Super Bowl 50: Broncos crush Panthers to clinch second Peyton Manning title
Simon Sinclair | February 8, 2016
Denver Broncos ensured that Peyton Manning could bow out on the highest of notes by crushing Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.
The Broncos’ defense put on a clinic to stifle Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, sacking the league MVP seven times over the course of the contest.
Although the spotlight shone upon Manning as the confetti rained down at Levi’s Stadium in California, it was linebacker Von Miller who proved to be the match-winner for Gary Kubiak’s men.
Two of Miller’s 2.5 sacks led directly to the Broncos’ two touchdowns notched by Malik Jackson and CJ Anderson, while his constant pressure on Newton forced the quarterback into several errant throws.
Carolina failed to lift themselves for the showdown, ending their outstanding 17-2 campaign with a whimper despite the best efforts of their defense.
Denver fed off the occasion to end their 16-year wait to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy, and potentially send their legendary quarterback off in the perfect fashion.
A season of regret
The Panthers will look back at the climax of their campaign with disappointment, having been far and away the best team in the NFL over the course of the season.
Ron Rivera’s men came close to becoming the second team in league history to go 16-0 through the regular term by entering the playoffs with a 15-1 record.
The club went on to dominate their NFC rivals Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals to reach the Super Bowl, but ultimately fell short on the biggest stage.
No player will feel the sting of defeat more than Newton, who produced his worst performance of the season at the worst possible time.
The 26-year-old claimed the regular season MVP honour on Saturday for his excellent play and, although his future remains extremely bright, it may take some time to get over the crushing loss.
Arizona, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers will also look back on the 2015 season with regret despite their strong regular season displays.
Bad plays at key moments in the playoffs along with injuries cost them the chance to compete in the title game, leaving them with a sour taste in the mouth for the seven months of the off-season.
The Indianapolis Colts were widely backed by pundits to overcome their hammering in the AFC Championship in 2014 after making veteran additions around quarterback Andrew Luck.
However, Luck found himself battered behind a poor offensive line, costing him the majority of the season due to numerous injuries, leaving the Colts to rue a missed opportunity.
The 2015 campaign may also be the last time Johnny Manziel graces the NFL following his recent off-the-field antics.
Cleveland Browns are widely expected to release the quarterback just two years removed from selecting him in the first round of the 2014 Draft due to his indefensible behaviour.
The 23-year-old starred in the college game, but struggled to adapt to the professional lifestyle of an NFL signal-caller, and his recent brushes with the law should indicate the end of his career, forcing the Browns to delve once again into the Draft to find their next quarterback.
Looking ahead to the 2016 season, Denver will be hard pressed to repeat their success next term as the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots can attest to in their efforts for consecutive titles, with Coral making them outsiders at 14/1 to reclaim the crown.
Forging a dynasty
Broncos general manager John Elway ended his career with back-to-back triumphs in the twilight of his career, so the door may not be closed on a Manning return for the 2016 season. However, the 39-year-old will need to make his decision quickly to aid his team’s building process for next term.
The Broncos have several key players hitting the free-agent market come the start of the league year in March. Miller headlines the group and he could well command the highest contract to be handed to a defensive player in NFL history following exploits in Santa Clara.
Malik Jackson, Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan all played significant roles on the club’s number-one ranked defense and will also be looking for large deals either in Denver or elsewhere.
Elway and Kubiak will also have to look to the future as Brock Osweiler, who started seven games in Manning’s absence and led them to crucial wins over the Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals, will also be available on the market should the team not lock up his contract.
Carolina should have a good chance to return to the Super Bowl next season as long Newton maintains the standard of his outstanding play from the 2015 campaign. Rivera’s men are backed at 9-1 to go one further to clinch their first title in 2016.
Newton will be aided by the return of wideout Kelvin Benjamin from injury, while only All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season, but the club can secure his future with relative ease keeping their quality roster intact.
The Patriots will return the same starters from their 12-4 campaign and be boosted by the return of Dion Lewis and Nate Solder, both of whom missed the AFC Championship defeat in Denver.
Quarterback Tom Brady has shown no signs of decline despite his advancing years, and after watching his great rival secure his second ring, the 38-year-old will be desperate to pursue his fifth championship.
Expect Bill Belichick’s men to be in the AFC title once again for a sixth-straight year and are backed as joint-favourites to regain the Lombardi trophy at 7-1.
Arizona share the same fortune as the Patriots by having few starters to extend in the off-season.
Bruce Arians’ men have gradually improved in each of his three years at the club and it would not be a surprise to see them compete in Super Bowl 51 come next February, with odds of 11/1 to win the title for the first time since the merger in 1970.
Injuries robbed the Steelers of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in their divisional round defeat to the Broncos, and with Ben Roethlisberger continuing to excel, Mike Tomlin’s side should find themselves in the mix once again to battle for the Lombardi trophy.
Seattle and Green Bay Packers will attempt to wrestle control of the NFC away from the Panthers.
Their rosters are well stocked with talent, including Pro Bowl quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, and they could well enjoy another confrontation in the conference championship in a rematch of their 2014 showdown.
The Seahawks are backed at 7-1 joint-favourites with the Patriots to win their second crown in four years, while the Packers are priced at 11/1 to claim the title for a second time under the reign of Mike McCarthy.
The Minnesota Vikings, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Bengals will have to improve further to mount a challenge following their impressive runs to the post-season, while surprises could emerge from the Dallas Cowboys (25-1) and New York Jets (33-1) and from outside of the playoff teams in 2016.
Seven months will pass before the game returns and as past seasons have proved; anything is possible in the weird and wonderful world of the NFL.