The vaunted Denver Broncos defense played like the dominant Orange Crush teams of the past in Super Bowl 50, stifling Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on their way to a 24-10 victory Sunday.
Although the Broncos never trailed, Carolina was within one score in the fourth quarter, and the game wasn't out of reach until Denver scored its first offensive touchdown with three minutes, eight seconds remaining.
Here's a look at a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of Denver's third Super Bowl victory in franchise history:
|Super Bowl 50 Line Score|
|Super Bowl 50: 1st-Quarter Scoring|
|Denver, 3-0||B. McManus Made 34-Yard FG||4:17||10/64|
|Denver, 10-0||M. Jackson 0-Yard Fumble Recovery||0:00||N/A|
After Carolina won the coin toss and deferred, Denver opted to receive. It proved to be a good move as the Broncos promptly gained 18 yards on the first play from scrimmage, a pass from Manning to Owen Daniels. Five snaps later, the Broncos had moved into the red zone and had 1st-and-10. However, once Carolina had a minute to get over its nerves, it forced a 34-yard field goal attempt by Brandon McManus, which split the uprights for a 3-0 Denver lead.
NFL on ESPN noted the significance of the first-quarter points:
NFL on ESPN @ESPNNFL
Broncos already have more points than they did in the entire first half of SB XLVIII. https://t.co/zHYaTdiaMt2/7/2016, 11:51:07 PM
Denver then forced a three-and-out—which included Newton overthrowing a wide-open receiver—and took over at its own 25-yard line before also going three-and-out.
The first challenge of the game came at the 7:16 mark, when Jerricho Cotchery bobbled and dropped what would have been a first-down completion. The Panthers lost the challenge, one former referee Mike Carey said he would have reversed during the broadcast.
It proved to be a game-changer, as Von Miller sacked Newton two plays later, and Malik Jackson recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Carolina, which jumped ahead to multiple-touchdown leads in the first quarter of both previous postseason games—and never trailed—found itself down 10-0 heading into the second quarter.
|Super Bowl 50: 2nd-Quarter Scoring|
|Denver, 10-7||J. Stewart 1-Yard Rush||4:50||9/73|
|Denver, 13-7||B. McManus Made 33-Yard FG||2:13||4/-1|
The second quarter was kinder to the Panthers as they found the end zone for the first time on a one-yard rush by running back Jonathan Stewart, who dove over the pile for the touchdown. SportsCenter captured the image as he crossed the goal line:
Jonathan Stewart goes WAY up and over for the Panthers touchdown! Panthers cut Broncos lead to 10-7. https://t.co/SQ9v0pEWfx2/8/2016, 12:32:56 AM
It was an impressive nine-play, 73-yard drive the Panthers desperately needed, but they soon reverted back to their first-quarter ways. Despite having outgained the Broncos 109-73 from the line of scrimmage with about seven minutes until halftime, they allowed a 61-yard punt return by Jerious Norwood that led to a field goal, and fullback Mike Tolbert later fumbled the ball away to the Denver defense.
Carolina's defense eventually got an interception, but a punt followed by a stalled drive near midfield as the seconds ticked away left the score at 13-7 in favor of the Broncos heading into halftime.
Although there were some impressive plays during the half, it was not the best football either team had played this year. The squads combined for just 257 yards, three turnovers and eight punts. Manning was 9-of-16 for 76 yards and an interception, while Newton finished the half 8-of-19 for 95 passing yards in addition to 46 on the ground.
Insider Buzz: Shanahan May Cede Control of Roster to GM; 2 Lead Candidates Emerge
Insider Buzz: Raiders Face Hurdles in Vegas Move; Owners Want Them in Oakland
New England Patriots Have NFL's Ultimate Postseason Home-Field Advantage
Can Home-Field Advantage Help Falcons Close Georgia Dome with NFC Championship?
Simms' Hidden Truth: NE Can Slow Creative PIT Defense with Only 2 WRs on Field
Simms' Hidden Truth: PIT Must Unleash Top Pass-Rushers on NE's Interior Linemen
Insider Buzz: 49ers Expected to Target Kirk Cousins If Shanahan Named Head Coach
Insider Buzz: Packers in Danger of Missing 3 WRs in NFC Championship Game
Simms' Hidden Truth: Seahawks' Simple, Predictable Defense Must Evolve in 2017
Simms' Hidden Truth: Meet Falcons' Secret Stars Crucial to Slowing Aaron Rodgers
Insider Buzz: Kaepernick Era Will End with 49ers; Does Not Fit Shanahan's Offense
Insider Buzz: Kyle Shanahan Expected to Be 49ers' Next HC; Will Pick GM
Expect High-Scoring Showdown in Packers vs. Falcons NFC Title Game
Insider Buzz: McDaniels Could Wait on DET or TEN Jobs to Open Next Offseason
'Fame Can Change Things’: The Story Behind Aaron Rodgers' Family Feud
How Bell, Brown Have Shattered Records on Steelers Historic Playoff Run
Week 19 Episode of Gridiron Heights
Insider Buzz: Colts' Future Unclear After Irsay Meeting with Gruden and Manning
Miller in 60: Shanahan's Brilliant Game Plan Makes ATL Super Bowl Contender
Redemption or Repeat? Breaking Down the 4 Rematches of NFL Divisional Round
Gary Kubiak's Abrupt Departure Suddenly Makes Sense
NFL Draft Live Insider Buzz: Jon Allen and Dalvin Cook Could Slide in NFL Draft
Simms' Hidden Truth: Seahawks Must Dominate in Trenches for Shot at Beating ATL
Insider Buzz: Chargers Will Play at StubHub Center, Moving to Inglewood in 2019
Insider Buzz: Chargers Value Mike Smith's Experience, Impressed in Interview
Insider Buzz: McVay Front-Runner for Rams but Age, Experience Concerns Remain
Expect a Blowout in Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots Playoff Game
Simms' Hidden Truth: Packers Must Go Big to Stop Zeke Elliott, Cowboys Run Game
Can Cowboys' Defense Slow Down Aaron Rodgers and Packers' Offense?
Insider Buzz: Marcel Dareus Got DL Coach Fired; Future with Bills Up in Air
Insider Buzz: Bills Set to Hire Panthers' DC Sean McDermott as Next Head Coach
Former NFL Star Warrick Dunn Built Deshaun Watson's Childhood Home
How Rodgers and Cobb Connected for the Biggest Play of NFL Wild Card Weekend
Insider Buzz: Packers' Eliot Wolf Could Replace GM Ted Thompson This Offseason
Insider Buzz: Broncos and 49ers Top Landing Spots for Kyle Shanahan
Gridiron Heights, Ep. 18: Giants and Justin Beiber Are on a Boat
Historic Offensive Performance Led Steelers to Victory
Insider Buzz: Chargers Focus HC Search on Defense, Plan to Keep Whisenhunt
Insider Buzz: Vance Joseph Has 'Leg Up' on Denver Coaching Search
Odell Beckham and Giants' Boat Crew Didn't Show Up to the Party vs. Packers
Simms in 60: Nothing Is More Frustrating Than Inconsistent NFL Playoff Referees
Miller in 60: Seattle a Super Bowl Contender When Rawls Channels Beast Mode
2016 NFL Sack Leaders
Week 17 NFL Receiving Leaders
Match Ups to Watch in AFC Playoffs
3 Broncos Named First-Team All-Pro
Match Ups to Watch in NFC Playoffs
Time to Skip the Packers/Giants
Insider Buzz: HC Candidates Concerned Over Jaguars Commitment to Bortles
Insider Buzz: McDaniels Could Trade for Garoppolo If He Lands Head Coaching Job
Chris Simms' NFL Playoff Quarterback Power Rankings
Which Current Playoff Superstars Will End Up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Simms' Hidden Truth: NYG Must Lose 'Big Nickel' Package, Feature DRC vs. Packers
Insider Buzz: Rodgers, Packers Will Test Giants Star Cornerbacks in Man Coverage
NFL Playoff Bracketology: Predicting Who Will Win Super Bowl LI
Insider Buzz: NFL Believes Raiders, Las Vegas Have Worked Out Acceptable Deal
Simms in 60: I'm Sorry for Disrespecting Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy
Simms' Hidden Truth: Oakland Raiders Better Starting Nate Allen Over Karl Joseph
Insider Buzz: McDaniels Is 49ers Top Target, Not a Lock to Accept Job If Offered
Insider Buzz: Bill O'Brien Could Be Fired If Texans Lose on Wild Card Weekend
|Super Bowl 50: 3rd-Quarter Scoring|
|Denver, 16-7||B. McManus Made 30-Yard FG||2:30||7/54|
Carolina didn't take long to move the ball early in the third as Newton hit Ted Ginn Jr. across the middle for a 45-yard gain to the Denver 35-yard line on the second play of the half. However, kicker Graham Gano hit his 44-yard field-goal attempt off the right upright on fourth down, keeping the score at 13-7.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson had some fun with the missed field goal:
Neil deGrasse Tyson @neiltyson
If Earth rotated 10x faster in the opposite direction then Coriolis forces would’ve helped the @Panthers make that Field Goal2/8/2016, 2:06:54 AM
As ensuing drives following missed opportunities seem to do, Denver's resulted in points, a third field goal by McManus that pushed the score to 16-7.
However, Newton looked to bounce back on the next drive, connecting for his second 40-plus-yard pass of the quarter, this time to Corey Brown, per the NFL:
WHAT. A. CATCH. Just throw it up and deep Cam, Philly Brown's got it. #SB50 #KeepPounding https://t.co/qMLwmI88Qz2/8/2016, 2:14:35 AM
Instead of gaining momentum, the Panthers committed their third turnover of the day two plays later as T.J. Ward intercepted Newton. He fumbled while trying to return the pick, but teammate Danny Trevathan fell on the ball to give Denver a 1st-and-10 at its own 7-yard line.
The Broncos were able to have some fun on Twitter after the play:
Denver Broncos @Broncos
PICK! Then a FUMBLE! Then a RECOVERY! #BeatThePanthers https://t.co/RTbOkkgVZR2/8/2016, 2:16:40 AM
The first 15 minutes after the half weren't much fun for the Panthers after a promising start. Their final play of the quarter was their fifth punt of the game after Newton took his fifth sack.
|Super Bowl 50: 4th-Quarter Scoring|
|Denver, 16-10||G. Gano Made 39-Yard FG||2:56||6/29|
|Denver, 24-10||C. Anderson 2-Yard Rush||0:56||3/4|
The sloppiness of the game continued into the fourth quarter as Carolina committed an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on the first play but then flipped the feel of the game when Kony Ealy strip-sacked Manning and recovered the ball.
The sack was the third of the game for Ealy, who was playing like an MVP, per ESPN's Ed Werder:
Ed Werder @Edwerderespn
Kony Ealy is fourth player in SB history with sack and INT in same game, joining Teddy Bruschi , Rodney Harrison and Thomas Everett.2/8/2016, 1:39:56 AM
Newton and Co. took over at midfield and promptly picked up first downs on their next two plays. However, the drive stalled, and a Gano field goal eventually cut the lead to 16-10.
As the Carolina defense continued to stifle Denver by not allowing an offensive touchdown, the offense did the team in. A third lost fumble, this time by Newton, around the four-minute mark set up a C.J. Anderson touchdown run that helped Denver build its lead to 24-10, which it would not relinquish.
Although the Panthers were the best team in the regular season, the league's No. 1 defense shut down the NFL's top offense, and Manning did enough on offense to ride his defense to the championship.
If Manning walks away from the game, he will do so on top of the mountain and go down as one of the game's all-time greats.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!