Von Miller was rightfully named Super Bowl 50 MVP. The Denver Broncos linebacker recorded 2.5 sacks and forced two fumbles on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton that sealed Denver's 24-10 win on Feb. 7.
The second fumble in particular was huge.
It's known as the fumble Newton didn't dive for. Miller's second forced fumble was recovered by Broncos safety T.J. Ward at the 4-yard line, and Denver running back C.J. Anderson scored the dagger touchdown moments later.
But it seems the fumble should not have been recovered inside the Carolina 5-yard line at all, let alone have been Denver's ball. Peter King of the MMQB wrote Monday in a breakdown of the play that Miller intentionally batted the ball backward eight yards before Ward recovered.
Miller told King Panthers offensive tackle Mike Remmers was holding him and that he couldn't recover the fumble right away.
"I thought Cam was going to jump on it, but I guess, I mean, he didn’t want to dive down there on it," Miller said, per King. "I couldn’t fall on it, so I was just trying to, I don’t know, get it to one of our guys.”
The NFL has certainly missed similar calls this season. In a Week 4 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions, Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson was about to score the go-ahead touchdown with under two minutes to go before Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor forced the ball out. Linebacker K.J. Wright intentionally batted the ball out of the back of the end zone, and Seattle was awarded a touchback.
NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said on Monday Night Football (h/t ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia) the officials should have called a penalty on Wright for intentionally batting the ball and that Detroit should have had the ball with one yard to go. Seattle went on to win, 13-10.
The Panthers were trailing 16-10 with just over four minutes to play when the fumble occurred, and if the officials had called a penalty on Miller, it would've given Carolina the ball back and another chance for Newton to win the Super Bowl. King noted, however, the play was not reviewable because it's a judgment call on the referees' part:
The ball lies on the ground, and Newton avoids it, and a pile begins to form trying to get it. Miller, from behind the play, tries to go for it too, but Newton is in his way. Miller, again with his long left arm, reaches down and in the one millisecond the ball lies free, swipes it backward toward the Carolina goal line. You can barely see him do it; it’s almost like a sleight-of-hand trick by a magician.
And if an official had seen it happen, he would have been within his rights to flag Miller and the Broncos for an illegal bat. The play is not replay-reviewable because it is considered a judgment call.
Even if Newton and the Panthers had gotten the ball back after the penalty, it's hard to imagine it would have mattered. The Broncos defense held the Carolina offense to only 315 total yards, forced four turnovers and held Newton to 18-of-41 passing.
Denver's defense was playing so well it's hard to imagine it would have had much difficulty making one more stop to win the Super Bowl.