Denver Defense Leads Peyton to Promised Land

The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, making Peyton Manning, at age 39, the oldest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl. In addition to bringing home his second ring, Manning also became the first quarterback ever to win two Super Bowls with two different teams and 200 games (regular season and playoffs combined), breaking his tie with class of 2016 Hall-Of-Famer Brett Favre. 

Denver started the game with a strong offensive drive down the field. Manning completed a handful of passes and running back C.J. Anderson, who tallied 90 total yards and a touchdown, added another 20 yards with two nice runs. However, the Panthers defense held up to force a 34-yard field goal from Kicker Brandon McManus, giving the Broncos a 3-0 lead and the Panthers their first deficit of the playoffs. 

After three consecutive punts, one of the biggest plays of the game occurred. With 7:23 left in the first quarter, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw a 25-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery, which was bobbled and ruled incomplete. The Panthers threw their challenge flag and announcers were confident the play would be reversed, as Cotchery had acquired possession of the ball prior to going to the ground. However, head official Clete Blakeman confirmed the ruling on the field. To add to the Panthers’ misfortune, the drive ended with Newton being sacked and stripped of the football, landing in the end zone and in the hands of Broncos defensive lineman Malik Jackon. 

After each team had a scoreless drive and were forced to punt, the Panthers finally got on the scoreboard. During the course of their four-minute drive, Newton led the offense, scrambling twice and completing three passes for 75 yards. Running back Jonathan Stewart finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown, flying over the offensive line into the end zone. 

After a lot more defense, leading to an interception, a fumble, a handful of punts and one Denver field goal, the half ended with the Broncos up 13-7.

The Panthers opened the second half with a 10-play, 54-yard drive, ending in a frustrating missed field goal from Graham Gano, his kick bouncing off of the right post. To add to their frustration, the Broncos retaliated with a 54-yard drive of their own, which ended in a made field goal, the score now 16-7. 

On the next possession, the Panthers seemed to be picking up steam and possibly on the road to a comeback. Marching down the field, Newton threw a 42-yard pass to Corey Brown, his longest of the game. However, just as things were looking up, a pass ricocheted off Ted Ginn’s hands and was intercepted by T.J. Ward. 

The Broncos failed to capitalize on the turnover and were forced to punt, giving the Panthers another opportunity to score a touchdown. However, Newton was again sacked and stripped by linebacker Von Miller and confusingly chose not to dive on the ball. Starting at the 4-yard line, a final Broncos touchdown by C.J. Anderson sealed Carolina’s fate. 

While the Broncos’ victory landed Manning a handful of prestigious milestones, their win was owed not to Manning himself but to the incredible Broncos defense, indicated by Miller receiving the MVP award after the game. Miller was an unstoppable force of pressure, attacking Newton and tallying 2.5 total sacks on the game. Miller was also the catalyst for both of Newton’s pivotal fumbles in the game. Both of these fumbles lead to Denver’s two touchdowns in the game.