On Sunday night, Denver Broncos were crowned Super Bowl champions as they earned a 24-10 victory over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Heading into the contest, Carolina were hot favourites after winning 17 of their previous 18 matches but Denver’s defence stepped up to the plate.
However, the main story of the night was Peyton Manning’s impending retirement. After the AFC Conference game, the Broncos signal caller admitted that this could be his “last rodeo” and while he refused to confirm the rumours, it looks as though Manning will hang up his cleats. Here are five key reasons why the Broncos got the win.
The Panthers couldn’t handle Von Miller... or Demarcus Ware
The big difference was Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller. The Denver star was a nuisance from the beginning, making 2.5 sacks and two strip sacks – with one of those directly assisting Malik Jackson’s opening touchdown of the game.
While Miller received the MVP award, Demarcus Ware was also a thorn in Carolina’s side. The former Dallas Cowboys defensive end recorded two sacks and four quarterback hits on Newton and the Panthers quarterback will be glad to see the back of his monstrous duo.
Cam Newton wasn’t at his best
Cam Newton, who was announced as the regular season MVP on Saturday, underperformed during Sunday’s showpiece event. In fact, Newton was nowhere near his usual standard – he completed just 18 of his 41 pass attempts for 265 yards.
The Panthers quarterback failed to make a touchdown pass throughout the clash and turned the ball over three times. Newton struggled to find his receivers all night and couldn’t read Denver’s disciplined, well-oiled defensive front.
Penalties crippled Carolina’s chances
Unfortunately, a lack of discipline at key moments in the match cost Carolina any chance of a late surge for victory. On offense, these penalties constantly put the Panthers on the back foot and turned short down situations into difficult third-and-long scenarios.
Meanwhile, their over-aggressive defence presented Denver with fresh opportunities downfield and took most of the pressure off Manning’s shoulders. In the end, Carolina gave away 12 penalties for 102 yards – which cost them dearly throughout the clash.
Graham Gano’s missed field goal was crucial
At 13-7, the Panthers were still firmly in the game. However, Graham Gano’s missed 44-yard field goal appeared to swing momentum back in Denver’s favour. The Scot, who made a number of game-winning kicks in the regular season, missed when it mattered most as his effort crashed back off the post.
Had he converted, Carolina would have been just three points behind and Manning may have crumbled under the pressure but Denver pressed on at that point and grew stronger as the game went on. If Gano had scored, who knows – it might have been a different story.
“Defence wins championships”
Football’s oldest adage remains true: defence wins championships. In the regular season, Denver had the best passing defence, the third best run defence and the best overall defence – their Super Bowl performance fully supported the statistics as Wade Phillips’ men constantly hassled and harassed Cam Newton and the Carolina offensive line.
Both Miller and Ware will receive plenty of plaudits but Denver’s secondary also deserves a lot of credit. While Aqib Talib was criticised for foul play in the first half, Denver remained disciplined on the most part and forced Carolina to force their hand. Ultimately, the Panthers weren’t good enough on the day and Denver’s defence got the job done – just like they’ve done all season...