Not the Desired Turnover – A Recap of Super Bowl 50
Going into Super Bowl Sunday, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton acted like the most confident person on the planet. The key word in that statement, after sitting through Super Bowl 50, appears to be “acted.”
As was the case before Super Bowl XL (40), the Most Valuable Players of all of the previous Super Bowls walked out onto the field before the game. For NFL fans, this was possibly the emotional climax of the whole Super Bowl experience, as the highly anticipated matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos hardly managed to reach the lofty expectations that were set for it.
The first few sets of drives seemed to set the tone for everything that was to come.
The Broncos struck first on the scoreboard when quarterback Peyton Manning’s offense drove right down the field, which led to kicker Brandon McManus’ 34-yard field goal. With the Broncos up 3-0, and the Panthers getting the ball back after the teams exchanged punts, two major plays shifted the momentum of the game.
Cam Newton appeared to complete a 24-yard pass to Jericho Cotchery to get a drive going, but the officials ruled the pass incomplete. Two plays later, Newton was sacked by Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who smacked the ball out of Newton’s hands and into the end zone, where defensive lineman Malik Jackson would recover and score the first touchdown of the game.
With this score, the Broncos went ahead 10-0, with the game still in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Panthers finally were able to get the ball moving after the teams exchanged punts once again, with Newton leading the way.
Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib also helped the Panthers out by committing two boneheaded penalties, one that gave the Panthers the ball on the 1-yard line. On the next play, the Panthers Pro Bowl running back Jonathan Stewart jumped over the offensive and defensive lines to put the Panthers on the board, and cutting the Broncos lead to 10-7.
Later on in the second quarter, the Broncos were given a boost by Penn State product Jordan Norwood’s 61-yard punt return, the longest in Super Bowl history.
Starting the drive fourteen yards away from the end zone, the Broncos failed to score a touchdown and had to settle for another McManus field goal – this one coming from 33 yards out.
With the Broncos lead now at 13-7, the Panthers suffered another huge blow when the usually reliable fullback Mike Tolbert fumbled, giving the Broncos’ great field position once more. The Panthers helped their cause, though, when on the ensuing Broncos drive Manning threw an interception to the Panthers’ Kony Ealy. The Panthers were unable to make anything of the takeaway, and after a few more stalled drives from both teams, the teams headed into the locker rooms for halftime with the score still 13-7.
Coldplay’s halftime show was a bit odd, considering that they were joined by Beyonce and Bruno Mars on stage, both of whom have performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show before. The trio of artists seemed a little unlikely, and something just didn’t flow. The ending did redeem it to a point, as the stadium screen paid tribute to all Super Bowl halftime show performers over the past half-decade.
When the game got going once more, the Panthers came out with another promising start of a drive, after Newton connected with Ted Ginn, one of his favorite targets, for 45 yards. The Broncos defense would tighten up, however, and the Panthers would end up going scoreless on the drive when Graham Gano missed a 44-yard field goal.
On the Broncos’ next possession, Manning hooked up with receiver Emmanuel Sanders, whose catches of 22 and 25 yards would set up yet another McManus 33-yard field goal.
The Panthers would once again get a spark early on their next drive, when Corey “Philly” Brown made a catch in front of two Bronco defenders. However, the Panthers would turn the ball over once again, after a Newton pass bounced off of Ginn’s hands and into the waiting arms of Broncos’ safety T.J. Ward for an interception. Ward would fumble the ball on the same play, but the ball was recovered by Denver.
After the game reached the fourth quarter, with the Broncos winning 16-7, Manning fumbled the ball while trying to throw a pass, and the Panthers were once again given an opportunity to cut into the Broncos’ lead.
After Ginn dropped another pass, the Panthers settled for a Gano field goal, which made the score 16-10. When the Panthers got the ball back with 4:51 remaining, Newton had one more chance to lead his team. On the third play of the drive, he fumbled once again due to a hit from Von Miller, and the Broncos recovered the ball.
The Broncos would get one more score on the drive, which was extended by a holding call on Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, putting the score at 24-10 and out of reach.
Miller would eventually go on to win the MVP of the game, but the true star of the game was Manning. In what may have been the final game of his Hall of Fame career, the respect of everyone in association with the game was on full display. As he walked off the field for the final time, Norman stopped him and said a few kind words to the quarterback, who he said during a pre-game interview was a huge inspiration to him when he was young.
As for Cam Newton, this performance and game should sting for a while. Not only because his effort and passion seemed remarkably low throughout the game, but also because knocking off Manning and the Broncos would have meant the ringing in of a new era in the NFL.
For one more year, at least, it seems the NFL will have to settle for the same old product—which is still the best show on Earth.