Everyone was betting on Carolina. All the experts were picking Cam and company. Good thing the powers that be decided to go ahead and play the game on the field anyway. After all the intensity of the regular season, Super Bowl 50 was pretty anti-climatic and one of the more boring ones. The highlight video alone is less than 4 minutes long letting you know there weren’t that many. .
Denver must not have known they were supposed to lay down as the underdog. The Broncos opened up the scoring as Manning drove the offense easily down the field before settling for a field goal. 3-0 Denver with the oldest quarterback in Super Bowl history looking healthy and sharp.
Read: Super Bowl 50 High Anticipation Low Return for Cam Newton’s Panthers Plus those ads
On Thursday, three days before the winningest quarterback in NFL history would play The Last Game (or at least the game we’re sure is the last one), he lined up his offense around the defensive 20-yard line and barked out signals. This would be the last full series of plays in the Super Bowl 50 practice week for Denver at Stanford Stadium, their home for the week … and maybe the last full series of practice plays in Peyton Manning’s life.
The sun was nearly touching the top of the west stands of the stadium on this beautiful California winter afternoon, creating an image of a sunset and lengthening shadows on the field as Manning directed traffic.
“Be alert! Be alert!” he called out, motioning Emmanuel Sanders across the formation. And Manning shouted out the play, which began with “Z Motion!” And then the snap, and then … nothing. No one open.
“One more time!” Manning yelled, annoyed. “Do it again!”
And the offense did, Sanders trolling the back of the end zone and Manning hitting him for a touchdown.
Read: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos beat Panthers in Super Bowl 50 | The MMQB with Peter King
The dirty secret about all Super Bowls is that ultimately they’re just football games. Take away the halftime shows, the $25 glasses of wine, the tired commercials with tired celebrities doing tired lines, all of it, and these Super Bowls have to rise and fall on the games themselves. Last year, the Super Bowl seemed like the pinnacle of American popular culture because Left Shark and the dead Nationwide kid and all the other memes nestled themselves comfortably alongside a taut, terrific game between two all-time teams at the peak of their powers. Cap it off with one of the most infamous boneheaded play calls in the history of the sport at the end, against the most hated (and successful) team, and damn, that’s entertainment.
That is not what happened this year.
Read: Broncos’ Super Bowl win wasn’t pretty, but it was dominant.
+ Denver wins Super Bowl despite low yardage total
The Broncos defeated the Panthers, 24-10, to win Super Bowl 50 despite gaining only 194 yards. That was the lowest yardage total by any of the 50 teams to win a Super Bowl. In fact, only seven teams that lost a Super Bowl gained fewer than 200 yards; Denver’s was the lowest total by any team in the big game, win or lose, since the Giants were held to 152 yards when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV 15 years ago.
+ High-scoring Panthers neutralized by Broncos defense
Carolina led the NFL with an average of 31.3 points per game during the 2015 regular season. Denver was the sixth team to win a Super Bowl by holding the league’s highest-scoring team to 10 or fewer points. The others were Green Bay vs. Kansas City, 35-10 (following the 1966 season); Kansas City vs. Minnesota, 23-7 (1969); L.A. Raiders vs. Washington, 38-9 (1983); Pittsburgh vs. Seattle, 21-10 (2005); and, ironically, Seattle vs. Denver, 43-8, just two years ago.
+ #2 outplays #1 in Super Bowl
Von Miller, who was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl 50, had 2.5 sacks againstCam Newton on Sunday. As even Stephen Colbert noted last night, Miller was the second pick in the 2011 draft, chosen immediately after Newton. Colbert failed to mention that there was no other Super Bowl in which the top two picks from the same draft faced each other. But it did happen in the 1942 NFL Championship Game, when the Redskins defeated the Bears, 14-6. Ki Aldrich, the top pick in the 1939 draft, played for Washington, and future Hall of Famer Sid Luckman, taken second in 1939, played for Chicago.
+ For this one time, Manning is carried by his mates
Peyton Manning, the first quarterback in 30 years to start a Super Bowl with a sub-70 passer rating during the season, passed for 141 yards and no touchdowns in the Broncos’ win. Inevitably it will be said that Denver and its top-ranked defense reached and won Super Bowl 50 not because of its quarterback but despite him. Only three other QBs started and won a Super Bowl passing for less than 150 yards and no TDs: Bob Griese (following the 1973 season), John Elway (1997), and Ben Roethlisberger (2005).
But let’s give Manning his due: Each of his three previous Super Bowl starts was made for a team that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in defense (that is, yards allowed): the 2006 Colts (21st), 2009 Colts (18th), and 2013 Broncos (19th). Only two other quarterbacks started even two Super Bowls for “bottom-half” defensive teams: Jim Kelly with the Bills (27th in both 1991 and 1993) and Tom Brady with the Patriots (24th in 2001, 31st in 2011).
+ Broncos’ kicker is flawless in Super Bowl run
Finally, let’s not overlook the role of Brandon McManus in Denver’s run to the Super Bowl. McManus made all 10 of his field-goal attempts during the postseason. Only one other player in NFL history kicked as many as 10 field goals in one postseason: Adam Vinatieri was 14-for-15 for Indianapolis in the playoffs following the 2006 season. The previous record for FGs without a miss in one postseason was nine, by Chuck Nelson of the Vikings (1987).
Between Cam Newton’s unraveling and Peyton Manning’s brand smooching, you might be having a hard time finding something to be unabashedly happy about in the wake of Super Bowl 50. Allow me to submit Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips as a target for adulation.
What do you think about when someone says Wade Phillips’s name? The question is easy to answer this morning: he’s the engineer behind the fearsome Denver defense that spent the last month making all-world quarterbacks look like rattled third-stringers.
Read: After 38 Seasons, Wade Phillips Is A Guy With A Super Bowl Ring
Cam Newton had a dreadful performance in Sunday’s Super Bowl. The league’s MVP followed that up with an even uglier showing in his press conference.
Newton, who abruptly walked off the podium, was unenthusiastic, brief and clearly dejected. Understandably so.
Newton, however, drew some criticism from NFL Media’s Deion Sanders after his presser.
Read: Deion Sanders sums up Cam Newton’s ugly press conference perfectly | FOX Sports
On the field, the Super Bowl might not have been the most fast-paced of all time, but at least the ads provided some extra entertainment. Here’s a look at the commercials that rose above the rest.
Read: What were the best ads of Super Bowl 50?
Marshawn Lynch, Done?
After the Golden State Warriors fended off the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 116-108 win, Ron Adams, Golden State’s assistant coach and defensive guru shrugged, “I don’t know how to stop him. I coached him and I don’t know how to stop him.”
Adams was referring to Kevin Durant, whom he worked with as an assistant in Oklahoma City from 2008 to 2010. That’s quite a concession from Adams, known to be one of if not the top defensive assistant in basketball. The admiration is mutual. Before the game, the two warmly greeted each other. The 27-year-old Durant said of the 68-year-old Adams, “We always had a great relationship. He was hard on me. He expected a lot out of me and that’s the type of coaching I like and he never shied away from how he thought.” Durant continued, “Always spoke his mind to me so I’m always going to respect him, always going to be family to me. Whatever team he goes to man, he imposes his will and just changed the whole thought process of the team. He’s a great assistant.”
Read: NBA: Kevin Durant can’t overcome Warriors
+ Curry and Warriors on record pace after beating Thunder
The Warriors equaled the best 50-game start in NBA history by defeating the Thunder, 116-108, in Oakland. Golden State improved to 46-4 on the season, which is tied with the 1966-67 76ers for the best start to any season in league history. In fact, only one other team besides Golden State and Philadelphia won 46 of 50 games at any point of a season – the Mavericks had a 46-4 stretch in the 2006-07 campaign.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 26 points and 10 assists in their victory over Oklahoma City. Including Saturday’s contest, Golden State has earned a win in each of the last 20 games that Curry has compiled at least 20 points and 10 assists, including a 7-0 record in such games this season.
+ Durant posts big numbers versus defending champs
Kevin Durant had a huge night in a losing effort, scoring a game-high 40 points for the Thunder while securing 14 rebounds, one shy of the team lead. In the last 40 seasons (1976-77 to 2015-16), only two other players totaled at least 40 points and 14 rebounds in a game against the defending NBA champions. Karl Malone (45 points, 17 rebounds) did that in 1995 against the Rockets, and Blake Griffin (43 points, 15 rebounds) did so in 2014 versus the Heat.