Would Super Bowl 50 be Peyton Manning’s chance to walk away into the sunset with his second Super Bowl victory?
Or would 26-year-old Cam Newton continue to dazzle the NFL world and claim his first Super Bowl ring, preventing the 39-year-old Manning from reaching his goal in what would be one of the most important games of his legendary career?
Unexpectedly, the two quarterbacks struggled most of the game. It was the two defensive units that stole the show as Denver won, 24-10.
It gave Manning his second Super Bowl ring. He is only the 12th NFL quarterback with multiple Super Bowl wins. In the NFL, two rings are significantly more recognized than one. Peyton joined younger brother Eli with his second ring.
Peyton will be the first to admit the Broncos’ defense won the game. They were salty all night, pressuring Newton like he has never been pressured this season.
“It was very special, a unique season,’’ Manning said after the game. “Our defense has been awesome all season and they definitely carried us all year.
“It has been a heck of a ride.’’
Newton was stripped in the pocket late in the game. It led to the final touchdown of the game, a two-yard run by C.J. Anderson. It put the game out of reach for the Panthers.
Manning is expected to make this his final game of a historic career. He has the most passing yards (71,940) and touchdown passes (539) in NFL history. He is second in completions and fifth with a 96.5 passer rating.
It marked the 200th win of Manning’s career. He is the first player in the NFL to reach that number.
Carolina was the team that felt an urgency to get off to a fast start, but it was the underdog Broncos that took an early 3-0 lead and kept it through a 13-7 halftime lead.
The Broncos defense harassed Newton all night. He was sacked six times for a loss of 64 yards. He completed only 18 of 41 passes for 265 yards and no touchdowns. The game’s MVP, Von Miller (2.5), and DeMarcus Ware (2) led the Broncos in sacks.
The Panthers were in a position they were not comfortable with. Down 13-6, they had not trailed at any time during the playoffs.
Denver scored on the game’s first possession. Manning took the Broncos in field goal range where they nailed a 34-yard 3-pointer with 10:45 in the first quarter.
They got a gift from their defense as Miller forced a Broncos strip sack fumble that ended up in the end zone where defensive end Malik Jackson smothered it for a 10-0 lead with 6:27 in the first quarter.
Carolina drove 73 yards to pull within 10-7 at the 11:25 mark of the second quarter. A one-yard touchdown vault by Jonathan Stewart capped the drive.
The opposing quarterbacks had been the storyline leading into the game. Newton bagged his first NFL Most Valuable Player trophy the night before the game.
Manning already had five of those in his possession.
But it was the two defenses that carried most of the load for their teams.
Carolina tried to close the margin with a 45-yard completion from Newton to Ted Ginn Jr., but the Panthers saw a 44-yard- field goal attempt hit the right upright and bounce away.
Denver took advantage of the miss and posted a field goal on their first drive to make it a two-score margin, 16-7.
With 10:21 left in the game, Carolina nailed a 39-yard field goal to draw within 16-10 and leave the outcome in doubt.
But the Broncos defense held them out of the end zone and it was Denver that celebrated with a confetti shower.
Manning would not announce it after the game, but it will not be a difficult decision. It is likely Manning’s last dance in the NFL.
It was one he will never forget.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com Sports Columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Writers Hall of Fame. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.