On February 7, 2016, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos met in Santa Clara, California for Super Bowl 50. After an uneventful two weeks of hype, Carolina kicker Graham Gano kicked the game off and the Super Bowl was finally underway. Return man Andre Caldwell ran it back to the 20-yard line. Quarterback Peyton Manning led his offense on to the field and took to the air immediately. On first down, Manning connected with tight end Owen Daniels for a gain of 18 yards. That was followed by a six-yard pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and a 22-yard pass to Caldwell. That put the ball at the Carolina 34-yard line. Two carries by running back C.J. Anderson gained 20 yards and the Broncos were knocking on the door. But the Panthers finally realized they were supposed to stop the Broncos and they did just that. The next three plays gained minus two yards. Kicker Brandon McManus made his 34-yard field goal attempt. With 10:43 to go in the first quarter, the Broncos led 3-0.
The Panthers took over at their 19-yard line and they didn’t get off to a good start. On third and eight, quarterback Cam Newton completed a pass to tight end Greg Olsen and he was dragged down just short of the first down marker. That forced the Panthers to punt. Three plays later, the Broncos punted the ball right back to the Panthers. They took over at their 15-yard line and on first down, Newton fired a pass down the middle for wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. He did quite a juggling act and it looked like a catch. But the zebras said it was incomplete. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera challenged the play and that didn’t do any good. The replay official ruled it was incomplete. Yeah. Whatever. Two plays later, linebacker Von Miller got loose and sacked Newton. He fumbled and the ball was recovered in the end zone by defensive end Malik Jackson for a touchdown. McManus made the point after and the Broncos led 10-0 with 6:27 to go in the first quarter.
The Panthers moved the ball a little better on their next possession but Nortman ended up punting again. It was fair caught at the 13-yard line by return man Jordan Norwood. On third and three from the 20, linebacker Luke Kuechly blitzed straight up the middle and sacked Manning for a loss of 12 yards. Colquitt punted and it looked like the Panthers would get decent field position. But an illegal block above the waist penalty moved them back to their 27-yard line. On first down they tried to run Stewart up the middle again and he went nowhere. Maybe try running him off tackle? Every time he ran up the middle it was like he was running into a brick wall. On second down, Newton hooked up with wide receiver Corey Brown for a gain of 20 yards. A couple of scrambles by Newton and a completion to Olsen moved the Panthers to the Denver 15. From there, Newton completed another pass to Brown. As he headed for the end zone, he was caught by cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib got a hold of Brown’s facemask and threw him out of bounds at the one-yard line. Stewart dove over the pile on the next play for a touchdown. Gano made the point after and the Broncos led 10-7 with 11:25 to go in the second quarter.
The Broncos quickly punted on their next possession. That gave the Panthers the ball with good field position at their 49-yard line. But they couldn’t take advantage of it. The play calling was horrible and they went three and out again. Nortman got off a short punt that went only 28 yards. Norwood fielded it at the 25 and returned it 61 yards to the Carolina 14-yard line. That was the longest punt return in Super Bowl history. Three carries by Anderson gained nine yards and Denver head coach Gary Kubiak decided to go for it. Anderson attained the first down, but the Broncos were flagged for holding. That moved them back ten yards and McManus came on again for another field goal attempt. The 33-yard attempt was good and the Broncos led 13-7 with seven minutes to go in the first half.
Carolina took over at their 20 and on second and ten, Newton scrambled up the left side for 14 yards. Tack on an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Broncos and the Panthers were at midfield. That’s when fullback Mike Tolbert really screwed things up. Tolbert ran up the right side for a gain of 11, but he fumbled and the Broncos recovered it at the 39-yard line. On second and nine from the 40, Anderson got loose for a gain of 34 yards. He was pushed out of bounds at the Carolina 26-yard line. Three plays later, Manning looked for Sanders and the pass was picked off by defensive end Kony Ealy at the 20. He returned it to the 39 and the Panthers had another shot to put some points on the board before halftime. That didn’t happen. Three plays netted zero yards and they punted again. As a matter of fact, neither offense did much in the remaining three minutes and at halftime the Broncos led 13-7.
The Panthers started their first drive of the second half from their 20-yard line. After the obligatory run up the middle for no gain by Stewart, Newton connected with wide receiver Ted Ginn for a gain of 45 yards. That was followed by a ten-yard run by running back Fozzy Whittaker. However, the Panthers were flagged for a personal foul after the play and that moved them back to the 40. Newton and Ginn hooked up again and the play was good for a gain of 15 and a first down at the 25. After that, they went nowhere. Top that off with a missed field by Gano and you have the Panthers coming up empty once again. The fun-loving Panthers were having no fun at all.
With 10:48 to go in the third quarter, the Broncos took over at their 34-yard line. Manning went deep for Sanders on first down and the play went for 25 yards. Another completion to Sanders put the ball at the Carolina 17. But the drive would come to an end at the 12-yard line. McManus came on again and his 30-yard field goal attempt was good. With 8:18 to go in the third quarter, the Broncos led 16-7.
The Panthers started at their 20 again and instead of running Stewart up the middle on first down, Newton went deep down the middle for Brown. He hauled in the pass for a gain of 42 yards and a first down at the Denver 38-yard line. A short pass to Ginn and a carry by Stewart netted another first down at the 28. From the 28, Newton looked for Ginn down the middle and the pass was picked off by safety T.J. Ward. As he was running it back, the ball came loose. But linebacker Danny Trevathan recovered it and the Broncos retained possession at their seven-yard line. Aside from a 13-yard run by Anderson, the Broncos didn’t do much with the ball and quickly punted.
The Bronco defense continued to hound Newton. He had no time to find a receiver and when he tried to scramble he rarely got very far. To say he was frustrated is a large understatement. Nortman punted again and the Broncos took over at their 32-yard line. From the 32, Manning completed another pass to Sanders that was good for a 16-yard gain. An unsportsmanlike penalty was called on the Panthers and that moved the ball to the Carolina 37. On first down, Manning was sacked for a loss of five by defensive end Charles Johnson. Two plays later, Ealy got to Manning for another sack. The ball came loose and Ealy recovered it at the 50-yard line.
So the Panther defense gave their offense yet another chance to capitalize. Could they do it this time? This possession got off to a good start as Newton found rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess for a gain of 16 yards. Then stupidity found its way into the Carolina huddle again. Despite having very little success running the ball, they tried to run Stewart and Tolbert up the middle again. Add a false start on left tackle Michael Oher and what you have is an offense going nowhere. But they were in field goal range and Gano was able to make a 39-yard field goal attempt. With 10:16 to go in the game, the Broncos led 16-10.
The Panther defense continued to play well and forced the Broncos to punt again. But the Bronco defense was playing just as well. With 4:51 to go, the Panthers had one more chance to put a drive together and take the lead. Think they might throw here? How about a read option play? Nope. They handed the ball to Tolbert and he gained one yard. That was followed by an incomplete pass intended for Funchess. On third and nine, the Broncos brought the pressure again and Miller sacked Newton. The ball came loose and Newton had an opportunity to recover it, but he didn’t even try. The ball was recovered by Ward at the nine-yard line and returned to the four.
This was just what the Broncos needed. A touchdown here would seal the deal and the Broncos would be champions. Anderson was thrown for a loss of two yards on first down. He managed to get two yards on second down and that set up a third and goal from the four. Manning looked for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the end zone, but the pass was incomplete. That’s when another flag was thrown. Cornerback Josh Norman was flagged for defensive holding and that gave the Broncos a first down at the two. Anderson took the ball in from there for a touchdown. That was followed by a successful two-point conversion and the Broncos led 24-10 with three minutes to go in the game.
The Broncos kept bringing pressure and Newton was basically running for his life. There was nothing he could do. There was nothing anyone could do for the Panthers. Finally the game came to an end and the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 by a score of 24-10. Naturally, the question posed to Peyton Manning was “Peyton, is this it for you?” He said he had to think about it. But first he was going to celebrate with some Budweiser. Sam Adams would be my choice. But if Peyton wants Budweiser, give him Budweiser. I am sure he partied well into the night. He became the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl for two different teams and this was also his 200th win. He also has the same amount of Super Bowl wins as his brother Eli. I don’t think it is possible for him to accomplish anything more. We’ll be seeing him in Canton, Ohio.
We MAY be seeing Newton in Canton one day. But he has a whole lot of growing up to do. After the game, he was giving one-word answers and got up and walked out of the room in the middle of a question. Anyone can understand the fact that he was upset. But show a little class, Newton. It looked very similar to how he was acting earlier in his career.
For the Panthers, Newton completed 18 of 41 for 265 yards and one interception. His numbers would look a lot better if his receivers didn’t have so many drops. Corey Brown, Tedd Ginn and Greg Olsen tied for the lead in receptions with four apiece and Brown had the most receiving yards with 80. He left the game early with a concussion. On the ground, Newton led the team in rushing with 45 yards on six carries. All totaled, the Panthers rushed for 118 yards on 27 carries. Defensively, Luke Kuechly led the team in solo tackles with seven. They did a great of job of applying pressure to Manning and sacked him five times. Kony Ealy was the star of the defense as he had three sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception.
For the Broncos, Peyton Manning completed 13 of 23 for 141 yards and one interception. Emmanuel Sanders led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 83. C.J. Anderson grinded out 90 tough yards on 23 carries and had the only touchdown for the Denver offense. Defensively, the Broncos sacked Newton seven times and Von Miller, Malik Jackson, Chris Harris and Aqib Talib all tied for the lead in solo tackles with five apiece. Miller earned the Super Bowl MVP award as he was credited with two and a half sacks and two forced fumbles.
Well, I’ve seen betters Super Bowls. There were 15 punts, 18 penalties (12 on Carolina) and a whole lot of dropped passes. I think part of that is the two-week layoff. Why does there have to be two weeks in between the conference title games and the Super Bowl? Why not just one week? I’ll probably be getting a fine in the mail for questioning the almighty NFL and their way of doing things. Oh well. That’s just my opinion. Anyway, that concludes the 2015-16 season. Up next is the combine. Then free agency, then the draft, then training camp, then preseason and then the 2016-17 season will begin on September 8th. Until then, take it easy.