football, often have not watched any of the games, who only see things at face value, and never with any concept of what is and is not important.
So Cam was bombarded from the day after the NFC Championship with questions about race, having to explain things he did on the field, and having to answer criticism from those who simply did not know the environment around Cam or his team. Cam was put off. He quickly became irritated, and he could not understand it all. It distracted him.
It was clear Newton had to play at his best to succeed against the Broncos defence–something that became impossible. Nothing is taken away from that defence, but Newton was off his game before he ever even saw it. Add to that the fact Carolina showed nothing new offensively (and the poor play of those he counted on), and the final result became inevitable. For the day, Newton was 18-for-41, 265 yards passing with another 45 rushing, but none in the second half.
After the game, Newton was abrupt and left his press conference–drawing even more unfair criticism. It was not professional, but completely understandable. It’s one more thing Cam will do better the next time.
In Tuesday’s exit press conference, Newton said pointedly: “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”
On the other side, the beneficiary was Peyton Manning, who became the 12th quarterback with multiple Super Bowl wins. Manning improved his playoff record to 14-13, and recorded his 200th career victory, passing Brett Favre. His performance Sunday will not go down as one of his best, with 13-of-23 for 141 yards with an interception.
But he kept Denver exactly where they needed to be. He did not do anything to put his defence in any bad spots, and his leadership was vital. We do not yet know for certain if this was his final game, but if it is he went out the best way possible–with a championship.