In an ironic twist for arguably the greatest quarterback to ever set foot on a football field who has carried mediocre defenses to incredible heights, Peyton Manning was lifted to a second Super Bowl Championship by an all-time great defense. A few hours before the start of the game, I had a conversation with Rookerville founder, Matt Cargile, about this game. He noted that he had an eerie feeling that Peyton would get destroyed by the Carolina Panthers. Of course, we both wanted to see Peyton win another Super Bowl badly and ride into the sunset with a championship just like his boss John Elway did. However, his skills have obviously diminished and the Panthers brought a top defense and the top offense to the game. They looked like a juggernaut in the NFC Divisional and NFC Championship Games. Cam Newton is a physical freak that appeared unstoppable. Perhaps, he was combining brilliant passing from the pocket and running better than any quarterback ever has. As a result, I also had a bad feeling the Broncos would lose. On the other hand, I hoped that the Broncos defense and its incredible speed was really as great as it looked during the regular season and the playoffs. I believed that the Broncos should load the box to stop the run whether it was the running backs or Cam and force Cam to throw. The Broncos have the best trio of corners in the league and the Panthers have an average group of wide receivers. As the Baltimore Ravens showed in 2000, an all-time great defense can carry a mediocre offense to a championship. The Broncos defense left no doubt that they deserve its spot in history by providing one of the most dominant defensive efforts I have ever seen.
The Carolina Panthers defense played great too. They stifled the Broncos offense all game. As a result, that prognostication was absolutely true and expected. Nevertheless, Peyton led his offense to an important first drive that put up a field goal. In my opinion, it was important to get an early lead. For most of this season and the last two playoff rounds, the Panthers have been great frontrunners. Once they got an early lead, they would pile on and win going away. Of course, it was all about defense after that opening drive. The Broncos defensive speed was incredible. It suffocated the Panthers offense. Cam has ridiculous speed and is the size of a tank. I have never seen him take such a beating by an opposing pass rush. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware are the best pass rushing, outside linebacker duo in the league and they were in Cam’s face all night. They led the Broncos defense in making big play after big play. In the middle of the first quarter, Von Miller forced a fumble on a sack of Cam Newton that was recovered by Malik Johnson for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead. After the Panthers scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 10-7 and the Broncos added another field goal to make it 13-7, the Panthers were driving into Broncos territory again. The Broncos defense was able to change the momentum by forcing a fumble on running back Mike Tolbert. After the Broncos added another field goal to make it 16-7 in the third quarter, Cam was driving his Panthers again in Broncos territory before he was intercepted by safety TJ Ward. Finally, Von Miller sacked and forced another fumble on Cam late in the fourth quarter to set up the offense on the 4 yard line to score the touchdown and convert on the two point conversion that put the game out of reach. Von Miller was the no brainer Super Bowl MVP. He dominated the Patriots in the AFC Championship game two weeks ago and was even better in the Super Bowl. Lawrence Taylor (LT) is the greatest and most destructive defensive player of all-time. It is not an exaggeration to say Von Miller gave a LT performance in this postseason. He was truly special.
Two years ago, the Broncos had the best offense in the NFL and one of the best in NFL history. Peyton Manning threw a record 55 touchdowns that season. Unfortunately, they faced one of the best defenses ever in the Seattle Seahawks at the Super Bowl and lost in a route 43-8. It is a remarkable transformation that the Broncos were able to assemble their own all-time great defense to win a Super Bowl mimicking the opponent that beat them and in a completely different manner than they played two years ago. Most of the credit goes to John Elway. He was a brilliant, Hall of Fame quarterback during his playing days. He has proven himself to be one of the best executives in the NFL in his post playing career. Wade Phillips also deserves a ton of credit. He has been average and much criticized as a NFL head coach. He has been incredible as a defensive coordinator. Some coaches are just better as a coordinator and there is nothing wrong with it. The same was assumed about Gary Kubiak. Despite elite talent in Houston, his Texans never made any deep playoff runs. I personally thought he should have been fired before he was by Houston for wasting the talent on those rosters. However, Elway’s faith in his friend and former teammate was well placed. The combination of Kubiak’s offensive prowess and Phillips’s defensive acuity proved to be a championship winning formula. Both men have coached in Denver before. Accordingly, Elway got the gang back together.
I cannot be happier that Peyton Manning won another Super Bowl. I am a New York Jets fan so I have always adopted whatever team Peyton was playing on as my team to root for once the Jets were out of it [which was more often than I would have liked]. Peyton is my all-time, most favorite NFL player. In addition to his brilliance on the field, he is a gentlemen. No moment proved it more than after the crushing Super Bowl blowout loss to the Seahawks two years ago. After the game, he sought out Richard Sherman to make sure he was ok after being injured during the game. Moreover, he answered all the questions from reporters professionally. It is especially difficult after a devastating loss in the Super Bowl. Cam Newton was smiling and positive all year. After the Super Bowl loss, he was sulking and refused to answer the questions from the press before storming out of the press conference. It is understandable but it just shows how classy Peyton is at all times in all situations. After Super Bowl 48, the Seahawks surprisingly raved about Peyton and defended him against any detractors. It is difficult for anyone to hate Peyton the man. He has been an amazing face of the NFL his entire career. With Peyton’s age and diminished skills, I have to assume that he will walk away into retirement with the perfect story book ending to a legendary career by winning a Super Bowl. Without a doubt, Peyton Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. His detractors always point to his mediocre postseason record. A lot of the criticism is not without merit. However, this Super Bowl run goes a long way in disproving the idea that he is a choker and enhancing his legacy. He now has a winning record in the postseason (14-13), a winning record against the New England Patriots in the playoffs (3-2), and two Super Bowl championships (4 appearances). In my opinion, Peyton was already solidly in the pantheon of great quarterbacks who could be considered the best ever anyway before this Super Bowl. The second Super Bowl win cements his share of the claim.