As a Peyton Manning fan , all I hoped for, before the game started, was that the debacle of Super Bowl 48 was not repeated and that it was a close contest. It seemed too much to hope that the Broncos would pull off an upset. After all, seven out of eight football experts had predicted that the Panthers would win. Two of them even predicted a Panthers blowout.
Even when the Broncos marched down the field on their initial drive before settling for a FG, even when Von Miller stripped the balll and the Broncos recovered in the end zone for a 10-0 lead… even then I kept thinking the Panthers would bounce back. The Bronco offense did not give much cause for optimism as they failed to get even a single first down.In spite of a long punt return and an interception that put them in great position, all the Broncos could do was to kick a FG. Most of the second quarter and the third, the Broncos clung to a six point lead and I was only too conscious that a Panthers TD would give them the lead. Only when the Broncos scored a second TD did I begin to relax.
The N.Y. Times sports writer called it a ” grinding lackluster game” ( that)degenerated into a morass of poor throws, dropped passes and with both horrible pass protection”. I don’t know which game he watching. Granted there was not much scoring but it was because the opposing defenses were so good. Cam Newton was under intense pressure on every play and he took a fearful beating. At some point in the third quarter, I began to think that he was physically hurting, that he had lost confidence.
As long as the Bronco defense had to be on the field, I thought they would tire sooner or later. They didn’t. They still kept coming hard on every play and the cornerbacks covered the Panther receivers like a blanket. For any true football fan, it was a defensive performance to savor. I read Super Bowl 50 was the third most watched Super Bowl , with 112 million viewers tuning in to it. Looks like the Times got this one wrong.
I think Gary Kubiak, the Bronco head coach, called a smart game. Once Manning threw his second interception, at a time when the Broncos were well within FG range, Kubiak had the Broncos offense play a ball control game.. Protect the ball, keep it on the ground and work the clock. Let the defense win the game. It worked to perfection. The selection of Von Miller as MVP was richly deserved.
I can’t help feeling that, going into the game, the Panthers were a little overconfident. After all, they had had an easy run in the playoffs thus far, having won handily and demolished Arizona in the NFC championship game. They might also have begun to read the predictions that they were solid favorites for this one. Expecting to win this one easily too, they were shocked when things didn’t go their way. They got into a 10-0 hole and the speed and aggressiveness of the Bronco defense unsettled them. Early on, Cam Newton was high with his passes and ,though he briefly orchestrated a good drive with his running, he was unable to sustain the momentum.
About Newton’s post-game sulk : I hadn’t been following the Panthers much this season and did not know much about them other than Newton, Luke Kuechly and Ted Ginn Jr. I had seen Newton’s over-the- top celebrations when his team was winning and when he scored a TD and I had found them irritating and disrespectful. I’m glad that he was taken down a peg but I never expected his post game non-interview. He will hear about it for a long time. More importantly, he will have to earn the trust of his teammates all over again if he is going to be a leader. He is a young player ( only 26) and he has a lot of football ahead of him; perhaps even a Super Bowl ring or two. As he matures, he will learn to be as gracious in victory as in defeat. Or at least, I hope so. He could learn a lot by watching Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson and how they conduct themselves in victory AND in defeat.