The Denver Broncos used a dominant defensive performance to upset the Carolina Panthers and win Super Bowl 50 on Sunday night from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
Here is the best and worst from Super Bowl 50:
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
Phillips’ Broncos defense capped off a historic season with one of the most impressive performances in Super Bowl history. Denver tallied seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits on NFL MVP Cam Newton, while also forcing four turnovers—including a fumble recovery for a touchdown. The Broncos contained Carolina’s diverse running game, pressured Newton without opening up huge scrambling opportunities and held tight end Greg Olsen to just 41 receiving yards. Give Phillips—who went from unemployed to Super Bowl winner—a ton of credit for what Denver was able to accomplish against the NFL’s top scoring offense.
LB Von Miller, Denver Broncos
The Super Bowl MVP was the most dominant player on the field Sunday night. Miller tallied 2.5 sacks, including two huge strip-sacks. The first was recovered in the end zone for a Broncos touchdown, while the second all but finished the game late in the fourth quarter. He abused right tackle Mike Remmers from start to finish, making the MVP vote an easy one. In the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl, Miller produced five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. No. 58 is about to get paid.
DE Kony Ealy, Carolina Panthers
With the Panthers offense stuck in neutral, Ealy did all he could to keep the Panthers in the game. Carolina’s defensive end finished with three sacks (tying the Super Bowl record), a forced fumble and an interception. Ealy dropped into coverage and picked off Peyton Manning with one hand in the second quarter, and he later stripped Manning and caused another turnover in the second half. He’s now the only player in Super Bowl history to record at least two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in a single game.
RB C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
Anderson led the game in rushing with 90 yards. He produced the game’s third-longest play from scrimmage when he busted a 34-yard run in the first half, and his 2-yard touchdown plunge 3:08 left in the fourth quarter was the nail in Carolina’s coffin. Anderson rushed for 234 yards and two touchdowns during Denver’s Super Bowl run.
LB Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
Kuechly’s 10 total tackles and seven solo stops were both game-highs. He also had a sack of Peyton Manning on a third-down play in the first half, and he later forced another punt when he blasted Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas on a short route. The Panthers lost Super Bowl 50 for many reasons, but Kuechly wasn’t one of them.
Super Bowl 50
Super Bowls often suffer from prolonged periods of sloppy play, but Sunday night wasn’t pretty for most of the 60 minutes. The Broncos and Panthers combined for two offensive touchdowns, six turnovers, 12 sacks, 15 punts and 18 penalties. Cam Newton and Peyton Manning both had passer ratings under 60.0, as the two combined to throw 33 incompletions, two interceptions and zero touchdowns. The opposing defenses played a big part in some of the numbers, but there was far too much self-destruction in Super Bowl 50.
Carolina Panthers WRs
Cam Newton wasn’t great for the Panthers, but he got very little help from his overmatched group of receivers. Both Ted Ginn and Jericho Cotchery had huge drops, with many coming at the worst times. Ginn had two third-down throws bounce off his hands in the red zone (including one that was intercepted), while Cotchery couldn’t haul in a long pass on the first play of Carolina’s second possession (the play was challenged and confirmed on replay as incomplete by referee Clete Blakeman). He later let a beautiful throw from Newton hit the dirt inside Denver’s 10-yard line. The Panthers had very little margin for error against Denver’s defense, and the drops from Carolina’s receivers were eventually too much to overcome.
Carolina Panthers OTs
The Panthers got by in 2015 with Michael Oher and Mike Remmers at offensive tackle, using the run game and Newton’s athletic ability to negate the mismatches on the outside. The Broncos exposed the pair in Super Bowl 50. Oher and Remmers had very few answers for Denver’s duo of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Newton absorbed six sacks and 13 hits, and his two lost fumbles for killers for the Panthers. The nightmare was summed up on one of the game’s signature plays, when Miller used a spin move to get inside Remmers and sack Newton on third down.
CB Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos
Talib eventually settled down in the second half, but he’ll want to forget the first 30 minutes of Super Bowl 50. The Broncos cornerback gave Carolina new life in the first quarter with a 15-yard taunting penalty, which negated a Broncos stop. Later, Talib committed a egregious facemask penalty on Panthers receiver Corey Brown and then jumped offsides on Carolina’s only extra point attempt. He was also close to being offsides on Graham Gano’s missed field goal in the second half.
QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
The NFL’s MVP finished 18-of-41 passing for 265 yards, one interception and two lost fumbles. He was erratic early on, and the consistency never developed as the Broncos battered him all game. Newton just never seemed capable of getting a good hold on the game. Would the Super Bowl have been different had his receivers held on to the football in a couple of key spots? Probably. But the same could be said about his lost fumbles, which both turned into touchdowns in an eventual 14-point loss. Newton needed to be Superman for the Panthers to win, and he couldn’t quite live up to the lofty title.
QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Manning won his second ring, but it was an ugly road to get there for the 39-year-old quarterback. He completed 13 passes for 141 yards and no touchdowns, plus a pair of turnovers (interception, lost fumble). The Broncos offense finished 1-for-14 on third down, with just 11 total first downs, 104 net passing yards and 194 total yards. Super Bowl winners don’t need to apologize for anything. But Manning’s performance on Sunday night will still go down as one of the worst from a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, even if it is his last ever game in the NFL.